Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wine & Dine on 9: Not a 10

The subject event, held in conjunction with the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Golf Club, promised patrons "... a special hospitality event alongside the #9 fairway. Top area restaurants will be providing exquisite appetizers, each of which is paired with a wine sample."  The event was well attended and organizers are probably doing a jig right now and declaring the event a success but, in my opinion, this inaugural event leaves a lot of room for improvement.

First, the event was held alongside the 9th fairway but, unlike other hospitality tents located along the 9th fairway, was (i) uncovered and (ii) unfloored (held on the grass).  The hospitality area was enclosed by a waist-high white picket fence at the front and sides and the restaurant booths (small) at the back.  Tables and chairs were scattered on the grass within the enclosure.  At 2:00 pm, the sun in Central Florida can be unforgiving and yesterday it was.

Very shortly after the gates opened at 2:00 pm, it was apparent that enough seating had not been provided.  People who had not secured seating were either standing around or sitting on the grass.  As the day wore on, the organizers brought additional tables and chairs to accomodate the crowd.  To the extent that the tickets were sold online and, supposedly, a finite number of tickets were available for sale at the site, a better job could have been done in providing seating for all patrons.

The restaurants serving at the function were recognizable names and, for the most part, the fare was excellent.  For example, Capital Grille had a steak that was topped with aged balsamic vinaigrette that was excellent.  The Samba Room served Paella and pork dishes that were very good.  It was not clear to me how the pairing of the food and wine was conducted.  After getting your food from the restaurant booth you could potentially make your way to the Robert Mondavi booth for your pairing.  The place was very busy, however, and I did not see any of the restaurants recommending which of the available wines would go with their food; nor did I see the "pourers" at the Mondavi booth performing that function.

The event was slated to run from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm but water, wine and food had been exhausted well before the ending time.

As currently configured, Wine and Dine on 9 is not a destination event.  If you are already going to the tournament, it is a fantastic deal.  The opportunity for onsite parking -- and not having to deal with the masses being bussed in from Universal -- alone is worth the $35 over the single-day ticket price.  And if you add food samples and "wine" to the mix, you have a pretty good deal.  In addition, sitting alongside the 9th fairway and watching the golfers and spectators go by is way cool.

If the organizers want to make this a destination event, they will have to bring the locale up to the level of the corporate hospitality tents, ensure that supplies are adequate to meet the demand, pay as much attention to the wine as to the food, broaden the mix of wines available for consumption, and increase the quality of wines available for consumption.  The environment is prime for this to become a signature event but first the signature has to be inscribed.

1 comment:

  1. I had the opportunity to attend a portion of this newly introduced event. The initial run was not without its flaws as aptly described by the author but all in all this is the beginning of something big for the non-corporate tent casual golf fan. The price of admission, participation and proximity of parking was more than fair. The food provided by many of the top local restaurants was extremely well received and up to a point good wine and beer was delivered with enthusiastic cheer. As with many start-up enterprises it is all too predictable that there will be an over or under estimate as to the proper amount of product to have on hand. Hopefully meticulous notes were being taken by the staff of the presenters and the shortfall will be rectified at next year's tournament. If anything, this one day event should be expanded to at least three if not four days of the tournament. As one who has attended a fair share of PGA tournaments over a lifelong love affair with the game I can state unequivocally that this type of event holds a lot of potential to draw more spectators to the tournaments. The weather was very cooperative with bright sunny skies and some of the warmer temperatures experienced all winter in the Central Florida area. The organizers should anticipate that this will not always be the case and should probably have some alternative contingencies in mind going forward. The proximity of the event to the 9th hole allowed fans to see up close and personal many of their favorite professional golfers as they navigated their way through one of the more demanding holes on the course. Strategically placed just outside the compound was a large screen television very visible to the participants that streamed live shots of other holes on the golf course. While not perfect in its initial execution, the 'Wine and Dine at Nine' effort should be applauded and refined to recognize the tremendous potential it offers to golf fans of all levels.