Saturday, March 27, 2010
Wine & Dine on 9: Not a 10
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.