If basketball and pop music shows -- along with slot machines -- are the images that come to mind when you think of Mohegan Sun, here's another to savor: the January Wine & Food Fest, a branded beacon of light for Mohegan in a somewhat-dark New England winter. The four-day festivus for oenophiles returns Jan. 27-30, and while it's never easy to safely pull off such a large endeavor, the lingering pandemic poses continuing challenges.
The Uncasville resort stands as one of the largest, busiest and most efficient casinos in the world -- a point of pride for Connecticut built on gambling, yes, but also world-class entertainment.
The test this year will be keeping folks relatively safe from COVID's serious threats while catering to crowds of wine glass-toting visitors. (Wine Fest has drawn more than 15,000 people in previous years, according to Mohegan Sun.) Pushed by the Omicron strain of COVID, infection numbers soared nationally and locally in late December and much of January, but there were also predictions that the wave would crest rapidly -- right around the time of the Wine & Food Fest. Here's hoping.
A casino official noted that all attendees are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have received a negative test within 72 hours before the time of the event one is attending. (We like that.)
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27
A private five-course dinner with paired wines hosted by celeb chef Todd English with guest chefs. 7 p.m. Tickets: $225 ($250 Day-of tickets)
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28
Whiskeys of the World event with products from Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Kentucky. Tickets: $100 (Day of ticket $125) From 6-9 p.m. in the Earth Ballroom.
Grand Tasting Preview from 8-10 p.m. in the Earth Expo & Convention Center is a nice, less expensive alternative to Saturday's Grand Tasting, with tickets at $75 (day-of is $80). Designated driver ticket $20. You still get to choose from 1,000 varieties of wine, beer and spirits, along with (purchased) food from regional restaurants.
Actors/business partners Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz return to SWFF with their own event from 9-11 p.m. Friday in the chic eatery/club novelle, built around mixology and their new whiskey, Toms' Good Lovin'. Tickets are $125 (day-of $135).
SATURDAY, JANUARY 29
The signature event, The Grand Tasting, will take place from 1-5 p.m. in the Earth Expo and Convention Center. If you've never experienced this $80 million facility that opened in 2018, it's especially eye-popping when filled with people and vendors, not to mention celebrity chef presentations on stage. Tickets are $125 ($135 on that day).
Mohegan's scenic and tasty new restaurant Tao Asian Bistro & Lounge gets its own event, with a Sushi and Sake Pairing from 3-4 p.m. Saturday in the hotel lobby-level eatery. Tickets are $125 ($150 on that day).
The festival's tasting of elite (expensive) wines come together in Vintage Cru from 4-6 p.m. in the Earth Ballroom. Comes wityh a $50 iGourmet gift card. Tickets are $150 ($165).
Saturday evening's memorable culinary event, the Celebrity Chef Dine Around, pairs signature food items from top chefs with a wine, beer or spirit. Music by DJ Irie. It runs $250 ($275) from 8-10:30 in the Uncas Ballroom.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 30TH
Football enters the Wine & Food Fest with a Game Day Brunch at novelle hosted by Buddy Valastro and guest Victor Cruz, the New York Giants great. Tickets are $90 ($100). The savory brunch and tasty specialty beverages will be served while the NFL pregame and conference championships are airing on the screens of novelle from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.