Never Far From Wine in Sarasota
When I first stepped foot in Sarasota, Florida, ten years ago to attend their annual Winefest, the city reminded me of Portsmouth. Other than the weather and geographic location, there are so many wonderful similarities.
Like Portsmouth, Sarasota is dedicated to helping meaningful causes. The Sarasota Winefest, in its 28th year starts today, April 5 and runs through April 8, with a long list of fabulous wine events, many held on the grounds of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, a venue for top performers, that overlooks Sarasota Bay. To date, Winefest has raised and awarded more than $8.3 million to 84 local disadvantaged children’s charities.
Other main attractions in Sarasota will host wine events and wine dinners during Winefest and throughout the year. Coolinary, a popular Hungarian Restaurant located downtown, loves to showcase unique wines and its owner, Istvan Bottyan, is extremely knowledgeable, owning many hospitality businesses in Budepest.
The Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan (the mansion of John and Mable Ringling) features “Wine Walk” on April 6 with individually themed stations serving exciting food and wine pairings, including activities and entertainment throughout the Ringling estate. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens hosts “Garden to Plate” on April 20, an extravagant multi-course fine wine dinner set on the Garden’s Great Lawn sitting alongside its grand banyan trees.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a living museum. There are more than 20,000 living plants. The gardens cover 15 acres located on the water overlooking Sarasota Bay. The property is named for Marie Selby, a philanthropist who lived on the property for 50 years and wanted to see her home preserved so that people of all ages could explore and enjoy nature. Select exhibits are displayed; now running until June 30 is “Warhol: Flowers in the Factory” showcasing the surprising, and little examined, role of nature in Andy Warhol’s art and life.
Another huge attraction is The Sarasota Opera House (think Music Hall) built in 1926. There was a $20 million historic renovation and restoration of the building completed in 2008. The Sarasota Opera has grown to be an internationally acclaimed professional opera company with world-class status where you can enjoy four different operas in one weekend. The Opera House will be one of the premier venues for the acclaimed Sarasota Film Festival happening on April 13 to 22.
Sarasota was originally named Zara Zota, by Spanish explorers during the 16th century, 300 years before the state of Florida became part of the United States. The city was also referred to as “The Circus City” when John Ringling of Ringling Brothers Circus bought bayfront property in 1911 and built the stunning Italian style mansion they named Ca’ d’Zan (House of John). The home is open for private tours and the beautiful grounds welcome visitors. There is a miniature circus, historic theater and fine art museum filled with Ringling’s collection from all over the world.
Frequently voted one of the best places to live (sound familiar) and number one place to retire, Sarasota like Portsmouth is having a growth spurt. The city has three thriving colleges and a growing high-tech business atmosphere that’s attracting entrepreneurs and young professionals.
The area has some of the country’s finest examples of mid-century modern architecture, along with an amazing arts and cultural scene that has an orchestra, ballet, opera, museums, theaters, renowned art galleries and great shopping.
Sarasota has a large farmers market, restaurants and wine bars, with fun tiki-style places, many located by the beach. You can choose to bask in the gorgeous sunny warm weather on several white sand beaches while enjoying a glass of Prosecco - especially at Siesta Key Beach, which was voted one of America’s favorite beaches.
If living off the grid is in your future, a new way of thinking about growth is developing not far from Sarasota, Babcock Ranch is being called America’s first solar-powered town with 300,000 solar panels. It will feature self-driving shuttle buses and much more. Prices for homes will start at less than $200,000, unlike Portsmouth!
On the Seacoast, as we move into our favorite time of year, it’s nice to know that there’s a place we can travel to that reminds us of just how lucky we are any time of year.
For more information and to plan your trip - visitsarasota.com