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Food & wine festivals in the Southeast

To learn about wine, you gotta get off your duff and taste tons of it. Conveniently, there are plenty of big wine tastings around. Here's a list of some in the Southeast, with most benefiting charity.

Florida
Abilities Food & Wine Festival, March 15. Winner of the CL sister paper the Weekly Planet's Best Wine Tasting to Benefit a Charity. A veritable playground for food and wine lovers. More than 300 wines, 50 award-winning restaurants and 400 auction items. VIP Tasting $125, Grand Tasting $60. Tropicana Field. St. Petersburg. More info: www.abilitiesofflorida.com.

Florida Wine Fest & Auction, April 24-27. Quite the affair with winemaker dinners, wine luncheons, black tie gala, and a sip & shop around Sarasota's St. Armand's Circle. Definitely the A-List crowd. Prices vary per event. Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Sarasota. More info: www.floridawinefest.com.

Bern's Winefest, April 25-28. Wine seminars presented by winemakers, and a grand tasting on Sunday features more than 150 high-quality wines and three educational seminars. My money's on this one. Admission cost of $65 in advance includes your own Spiegelau glass. SideBern's Restaurant. Tampa. More info: www.bernssteakhouse.com.

Eighth annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival, festival runs from the second week of October until Thanksgiving. Plenty of culinary demonstrations, seminars, food samplings, wine tastings, special dinners, food and wine bigshots and live entertainment. Festival included in the price of Epcot admission, but various special dinners and events cost $25-$135 additional. Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista. Watch www.epcot.com for details.

Georgia
High Museum of Art Wine Auction, March 27-29. Merging art and wine is only the beginning at this premier wine tasting event. It's easily one of the best wine events in the nation, with more than 120 first-class wineries represented. Winemaker dinners, a first-rate auction (featuring rare large-format bottles and amazing wine vacations), and a gala dinner dance keep things lively. Tickets start at $75 and go up. High Museum of Art. Atlanta. More info: www.atlanta-wineauction.org.

Fourth annual Wine South Festival, Sept. 27-28. Wine South is a weekend-long event celebrating food, wine, art and music. Tickets include a souvenir glass, wine samples, gourmet food samples, wine seminars and live music. Wine tasting areas are divided up into regional pavilions. $50 for daily ticket, $95 weekend pass. Gwinnett Civic & Cultural Center, Duluth. More info: www.winesouth.com.

Second annual Wine Festival at Villa Christina, June 8. An all-day extravaganza of wine, food, art and music. Event is held in the restaurant and rose gardens of Villa Christina. The festival boasts hundreds of wines from around the world, gourmet food samples from Atlanta restaurants, chef demonstrations, art, live entertainment and plenty of wine-related merchandise vendors. $45 in advance, $50 at the door. Watch www.villachristina.com for more details.

North Carolina
North Carolina Wine Festival, June 7. This festival introduces local wine from across the state. Included are over a dozen wineries, food, arts and crafts vendors, and entertainment. Tanglewood Park, Clemmons. More info: www.ncwine.org.

Second annual Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, May 16-17. Eight wineries from the new Yadkin Valley Viticultural Area will be pouring their wines. The festival also features music, arts, crafts and food with no admission fee. $10 per person in advance, tickets required for wine tasting only. Elkin Municipal Park, Elkin. More info: www.yvwf.com.

South Carolina
Hilton Head Island's 18th annual Wine Festival, March 15. The largest outdoor, tented wine tasting on the East Coast, with more than 500 domestic and international wines, continuous entertainment and gourmet meals from Hilton Head Island restaurants. Tickets are $30 each and include a souvenir wine tasting glass. Purchase tickets in advance over the phone at 1-800-424-3387, or at the event. Shelter Cove Community Park. Hilton Head Island. More info:www.hiltonheadisland.com/ hospitalityassociation.

corkscrew@creativeloafing.com

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