- January 31, 2016
WINDERMERE If the idea of an evening filled with fine-wine tastings, Central Florida’s top restaurants and music — all for a good cause — entices you, Windermere Wine & Dine is where you’ll want to be Jan. 30.
Next Saturday will mark the third year for the event, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Windermere Town Hall and Terrace. Event host and certified wine specialist Craig Lopus said restaurant and wine stations will be set up around Town Hall, and VIP tents and tables will be on the nearby basketball court.
“There’s going to be all the top restaurants in Central Florida; we’re responsible for providing all the wine,” Lopus said. “We have a great relationship with all of our wine suppliers, so they’ll be there pouring wine and talking about their wines to all the attendees, and they’re all fine wines. It should be a good time had by all.”
Out of 44 VIP tables, 43 already have sold. Additionally, out of 225 individual tickets, there are only about 20 left for purchase. Individual tickets cost $100 and include event admission and a commemorative take-home wine glass. VIP tables, which seat 10 people, are priced at $1,000 and include guaranteed seating under a lighted tent, butler service and two bottles of wine for the table.
In the last two years, Windermere Wine & Dine has raised more than $100,000 for the community, with $35,000 raised the first year and $65,000 the second. This year’s event is expected to be bigger and better, with more people, a bigger silent auction and more sponsors on board.
Lopus and his wife, Kathy, who own the Windermere franchise of Tim’s Wine Market, created the event as a way to give back to the town they love.
“We have a great relationship with all of our wine suppliers, so they’ll be there pouring wine and talking about their wines to all the attendees, and they’re all fine wines. It should be a good time had by all.” — Craig Lopus, event organizer and owner of Windermere’s Tim’s Wine Market
“We were trying to figure out, ‘What could we do in a big way to bring the town together for one night of the year for a great event?’” Craig Lopus said. “So we came up with Windermere Wine & Dine. We had envisioned 300 to 350 people, maybe 10 restaurants and between 50 to 60 wines. This year, we’re looking at between 650 and 700 people, 26 restaurants, 120 wines and obviously a much bigger night.”
They are involved in charitable efforts to support the local community and have supported organizations, such as the Windermere Rotary Club and Homes for Heroes. They also have hosted numerous fundraisers for Olympia High, as well as for Thornebrooke and Windermere elementaries.
Proceeds from Windermere Wine & Dine have traditionally been split among four organizations — the Mustang Education Fund, the Windermere Historic Preservation Board, the Windermere Tree Board and the Windermere Parks and Recreation Board.
This year, the proceeds will be turned over to the town, which will evaluate several groups’ proposals for improving the town.
“There’s a lot of money that could be spent to improve the overall town infrastructure that couldn’t be justified by a tax increase, but now we’ve given them the opportunity to have disposable funds to do some of the nice-to-have things that improve life in Windermere for all the residents,” Craig Lopus said.
Money raised from the first two events was used to install electrical outlets along the streets so food trucks in town for Family Food Truck nights wouldn’t have to use their generators, which create a lot of noise and burn gas. This year, Craig Lopus hopes some of the funds will be used to improve the town’s WiFi infrastructure and increase its bandwidth.
“We’ve just been welcomed with open arms,” Craig Lopus said. “We’re now part of the community, and this is our ‘thank you’ to the town for giving us the opportunity to run such a great small business.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]