Food & Drink

Veritage Miami festival fills its cup with milestones

United Way fundraiser: Wine Tasting at Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables.
United Way fundraiser: Wine Tasting at Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables. United Way

When Veritage Miami returns next week for four days of wine, beer and food events to benefit United Way of Miami-Dade, the festival will have a number of milestones to toast.

▪ It’s the 20th year for Veritage Miami, formerly the Miami Wine & Food Festival. To date, the annual fundraiser has brought in more than $11 million (about $500,000 in 2014), which the United Way chapter has funneled toward scores of community programs and initiative as well as support of nearly 60 local agencies.

▪ It’s the fifth year the food-and-wine crowd has invited craft beer to the party. Veritage Miami’s Craft Beer Tasting, this year on April 15 at Wynwood Walls, has become one of the most popular of the four-day run, joining top-notch local, regional and national craft breweries with bites of food from several dozen South Florida restaurants.

▪ It’s the first year that Veritage Miami’s Interactive Dinner, April 17 at the InterContinental Miami, will feature five female chefs: Cindy Hutson (Ortanique), Eileen Andrade (Finka), Paula DaSilva (3030 Ocean), Dena Marino (MC Kitchen) and Adrianne Calvo (Chef Adrianne’s).

“Year One, we had one night with 500 people,” said Mike Bittel, owner of the wine, beer, spirits and cheese shop Sunset Corners and a founder of Veritage Miami. “Today, we have four nights, and more than 3,500 people will attend.”

The Wednesday-night beer tasting was initially added to attract, as Bittel says, “younger, more funkily dressed beer lovers who are much more happening” than some of Veritage’s other demographics. But he said it was important that organizers maintain Veritage’s commitment to elevated food pairings.

“Beer became the item not simply that you drink on a boat or in front of the TV, but it had the potential to be sophisticated and was being matched with food in the same way that wine was,” Bittel said. “This event is representative of what’s happening in beers today and the restaurants that want to pair their food with great beers.”

Miami chef-restaurateur David Bracha seconded Bittel’s comment about the “young, hip, good-looking” crowd that Veritage’s Craft Beer Tasting attracts. He also said he finds that beer lends itself well to his style of rustic cuisine: He’ll be serving the River Seafood Oyster Bar’s signature fire-roasted oysters with sofrito, Manchego and chorizo, and Oak Tavern’s grilled bone marrow with Mexican street corn and Cotija cheese at Wednesday’s event.

“With the high-quality microbrews coming on the market, it makes pairing beer with food much easier,” Bracha said.

Food pairings are also on the menu at Thursday’s Fine Wine Tasting at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables. More than 120 wineries will have bottles open to sample, and restaurants from South Miami to Fort Lauderdale will have bites to taste.

Veritage’s Friday and Saturday events — the Interactive Dinner and an Auction and Wine Dinner at Marlins Park — are nearly sold out.

Many of the wines featured throughout Veritage Miami were awarded gold- or silver-medal status in a recent Best in Glass competition judged by South Florida sommeliers at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami. The somms searched for bottles that combined quality and value.

Importer and distributor Rick Musica of Fort Lauderdale-based World of Wine Guide said Veritage’s Best in Glass competition has allowed him to get exposure for some of the small, family-owned wineries in his portfolio.

The first year he was invited to participate, Musica entered a few wines from Romanian estates he had been working with.

“Our company was relatively new and not well known. … We had some pretty obscure and unknown wines,” Musica said. “We scored a bunch of medals.”

A former American Airlines international flight attendant who used his travel schedule to inform his growing wine education, Musica said this year he has several wineries represented at Veritage.

“Our wineries recognize the opportunities that Veritage Miami gives us,” he said. “In return, they have opened up their wineries and have donated visits, lodging and amazing meals in Piedmont as part of an auction package.”

With more options than ever for international wine finds as well as local beer and food options, Veritage has a goal to maintain a reputation for quality in its next 20 years.

Said Bittel: “A unique feature of Veritage Miami is that we’ve always maintained emphasis on what’s best in South Florida.”

Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor. On Twitter and Instagram: @EvanBenn.

If you go

What: The 20th annual Veritage Miami benefits United Way of Miami-Dade. Events run April 15-18. Tickets are still available for a Craft Beer Tasting on April 15 and a Fine Wine Tasting on April 16; both feature unlimited sample pours paired with food from South Florida restaurants.

Where: Wynwood Walls, Miami (beer); Village of Merrick Park, Coral Gables (wine).

How much: $55-$75 (beer), $75-$150 (wine).

Info: veritagemiami.com; use Miami Herald promo code BREWINMIAMI for 10 percent off general-admission tickets to the beer tasting.

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