Clearwater Beach comes to life each year for a Food & Wine extravaganza on the beach. You can sip, savor and be seen on Clearwater Beach at this paparazzi-filled event nestled on one of the most exquisite beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Tammy Gail is the event visionary and founder. She saw the opportunity to create a one of-a-kind beach front food and wine festival. Designated as one of the hippest and most important food and wine festivals on Florida’s west coast. Clearwater Beach Uncorked has risen in popularity and 2016 marked its fifth anniversary.
How did this travel blogger end up at a Food & Wine Festival? If you know me then you know that I won’t shy away from a fun food festival. I may not write about food and beverages on my site, but that doesn’t make it off limits. I was given the opportunity to enter the festival Blogger of the Year Contest in the Travel Category. I entered the contest because Florida travel is a niche of mine and I thought it would be fun to explore the west coast if I won. I knew a few of the other entrants and know they have a presence on the Florida food and travel scene, of course I didn’t think I would win. To my own surprise I did win!! What did I win other than bragging rights? A trip to Uncorked as a VIP as well as a two night stay at the stunning Hyatt Regency Clearwater. After 37 inches of snow, a food and wine festival on the beach was waiting for me.
The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach is a gorgeous beach front hotel. With views of the white sand beaches or Tampa Bay you can’t go wrong. We were especially pleased upon check-in when we were upgraded to a one bedroom king suite. The suites are huge with a full kitchen, dining room, living room, and two bathrooms. Our first thought was, this would be perfect for a family of four. I can’t say enough about the resort, it is the perfect host for the event. Our pleasant arrival set the tone for our weekend.
Friday night we attended the VIP Party for event sponsors, and those who purchased the VIP tickets. This was held at Shepard’s Beach Resort about one mile from the Hyatt. Upon arrival we found Shepard’s Beach to be fun and hip geared towards couples and a younger crowd. If you want to go to Uncorked next year with a group of friends this is a great little boutique hotel. The VIP party was fun with passed appetizers and a sushi bar. Although it was a little chilly we loved the island theme, a great compliment to the host resort. Did I mention the VIP party comes with an open bar? My husband and I saw this as a fun challenge to try all five of the special drinks offered. As I sipped on my pineapple margarita I escaped to the warm and inviting island oasis at Shepard’s Beach, or maybe that was just the Hornitos Tequila.
Once the VIP party ended we dropped off all the goodies we were given from the event sponsors and hit the town of Clearwater Beach to explore. With the party over at 8 p.m. there is plenty of night ahead. Did you know that the original Hooters is in Clearwater? Another fun fact, it is home to Hulk Hogan. Sadly I had no Hulk sighting over the weekend, believe me I was watching.
Travel Tip: When you are visiting somewhere new, ask the locals for dining suggestions. Ask where THEY go, not where the concierge would go. We ended up at a fantastic little cafe in a strip mall and I had the best fish of my life. You never know where those hidden gems are.
Saturday was the main event, the first day of Clearwater Beach Uncorked. Unfortunately the weather did not set the ideal atmosphere, that didn’t stop us. We just left 37 inches of snow a little rain and wind was no big deal. It is funny to see the locals in wool jackets, boots and jeans on those cool 55 degree Florida days.
For VIP ticket holders there was a brunch and pre-party from 12-1 pm in a tent separate from the grand tasting tent. I think they used the term brunch a little loosely. In this tent was a tasting of items only for those with VIP access. However if I had purchased a ticket I may have thought an actual light brunch was being served. As a VIP there was access to the tent all day which had seating and bathrooms, a nice touch to take a break for sure. My favorite part of the VIP tent was the Champagne tasting, as we tried a Chandon that just hit the markets. The lines got long very quickly and it was hard to taste it all in an hour before the grand tasting tent opened. In my opinion they need a larger tent or less VIP access. If you are thinking of the VIP ticket for next year that was a nice treat.
Around 12.45 p.m the event organizers opened the grand tasting event to the VIP guests. While fifteen minutes may not seem like a big deal it made a huge difference to beat the crowds. We were able to try at least three beers and a good bit of food before the major crowds started flowing into the tent. The grand tasting is held from 1p.m.-5p.m. each day of the event. It is a good mix of beer, wine and food from a large variety of sponsors. If you love micro-brews this is the event for you, it really highlights some of Florida’s best breweries as well as non local brands. Meet with wine specialists, brew masters along with the best and brightest chefs from across the Bay-Area during this experience.
With the weather not cooperating and actually deteriorating the main tent was full and we were not able to use the outdoor space available with seats. This was a disappointment, there were fantastic areas on the beach to enjoy your wine and beer. IKEA was having a fun selfie giveaway as well with a full outdoor scape set up to win.
Beginning at 2 p.m. were live cooking demonstrations by Publix Aprons Cooking School Chefs, Duncan Hines Executive Chef and Food Network Star Emily Ellyn. I really enjoyed these demonstrations, they were short and entertaining but also informative. I really wish we had a program like Aprons Cooking School here in Maryland, I would sign up for sure.
We really enjoyed our experience at Clearwater Beach Uncorked. With a daughter that wants to go into the hospitality industry. I personally love that proceeds from the event ticket sales benefit the University of South Florida College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership which is one of the fastest growing colleges in two of Florida’s fastest growing industries.
The sponsors were very generous and I wanted to share some of my goodies with you. Enter below to win a Publix Grocery Tote, Official Clearwater Beach Uncorked Tote, Jarlesberg Apron, Wine bottle opener and two bags of crisp breads.