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From experimental brews to vintage tastes

By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / November 6, 2011

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JAN. 5-7

VAIL, Colo.

Twelfth Annual Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival: Vail takes the conviviality - and quaffs - up a notch with this festival that features a brewmasters’ dinner, a home brew competiton, a beer and food pairing smackdown, and seminars on topics from experimental brewing to the marriage of beer and music. Of course, there will also be more than 200 beers from breweries around the world available for sampling. Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, 1300 Westhaven Drive, individual events $10-$75, event packages $125-$200. www.bigbeersfestival.com

DEC. 9-13

PALM BEACH, Fla.

Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival: A “beach bash’’ featuring food by celebrity chef Michael Schwartz kicks off this five-day event. In fact, festival-goers will have plenty of time to lie on the beach because the festival features just one big event each evening. Options include a pairing of cocktails and food at the 1926 Brazilian Court Hotel and the elegant grand tasting of creations from local restaurants paired with a grand chef “throwdown’’ competition. Various locations, $75-$250 in advance, $125-$225 at the door. 561-389-1222, www.pbfwf.com

DEC. 9-11 and 16-18

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

Holiday Wine Trail: For the wineries in the central Texas Hill Country, the drought of 2011 paradoxically promises to yield a superior vintage. It will be a few years before the harvest is ready to pour, but in the meantime, more than 30 wineries will deck the halls and welcome visitors for several days of touring and tastings. Event tickets entitle visitors to a grapevine wreath to decorate with a Christmas ornament from each winery visited as well as a discount on three-bottle purchases. Some wineries may offer entertainment. Various locations, $60 per couple, wine tastings not included. 318-884-9463, www.texaswinetrail.com

DEC. 9-12

SOUFRIERE, ST. LUCIA, West Indies

Jade Mountain’s Chocolate Festival: Perhaps the most luxurious resort on St. Lucia, Jade Mountain happens to have 1,000 cacao trees on the property and will release its first estate-grown chocolate during the festival. The event includes guided tours of the cacao estate, a chocolate cocktail party with chocolate finger foods and “chocolat-tinis,’’ a lavish dinner with chocolate in every course, chocolate breakfast in bed, and optional chocolate spa treatments. 100 Anse Chastanet Road, all events included with price of room: $1,230-$2,430 per night with meals; spa treatments $150. 800-223-1108 or 758-459-7000, www.jade mountain.com

PLAN AHEAD

JAN. 20-29

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif.

Mendocino County Crab & Wine Days: This 10-day festival is the perfect excuse to explore California’s north coast. The self-proclaimed “greenest wine region’’ in America celebrates the fruit of the vine along with the Dungeness crab catch from the cold Pacific waters with a cioppino dinner, an all-you-can-eat crab feed, a crab cake cook-off, vineyard tours and wine tastings, and wine and crab pairing events. Various locations, event tickets $35-$75. 866-466-3636, www.visitmendocino.com PATRICIA HARRIS AND DAVID LYON

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at harris.lyon@verizon.net.