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1st Pittsburgh Wine Festival planned

PITTSBURGH - What started out as a public relations event in Philadelphia last year has blossomed into an event which should bring great joy to wine lovers throughout the Pittsburgh area.

The first-ever Pittsburgh Wine Festival will be held May 2-3. On May 2, the event will be held in the east Club Lounge at Heinz Field.

On May 3, the festival will be spread throughout the Pittsburgh-area as selected restaurants will honor the festival by having dinners and serving their very best wines at discounted prices.

"The idea of the festivals started in Philadelphia a year ago by Jonathan Newman, chairman of the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board)," said Susan Santa-Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Wine Festival.

"The PLCB is trying to make itself very customer-friendly, trying to change its image.

"The wine festival in Philadelphia sold out immediately and was a huge success. We're expecting the same thing for the Pittsburgh Wine Festival."

Premier vintners from all over the world will showcase their finest products to Pittsburgh.

The event is open to the public and Santa-Cruz said she looks for the wine festival to become a staple of the region annually.

Philadelphia is already sold out for April 30 and May 1," she said. "Response in Pittsburgh has also been fantastic. We've just gotten a huge, huge response."

The fact that Pennsylvania will be hosting a wine festival stretched over four days in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh puts the state in a unique position.

"Pennsylvania might be the only state that involves two of its largest cities in a wine festival," Santa-Cruz claimed. "It's basically a four-day wine festival for the entire state.

"Wine has become big-business," she said. "The festival reinforces that sentiment.

"Pittsburgh is a destination city with first-class dining and a growing appreciation for fine wine," Newman said.

James Mariani, family proprietor of Tuscany's Castello Banfi vineyard estate, which participated in the Philadelphia event, said he is "proud to be returning to Pennsylvania and delighted that the program has been expanded to include Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh has a heritage of well-stocked wine cellars and specialty wine dinners. But never before have famous wine makers convened to the city to bring the world of wine to the season expert - as well as the curious beginner.

At the East Club Lounge at Heinz Field, folks who attend the event will get to sample wine from approximately 80 of the world's premier wineries such as Chateau Margaux, Rochioli, Gaja, Cardinale, Castello Banfi, Ornelia, Antinori and Domaine Leroy.

The event will include a general tasting of the fine wines open to the public from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The May 2 event will also include a silent auction of wine and wine-related items. Those include rare wines, specially autographed bottles, over-sized bottles and wine-tasting trips to France and California.

In addition, Pittsburghers will have an easier access to unusual wines with the grand opening of the expanded Waterworks Superstore at the waterworks Mall in Fox Chapel. This will occur at noon May 2.

On May 3, the event will continue with the dinners as many of Pittsburgh's restaurants will be paired with a world-class vintner to highlight the harmony of fine wine and exquisite cuisine.

Among the participants will be New York restauranteur Lidia Bastianich, whose restaurant will host a dinner at her Lidia's in the Strip District.

Anyone interested in attending the Pittsburgh Wine Festival or just wanting more information on the event can call 412-380-8552 or check out the website pittsburghwinefestival.com .

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