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; funandfitasafamily.com).
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 foodandwine.com/classic 877-900-9463
Austin Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival April 9-13 texaswineandfood.org 512-249-6300
Boston Wine Expo Feb. 8-10 wine-expos.com/Boston 877-946-3976
Centreville, Va. Vintage Virginia May 31-June 1 vintagevirginia.com 540-745-3378
Charleston, S.C. BB&T Food & Wine Festival Feb. 28-March 2 charlestonfoodandwine.com 843-722-5566
Cincinnati Wine Festival March 27-29 winefestival.com 513-723-9463.
Dallas Savor Dallas March 7-8 savordallas.com 866-277-7920
Dallas Wine & Food Festival April 23-27dallaswineandfoodfestival.com 214-741-6889
Denver International Wine Festival Oct. 29-Nov. 1 denverwinefest.com 866-946-3268.
Destin, Fla Sandestin Wine Festival April 10-13 sandestinwinefestival.com 850-267-8116
Hyannis, Mass. Cape Cod Life Food & Wine Festival June 1-4 festival.capecodlife.com 508-775-9800
Houston The Grand Wine & Food Affair April 23-27 thegrandwineandfoodaffair.com 713-747-9463
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii Wine & Food Festival June 26-29 kapalua.com/recreation/events/kwff 888-227-6054
Kirtland, Ohio Vintage Ohio Aug. 1-2 visitvintageohio.com 800-227-6972
Lenox, Mass. Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic Aug. 6-9 tanglewoodwineandfoodclassic.com 508-228-1128
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept 26-Nov. 9 Disneyworld.com/food 407-939-3378
Lompoc, Calif. Santa Barbara Vintners' Festival April 19 sbcountywines.com 805-688-0881
Miami Beach Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Feb. 21-24 sobewineandfoodfest.com 877-762-3933
Minneapolis Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience Feb. 21-24 foodwineshow.com 612-371-5857
Nantucket, Mass. Wine Festival May 14-18 nantucketfwineestival.com 508-228-1128
Naples, Fla. Winter Wine Festival Today-Sunday napleswinefestival.com 888-837-4919
Nashville. l'Eté du Vin April 24-26 and July 10-12 nashvillewineauction.com 615-329-1760
New Orleans French Quarter Wine Festival Feb. 29-April 17 frenchquarterwinefestival.com 800-714-0306
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience May 21-25 nowfe.com 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 pebblebeachfoodandwine.com 866-907-3663
Pittsburgh Wine Festival May 3-8 pittsburghwinefestival.com 412-281-2681
Rhinebeck, N.Y. Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest Sept. 6-7 hudsonvalleywinefest.com 845-658-7181
St. Helena, Calif. Auction Napa Valley June 5-8 napavintners.com 707-963-3388
St. Michaels, Md.Food & Wine Festival April 24-27 stmichaelsfoodandwinefestival.com 443-205-2185
San Antonio New World Wine & Food FestivalNov. 5-9 nwwff.org 210-822-9555.
Santa Fe ArtFeastFeb. 21-24 artfeast.com 505-988-1234
Sarasota, Fla. Winefest & Auction April 24-27 floridawinefest.com 800-216-6199
Scottsdale, Ariz.Culinary Festival April 8-13 scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org 480-945-7193.
Seattle Taste Washington April 5-6 tastewashington.org 206-667-9463
Sebastopol, Calif. Eat, Drink & Be Green April 20 ironhorsevineyards.com 707-887-1507
Sonoma County, Calif. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Aug. 29-31 sonomawinecountryweekend.com 800-939-7666
Spokane, Wash.Taste Washington June 8 tastewashington.org 206-667-9463
Vail, Colo. Taste of Vail April 2-5 tasteofvail.com 970-926-5665
Washington, D.C.International Wine & Food Festival Feb. 29-March 2 dcwinefestival.com 800-343-1174.
Watkins Glen, N.Y. Finger Lakes Wine Festival July 18-20 flwinefest.com 866-461-7223
Whitefish, Mont.Whitefish Mountain Wine and Food Summit Aug. 8-10 whitefishmountainwines.com 406-862-1706