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It is that time of year again: The Glory of the Grape is right around the corner. This is an annual wine and food pairing extravaganza that always puts me to the test. I am charged with sourcing delicious and interesting wines to pair with a menu that is tasty and fun. The wine tasting has begun and some ideas for the menu are starting to percolate.

The Glory of the Grape is set for June 5 at CJ's on the Bay at The Esplanade. Proceeds benefit the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce.

So far we have tasted almost two dozen wines, with another dozen or so to come. We have set a theme of “Latitudes” and are spanning the globe to focus on wines between 42 -49˚ latitude. This area includes wine producing regions from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Washington, to Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy. We are indubitably going to find some amazing wines!

At the halfway point of selecting wines, there are at least four that are winners. One of these is an interesting white wine from Austria. The grape is Grüner Veltliner. Have you heard of it? Me neither. This wine has a full body with citrus, some stone fruit and a touch of white pepper on the palate. A stellar food wine, this one is user friendly for sure.

Another white wine that is a shoe-in is a cava from Spain. Cava is Spain’s “Champagne”. These sparkling wines are produced in the Penedès region of Catalonia in the northeast of Spain. Cava wines are either white or rosé and are solidly rooted in Spanish celebrations like weddings and baptisms.

The bottle we selected for the Glory of the Grape is Mestres 312. The winery, claims it can trace its history as vine growers and négociants to the year 312. The Mestres family was the first to register the word Cava in 1959, “aiming to inform the consumer that this was a sparkling wine aged in a cellar, using the words "wines made in cave". Rich history and delicious wine, effervescent with crisp flavors of green apple and fruit. Perhaps we will serve this with some Kentucky ham on a buckwheat blini with Manchego cheese and Granny Smith apple, yum!

It seems there is nary a Glory of the Grape that goes by without me insisting on pouring a rosé. I love this varietal. It is especially appropriate in our tropical paradise. Rosé ranges from dry to sweet. Exceptional rosé wines come from Provence France. A prime example of that is AIX (pronounced “X”). This wine is from Coteaux d’AIX en Provence. This is a dry rose with a good balance of acid making this a terrific food wine. I am thinking goat cheese with roasted red peppers and a nice fruity olive oil.

While the tasting and menu planning continues over the next week or so, there will undoubtedly be difficult decisions to make about food and wine. Such are the trials of a chef!

The easiest decision you can make is to get a ticket ($55) to this event on June 5 at 6 p.m. at CJ’s on the Bay. Call the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce at 394-7549, or stop by at 1102 N. Collier Blvd. Cheers.

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