Wine Fest Season Spotlight

News and notes you ought to know before embarking on one of our favorite times of the year

Southwest Florida’s wine festival season is fast approaching, and there’s much news to catch up on.

Guests at the Naples Winter Wine Festival will be tended to and educated by the largest crop of master sommeliers in the event’s 16-year history. The trustees have enlisted 17 of the world’s top wine professionals to pour the premiere wines featured at the event, Jan. 29-31. Seventeen Master Sommeliers have pledged to participate—an impressive showing, considering there are only 230 people in the world who have earned that distinction.

“This group is at the top of their game, and it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to learn from them and experience their passion for and knowledge of the wines being poured,” said Sandi Moran, co-chair of the 2016 festival. “Their participation is an important reason why this festival is so special, and their contributions make a tremendous difference in the lives of children in need in this community.”

The Naples Winter Wine Festival benefits children’s health and education programs in Collier County. For a listing of the sommeliers—as well as other information—visit

In Fort Myers, Southwest Florida Children’s Charities Inc., the nonprofit that manages Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest proceeds, pledged $1 million to Florida SouthWestern State College’s School of Health Professions. In recognition of that pledge and past donations, FSW is renaming its Simulation Center in honor of Children’s Charities. This lab is where future health professionals train using high-tech, computerized mannequins.

“We are grateful to SWFL Children’s Charities Inc. for its dedication to pediatric health care. This organization’s generosity means our students will have exceptional training so when they graduate they will make an immediate and positive impact for the medical needs of our region’s youth,” said FSW President Dr. Jeff Allbritten.

The two-day event takes places Feb. 26-27. Proceeds benefit the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, FSW health education programs and the Florida Gulf Coast University music therapy program. For more information, visit

And to kick it all off, the Rotary Club of Naples has been amassing auction items, expert speakers, entertainers, vintners and brewers for its 11th annual Grape Escape on Nov. 14. Held along Fifth Avenue South, the event will feature more than 50 premium wines and 30 craft beers. Organizers this year are welcoming Jerry Greenfield, “The Wine Whisperer,” for a one-hour Wine IQ session. Tickets for his presentation are separate from the event—and limited. Visit for complete information. Proceeds benefit the Rotary’s local and global philanthropic efforts in the areas of health, hunger and education.