Food and wine festivals get lean, green and fun

Amid the decadence and epicurean excess that fuel the nation's food and wine festivals, a few non-traditional themes are beginning to assert themselves: health, fitness and green living.

The tens of thousands of culinary tourists who hit the circuit this year still can gorge on the creations of superstar chefs and progressive winemakers, but they'll also encounter activities that focus on aspects of life that are more beneficial to their bodies and their families:

•Aspen's 26th annual Food & Wine Classic (June 13-15) will include an "East-West Vegetarian" seminar from chef Ming Tsai; a tasting of biodynamic wines; and a seminar on "Hybrid Living" presented by festival co-sponsor Lexus, which will demonstrate its hybrid car.

•At the Eat, Drink & Be Green festival, to be held April 20 (the Sunday before Earth Day, April 22) at Iron Horse Vineyards near Sebastopol, Calif., the agenda will embrace tastings of wine and produce from the surrounding Green Valley, along with a keynote speech on the environment by National Geographic chairman Gil Grosvenor, a solar-powered performance by a reggae band, and a demonstration of a $100,000 Tesla electric roadster.

•Most ambitious of all is the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami (Feb. 21-24), which is spinning off its 2-year-old Kidz Kitchen concept into a "festival-within-the-festival" called Fun & Fit as a Family (Feb. 23-24;

Kidz Kitchen brought youngsters and culinary pros such as Emeril Lagasse together for activities that taught the basics of cooking; its popularity spawned the new and expanded mini-festival, which is being staged at the Jungle Island theme park 3 miles from the adults-only main festival. The $23 admission fee (children must be accompanied by adults) includes festival events and the regular Jungle Island attractions.

Culinary celebrities from the main festival, including Rachael Ray, Tyler Florence and Jamie Oliver, will be interacting with kids and parents, but their agenda is designed to teach the dangers of childhood obesity and the mechanics of preparing healthy meals. They'll be joined by Alice Waters, who will oversee a permanent installation of her Children's Food Garden, and a variety of local chefs and health and fitness experts who will lead interactive sessions.

"This went from being one healthy seminar a few years ago to creating a whole healthy weekend for kids and family," says Lee Brian Schrager, the festival's founder and director. "I don't think we ever thought it would become as big as it has."

Sip and sup at these fine events:

Aspen, Colo. Food & Wine Classic June 13-15 877-900-9463

Austin Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival April 9-13 512-249-6300

Boston Wine Expo Feb. 8-10 877-946-3976

Centreville, Va. Vintage Virginia May 31-June 1 540-745-3378

Charleston, S.C. BB&T Food & Wine Festival Feb. 28-March 2 843-722-5566

Cincinnati Wine Festival March 27-29 513-723-9463.

Dallas Savor Dallas March 7-8 866-277-7920

Dallas Wine & Food Festival April 214-741-6889

Denver International Wine Festival Oct. 29-Nov. 1 866-946-3268.

Destin, Fla Sandestin Wine Festival April 10-13 850-267-8116

Hyannis, Mass. Cape Cod Life Food & Wine Festival June 1-4 508-775-9800

Houston The Grand Wine & Food Affair April 23-27 713-747-9463

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii Wine & Food Festival June 26-29 888-227-6054

Kirtland, Ohio Vintage Ohio Aug. 1-2 800-227-6972

Lenox, Mass. Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic Aug. 6-9 508-228-1128

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept 26-Nov. 9 407-939-3378

Lompoc, Calif. Santa Barbara Vintners' Festival April 19 805-688-0881

Miami Beach Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Feb. 21-24 877-762-3933

Minneapolis Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience Feb. 21-24 612-371-5857

Nantucket, Mass. Wine Festival May 14-18 508-228-1128

Naples, Fla. Winter Wine Festival Today-Sunday 888-837-4919

Nashville. l'Eté du Vin April 24-26 and July 10-12 615-329-1760

New Orleans French Quarter Wine Festival Feb. 29-April 17 800-714-0306

New Orleans Wine & Food Experience May 21-25 504-529-9463

Overland Park, Kan. Kansas City Festival of Wine & Food Aug. 15-16 913-652-1910

Pebble Beach, Calif. Pebble Beach Food & Wine March 27-30 866-907-3663

Pittsburgh Wine Festival May 3-8 412-281-2681

Rhinebeck, N.Y. Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest Sept. 6-7 845-658-7181

St. Helena, Calif. Auction Napa Valley June 5-8 707-963-3388

St. Michaels, Md.Food & Wine Festival April 24-27 443-205-2185

San Antonio New World Wine & Food FestivalNov. 5-9 210-822-9555.

Santa Fe ArtFeastFeb. 21-24 505-988-1234

Sarasota, Fla. Winefest & Auction April 24-27 800-216-6199

Scottsdale, Ariz.Culinary Festival April 8-13 480-945-7193.

Seattle Taste Washington April 5-6 206-667-9463

Sebastopol, Calif. Eat, Drink & Be Green April 20 707-887-1507

Sonoma County, Calif. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Aug. 29-31 800-939-7666

Spokane, Wash.Taste Washington June 8 206-667-9463

Vail, Colo. Taste of Vail April 2-5 970-926-5665

Washington, D.C.International Wine & Food Festival Feb. 29-March 2 800-343-1174.

Watkins Glen, N.Y. Finger Lakes Wine Festival July 18-20 866-461-7223

Whitefish, Mont.Whitefish Mountain Wine and Food Summit Aug. 8-10 406-862-1706