Touted as one of the most popular culinary events among food lovers in the country, the Savannah Food & Wine Festival -- now in its third year -- can be a bit overwhelming for the newbie, but organizers say not to worry.
It's all in the planning.
"I try to guide people to the website," said Jan Gourley, the festival's co-founder and director. "So if you're planning your day around 'Taste of Savannah,' you can really map out your day."
The weeklong event, which attracts thousands to venues throughout the city, begins Monday with master classes and a wine dinner.
Last year the festival saw the numbers of visitors jump from 5,000 from the first year to 15,000 for the second.
This year, festival planners are predicting at least 10,000 visitors will pass through the festival's various events for the week.
"Taste of Savannah" -- the festival's signature event on Saturday -- will offer visitors a chance to sample and savor hundreds of wines, spirits and Belgium beers. And many of Savannah's restaurants will have a presence at the event.
"It really is like a three-ring circus with people popping in and out of events," Gourley said.
But organizers are ready.
A new location for "Taste of Savannah" -- the Georgia State Railroad Museum -- will give participants a chance to spread out and really circulate, Gourley said.
And different people visit the festival for different things, she said.
Wine connoisseurs will revel in such offerings as the "Grand Reserve Tasting" or various wine dinners offered throughout the week. Ticket holders for the Grand Reserve, for example, will be able to taste a variety of wines averaging $50 a bottle.
Those looking for something a little more affordable and accessible may enjoy the River Street Stroll in which visitors can "sip, savor and shop."
"And the River Street Stroll is a good sampling of everything that's at the festival," Gourley said.
"For everything else, it just depends on what you'd like to take away," she said. "There are some really great events with celebrity chefs and local chefs. It's really kind of like seeing the best of Savannah and the best of the culinary world at once."
IF YOU GO
The Savannah Food & Wine Festival starts Monday and runs through Sunday. The festival features cooking demonstrations, classes, one-of-a-kind wine dinners, tastings and a variety of other activities.
Highlights include a "Georgia Grown Trustees Wine Challenge Dinner" at 6 p.m. on Monday, a weeklong "Master Class Series" at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, "Secret Savannah Speakeasy" at 8 p.m. on Thursday, "Taste of Savannah" from 1-5 p.m. Saturday and a "Jazz & Bubbles Brunch" at noon on Sunday.
For a comprehensive list of events visit http://www.savannahfoodandwinefest.com.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.
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