The five-day ultimate wine and food connoisseur event in Sugar Land returns for its twelfth year. Several chefs are coming to Houston from other cities to participate, including former White House chef John Moeller; Maine-based Chefs Shanna and Brian O'Hea; Jose Duarte of Taranta in Boston; Jeff Balfour of soon-to-open Southerleigh in the Historic Pearl Brewing complex in San Antonio; Rob Snow of Greenhouse Craft Food in Round Rock; Mark DeNittis from Denver; Jason Nauert of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat; Kevin Williamson of Ranch 616 in Austin and Carlos Crusco, also from Austin.
More than 10,000 attendees are expected over the course of the festival, which kicks off on Wednesday, April 8, with a five-course, Italian-themed VIP dinner called "La Dolce Vita." Chefs from Arcodoro, Coppa Osteria, Quattro and Ristorante Cavour are lending their culinary skills while Banfi takes care of the wine. Tickets are $150 each.
Thursday night, April 9, is the popular On The Rocks Bartenders Challenge. This year features New Amsterdam Vodka. There's a big prize involved, as the winning bartender gets $1,500 and second place gets $500. Also, that person's drink will be named the official cocktail of the 12th Annual Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair. It will be served at the Grand Tasting, Sip & Stroll and Bistro Brunch.
On Friday, April 10, there's a tough choice between wine or whiskey as there are two concurrent seminar tracks. The World Whiskey Tour examines the differences in offerings from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and Japan. Knob Creek Rye, Canadian Club, Maker's 46, Laphroaig and Yamazaki whiskeys are featured. In The Hidden Gems wine seminar, Jessica Sanders of Drink Well in Austin will look at hot trends in the wine industry, including sherry, Italian grape varietals thriving in unexpected places and affordable dessert wines. Both seminars run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Afterward, run over to The Grand Tasting in the elegant Sugar Land Marriott ballroom. Small bites and drink samples are offered by dozens of restaurants and brands. The tasting is from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Spend Saturday afternoon at the Sip & Stroll at the historic Imperial Sugar factory. This year, there's a new outdoor beer garden featuring more than 100 beers from 25 different breweries and live music by the Platinum Players. This is in addition to the dozens of restaurants, vineyards and distilleries providing food and drink sample to make sure you don't go hungry or thirsty.
The wrap-up is Sunday's Bistro Brunch, featuring Bloody Marys, Mimosas and small bites from many different restaurants. The event is held at Sugar Land Town Square. Kelly Dean of Jazz Houston will provide the serenades.
For those who want to participate in several events, the $225 VIP pass is the way to go. It gets attendees into the Grand Tasting, Sip & Stroll at Imperial, and the Bistro Brunch. Buy your tickets here.