JUST IN: Cincinnati International Wine Festival cancels grand tastings due to coronavirus

Some limited-seating programs and events that are part of the WineFest will go on

***UPDATE (March 11, 2020)***

The 2020 Cincinnati International Wine Festival has canceled its grand tastings, education sessions and collectors tasting room events that had been scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, due to the coronavirus COVID-19 threat organizers announced today, Wednesday, March 11.

The public events were to be held at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

A handful of limited-seating events that are part of the festival will continue as planned, including the Winery Dinner Series set to be held at 14 restaurants across the city on Thursday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m., and the Charity Auction & Luncheon, set for Saturday, March 14 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza.

Festival leadership is taking the proper steps to mitigate risk at the smaller-scale dinners and luncheon to ensure they will be safe and sanitary for all attendees, according to a Cincinnati International Wine Festival release.

“With that in mind, we ask, for the benefit of fellow attendees, that if any of our guests are experiencing flu-like symptoms, to please stay home from these small, limited seating events,” festival organizers said.

This is the 30th annual Cincinnati International Wine Festival. The festival benefits 35 Cincinnati-area and Northern Kentucky non-profit organizations, and it has donated more than $6 million to local charities since its inception.

***ORIGINAL STORY (March 10, 2020)***

Cincinnati’s premiere wine event is back, the biggest girls’ night out of the year in some circles. More than 250 wineries will be showcasing over 700 wines from around the country and the world, and the proceeds all go to charity. Thanks to last year’s festival, nearly a half million dollars were distributed to 35 Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky charities. But let’s get back to the wine. Here’s what you can expect at the Cincinnati International Wine Festival.

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The Winery Dinner Series

The festival weekend kicks off with the Thursday Winery Dinner Series at 6:30 p.m., where wineries are paired with the area’s finest restaurants. Ticket sales for this year’s dinner have already ended, but it’s never too early to start making plans for next year’s event.

Grand Tastings

The heart and soul of the festival. There will be three grand tastings, one on Friday from 7-9:30 p.m., and two on Saturday at 2:30-4:30 p.m. and 6:30-9 p.m. Admission gets you unlimited wine sampling, a keepsake Riedel wine glass, food samplings, and access to wine industry representatives who’ll answer your questions about what you’re sampling or what you might like to sample.

Check www.winefestival.com to download a tasting guide and a map to all 700-plus wines. Tickets are $75-$90.

The Collectors Tasting Room and Education Sessions

The Collectors Tasting Room invites you to sample seven high-end wines for one hour before the Grand Tasting starts. Please arrive 15 minutes in advance. A Grand Tasting ticket purchase is required. This add-on costs $40-$45.

You can also take a one-hour education seminar prior to your Grand Tasting. Each Grand Tasting session has a different topic beforehand: Old World vs. New World (Friday), Sake for the Intrigued Beginner (Saturday afternoon), and Off the Beaten Path (Saturday evening). Please arrive 15 minutes in advance. A Grand Tasting ticket purchase is required. This add-on costs $30-$35.

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Charity Auction & Luncheon

On Saturday, there will be a silent and live auction for limited-release wines, winemaker-signed, large-format bottles, rare wines donated by local connoisseurs, chef’s table dining opportunities at exclusive Cincinnati homes, trips, wine cellar tours, and more.

A three-course meal will follow the auction. There’ll be a winery representative at every table, pouring selections of wines that pair well with the meal.

The Charity Auction & Luncheon takes place at the Hall of Mirrors at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza on March 14 at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $135.

There will also be silent auctions taking place near the end of all three grand tastings, where you can bid on great wines. Register at www.winefestival.com. There are suggested amounts, or you can enter your own bid. Remember, it all goes to charity.

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Trade Tasting

This portion of the festival is for wine industry professionals only. It includes a free education session and networking opportunities. You must show proof of your industry employment at the door. The Trade Tasting takes place on March 13 from 1-4 p.m. There is an additional fee, which can be paid at the door or by calling 513-241-3434.

Wine Competition

For weeks leading up to the festival, participating wineries compete in an Olympics-style competition. Wines are judged by aroma and bouquet, appearance, taste and texture, finish and aftertaste, and overall impression. The results are presented at the festival.


What: Cincinnati International Wine Festival

When: March 12-14

Where: Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Cincinnati

Cost: $70-$90 for the Grand Tastings

More info: www.winefestival.com

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