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Success C o nn o isseur WINE MIND As VeritageMiami turns 21, what started out with a small group of philanthropically-minded wine and food lovers coming together for a dinner and auction has now grown into a sprawling 5-day event, attracting more than 3,500 people. T E X T BY A N JA M A LTAV PH OTO S CO U R T E S Y O F V E R I TAG E M I A M I Over the years, VeritageMiami’s name and its charitable partners have changed, but what has remained constant is Founder Michael Bittel’s involvement with the iconic event. “To this day, I connect the festival with wine makers and wineries from all over the world, secure auction lots and help with the development of new ideas,” he says. “Not only has VeritageMiami become one of Miami’s most popular annual events, it has generated millions of dollars to support United Way’s education, financial stability and health programs.” Bittel particularly enjoys the camaraderie that comes with sharing a glass of wine with others. “Unless you have someone to talk with about the experience of a unique wine, it tastes flat,” he says. Aside from his role with VeritageMiami, Bittel also owns Sunset Corners liquor store with his cousin, Larry Solomon. Since their grandparents launched it 62 years ago, the shop has been one of Miami’s most revered businesses. “My cousin and I have worked the floor at the shop for over 40 years,” he says. “For all that time, many of our clients came in with their children. Now those ‘kids’ come in with their children. At a time when the retail landscape seems dominated by national chains and big-box stores, we’re proud to remain a one-store, family-owned shop.” Currently, the store carries over 3,000 wines, 600 beers and a 1,000 spirits. “Our staff knows them all, and are always excited to have a conversation!”; VeritageMiami.com; SunsetCorners.com. SAV V Y S I P S: Q U I C K T I P S FO R B ECO M I N G A W I N E CO N N O I SS EU R 1. “Constantly experiment with new wines and drink them with friends and family. Talk about what you like or dislike. It’s in the conversation that much is revealed.” 2. “Find a good wine merchant who can help guide and educate you through the wide range of available choices. Most wine shops sponsor weekly tastings that you can attend to expand your exposure.” 3. “Buy a case of red wine and drink one bottle a year. The wine will change as it matures and in the experience, your understanding of wine will also mature!” 4. “There are a host of excellent websites, blogs and wine merchant email lists that talk about new and exciting developments in the world of wine. Start with LynFarmer.com and SunsetCorners.com. 5. “Consider taking a class! Two of the best opportunities here in South Florida are at FIU’s School of Hospitality and Lyn Farmer’s classes under the auspices of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.” 36