Wine & Jazz Festival pours it on for everyone

La Lucha, a Latin jazz trio, will entertain guests during the Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples.

Photo by La Lucha

La Lucha, a Latin jazz trio, will entertain guests during the Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples.

In Naples, we love our winter wine festival, but so many people wish there was one that was reasonable in price, with a lot of wine, that they could afford to attend,” said Sukie Honeycutt, co-owner of Tony’s Off Third and wine director for the inaugural Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples on March 29 and 30 at Cambier Park in Naples.

That’s why, when Scott Janess with inPLAY Events in Chicago approached her to plan a wine festival in Naples like the ones he organizes throughout the Midwest, Honeycutt agreed, despite the fact that it would fall on Easter weekend, one of the busiest for local restaurateurs.

“The reasons I agreed were because he uses small, independent shops rather than big-box wine stores, and the money goes to local charities,” she said.

The Nate Najar Trio will be among the entertainers at the Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples.

Photo by Nate Najar

The Nate Najar Trio will be among the entertainers at the Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Next Generation Cambier Park Playground and Gulfshore Playhouse. Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to sample more than 100 varieties of wine from the world over.

“When it came to selecting what wines, it was sort of no-brainer,” said Honeycutt. “ (Tony’s) specialize in small boutique wineries, so it was easy to contact them, because I already support those kind of brands. (Janess) was looking to introduce wines you don’t see on the shelves on a daily basis. He wants them to be unique.”

She selected brands for their affordability, as attendees will be able to purchase bottles at the festival. She wanted to break out of the California mold, and so wine vendors will be pouring vintages also from Chile, Argentina, Australia, France, and Italy, she said.

Some wines she recommends trying for their rarity in this area include the Figge brand out of Monterey, California, and Catena, from an Argentine vintner.

“Some may be familiar with Catena’s Malbec, but most don’t know they make a chardonnay and others I’m looking forward to trying,” Honeycutt remarked.

Look also for the Italian Bibi Graetz for a change of taste; it produces small quantities that have only been introduced in the United States within the last three months.

Honeycutt recommends planning your wine-sampling strategy carefully. Study the program before you enter the grounds, where the vintners and distributors will immediately try to grab your attention. With admission, each attendee gets 10 samples; more tastings are available for purchase in lots of 10.

Decide the 10 wines you want to sample, Honeycutt advises. Make sure to pick some out of your comfort zone. Start with the lighter whites and make that circuit. Pourers will try to talk you into sampling more at their table, but politely tell them you will be back later.

Chardonnay should be the last white on your strategy plan, before you move into the light red wines, ending with the cabernet sauvignons and big Italian reds.

For other palates, the festival will feature six local restaurants selling tapas-style tastes of their specialties, samples and pairings from the Goose Island Beer Company, and other beverages for designated drivers.

IF YOU GO

The Wine & Jazz Festival of Naples

When: 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 29, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 30

What: Festival featuring more than 120 wines, live jazz and Latin music, and food for purchase from Tony’s Off Third, Osteria Tulia, Aqua, Ridgway Bar & Grill, Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar and Roy’s

Where: Cambier Park, 775 Eighth Ave. S., Naples

Cost: Adults (21 and older) $35 in advance and $50 at the door, includes a souvenir wine glass and 10 tastings; designated driver tickets $15, includes two nonalcoholic drinks and souvenir glass; attendees 20 and younger free with paid adult. $5 for 10 more tasting coupons

Tickets: winejazzfestival.com; Tony’s Off Third, 1300 Third St. S., Naples; Audi Naples, 601 Airport-Pulling Road S., Naples; Norris Center, 755 Eighth Ave. S., Naples; at 877-772-5425 (9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily) for an additional fee

Something else: Rain or shine

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