UPDATE: Additional wineries have since been added to the festival’s confirmed list.
The Orlando Magic is gearing up for the second iteration of its Orlando Wine Festival and Auction next month. Last year’s inaugural event raised $900,000 for the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.
The list of participating wineries* is smaller this year, with 18 confirmed producers, compared to 26 at this time last year. Two big names are new to the festival – Tuscany’s Antinori and Australia’s Penfolds – while venerable Napa producers Heitz, Dunn, and Lail have not confirmed a return visit.
The festival continues to be overwhelmingly focused on Napa, with all but three confirmed wineries hailing from that region and another from neighboring Sonoma. One returning headliner is Peter Michael, a small producer with a big reputation from Knights Valley on the Napa-Sonoma border. Another is Casa Piena, whose founder Carmen Policy is a personal friend of Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins.
Several 2019 Participants Unconfirmed for Year Two
Six California wineries will make their festival debuts this year, but fourteen of last year’s participants from the Golden State may not be coming back. (Find a full breakdown of new producers and unconfirmed repeat participants at the end of this article.)
“We don’t have nearly enough wine (nor do I have enough time) to partake in all of the events that request our attendance,” said David Robbins of Napa’s D. R. Stephens Estate on why he’s not returning in 2020.
“We have to skip years,” he said, “and … we also prefer to focus our time and donations on causes that are requested by our customers.”
Cliff Lede Vineyards won’t be onsite this year, but the winery has donated wine for the auction and hopes to be back in Orlando next year, said brand manager Jason Lede.
Also absent from the 2020 list are last year’s two representatives from Bordeaux, Château Cos d’Estournel and Haut Medoc Selection.
Festival organizers say they are still working to confirm additional wineries and likely will not finalize the list of participants until about two weeks before the event.
Festival Schedule & Pricing Similar to 2019
The 2020 festival kicks of off on Friday, March 13 with vintner dinners at private homes around the area, where attendees will rub elbows with winemakers over meals cooked by celebrity chefs from near and far. The main event takes place the next day at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, featuring a three-hour al fresco tasting, followed by a live auction and dinner.
New to the auction this year will be wine-themed trips to Champagne and Argentina, including a visit to Corazon del Sol, the Southern Hemisphere project of festival sponsor Revana Family Vineyard. Those auction lots were made possible thanks in part to the efforts of Orlando Master Sommelier George Miliotes of Disney’s Wine Bar George, a consultant for the festival.
Festival ticket packages are mostly unchanged from last year, with prices once again starting at $2,500 for two tickets to Saturday’s events at the Ritz. Last year’s top VIP package for four people, with a price tag of $18,500, has been replaced with a similar package for two guests at half the price.
Naples Wine Fest Provides a Model – and a High Bar
All proceeds from ticket sales and the live and online auctions will go towards the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofits that serve at-risk youth in Central Florida.
Until last year, the Magic’s signature fundraiser was a gala called Black Tie & Tennies. It raised as much as $650,000 annually, but CEO Alex Martins, a wine collector himself, believed there was more fundraising potential in a high-end wine event modeled on Naples’ annual Winter Wine Festival.
The $900,000 raised from the inaugural Orlando festival and auction proved him right, but Orlando has a ways to go if it hopes to match Naples’ success.
The 2020 Winter Wine Festival, held last month, featured top vintners from more than thirty wineries, including Erwan Faiveley of Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley, Laura Catena of Argentina’s Bodega Catena Zapata, Will Harlan of Napa’s Promontory, and Saskia de Rothschild of Bordeaux’s Château Lafite Rothschild.
Moreover, it raised upwards of $20 million to benefit the Naples Children & Education Foundation.
The Naples festival is two decades old, while the Orlando event is still in its infancy. But as any good sports team knows, it’s important to dream big, and in the wine festival game, Naples is giving the Orlando Magic something big to “shoot” for.
Wineries New to the 2020 Orlando Wine Festival*
Gracianna Winery (Sonoma)
Bond Winery (Napa)
Smith-Devereaux Wines (Napa)
Black Stallion Estate (Napa)
Outpost Wines (Napa)
Z. Alexander Brown Wines (Napa)
Penfolds Wine (Australia)
Antinori Wine (Tuscany)
Wineries Not Returning for the 2020 Orlando Wine Festival
As of this writing:
Lail Vineyards (Napa)
Heitz Cellar (Napa)
Dunn Vineyards (Napa)
Cliff Lede Vineyards (Napa)
Arietta Winery (Napa)
D.R. Stephens Estate (Napa)
Modus Wines (Napa)
Morlet Vineyards (Napa)
Peacock Vineyard (Napa)
Saint Helena Winery (Napa)
Secret Door (Napa)
Tor Wines (Napa)
Dutton-Goldfield Winery (Sonoma)
Justin & Landmark Winery (Paso Robles & Sonoma)
Château Cos d’Estournel (Bordeaux)
Haut Medoc Selection (Bordeaux)
*The list of confirmed wineries on the festival’s website is incomplete. Organizers have confirmed the accuracy of the above list of new 2020 wineries.