Sipping on extraordinary wines while giving back is the perfect pairing. Now in its 11th year, the American Fine Wine Competition invites 200 wineries from around the country to compete for the coveted title of America’s best. The winners will be celebrated (and consumed) May 5 at Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale during the AFWC Charity Gala to benefit the Autism Society of Florida.

We sat down with the founder of the competition and gala, Shari Gherman, to share a glass or two, and get some wise wine advice:

Favorite pairing: “Ceviche and sauvignon blanc. But seared tuna and a pinot noir is great, too.”

So whites don’t have to be paired with fish and reds with meat? “No. I don’t eat meat, and I love red wine. I say, drink what you want. It really is more about the sauce and how it’s prepared than the actual protein.”

Most underrated wine: “Syrah. A cool-climate syrah with blueberry and hints of smoke is incredible. It has beautiful nuances, but for some reason it’s been a hard sell.”

Most versatile wine: “Pinot noir. It goes with everything.”

On-trend wine destination: “California. People think that because of the fires it’s a war zone, but I was just there and it’s not true. Wineries are ready to welcome guests with open arms.”

Up-and-coming region: “Virginia. There are some beautiful wines coming out of that state. Also, our Best of Show for the sweet category was Ferrante Winery’s ice wine from Ohio. It’s a gorgeous wine – basically dessert in a glass.”

American-made: “We have beautiful wines right here, so I wanted to create a competition that highlighted them. Our 28 judges taste more than 600 wines during the two-day event hosted by FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management every January. Then we all get to enjoy them at the gala in May.”

Giving back: “Since Day One I knew the competition had to have a charitable component. I wanted to pay it forward, and now we’ve donated more than $1 million to local charities. This year I’m happy to be supporting a charity that is very close to my heart because a dear friend of mine has a son with autism.”

Zinfandel wines ready for judging.


The AFWC Gala will take place on Saturday, May 5, 2018. For tickets: Eventbrite. For more information about the competition:

Related: More Food & Wine coverage from INDULGE.

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