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Omnivore - Best Bets: 2016 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival preview

Take a roadtrip through the south and a vineyard at this year's multi-day event

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The 6th annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is ready to shine a spotlight on not just Atlanta, but what is going on in the food world all over the South. Festival co-founders Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love want Atlanta to be a proper Southern host city but also a gateway to the traditions and stories of what makes Southern food so special. The pair is stirring things up this year, hoping attendees taste, hear, see, and maybe sip something for the first time at the festival, which runs June 2-5 at the Loew's Atlanta Hotel in Midtown. Deets on what to look out for this year after the jump. (Check out past festival coverage from 2011, 201220132014, and 2015 and slideshows from 2013 and 2014, as well as our comprehensive rundown of Atlanta Food & Wine's 2016 education sessions.

Vineyard in the City ... aka the first ever pop-up vineyard in the U.S. plopped right in the heart of Midtown (across from the Four Seasons Hotel in the former Atlanta Symphony Hall lot). Inspired by McGuigan’s Wine in Dublin, Ireland, the vineyard opens June 1 and is composed of 60, 20-year old grapevines. Giant elm trees planted in boxes will provide shade. The festival has master classes and dinners planned for the area during AFWF and it will remain open until June 30 with curated programming. Think sack lunches and live music. 

Meet Me in the Meadow ... aka The Tasting Tents aka those vast spaces filled with endless bites and sips, outgrew their green space. This year, the food will be next to Piedmont Park’s parking deck and Loew’s will offer a shuttle service from the hotel to the tents. The layout was tweaked to encourage more flow and is the area is conveniently nice and flat. Similar to the tasting trails of years past, the tents have dedicated themes. For instance, there is a Pairings tent with beverages matched to chef’s dishes and a Staples tent with food like grandma used to make. There will be seven tasting trails and more than 100 vendors, presenters, restaurants, and chef stations to sample. 

Friday Night Lights and Porch Sittin' ... aka the pregame. The Tasting Tents begin Friday evening this year, adding a little twilit sparkle and accessibility for more people join in the fun. The all-you-can-eat tents are open from 6:30-9:30 p.m. As usual, the Saturday and Sunday tents will take place after the educational portion of day has concluded. Individual tickets are available for Tasting Tents each day if you'd rather skip the lectures and head straight for the food, booze, and debauchery. Make sure to check out front porch sessions with writer Jennifer V. Cole, whose famed rocking chair porch is recreated at the festival. Mini discussions happen here with her distinguished guests (and probably bourbon).

Master Class ... aka the schoolin' ... In addition to the more than 80 classes offered on the AFWF schedule there are a few Master Classes offered. (We came up with a guide to help you navigate.) These two-hour sessions allow speakers to dive deeper into subjects. Because who wouldn't want more time to delve into “Fine Country Hams and Bourbons” with Drew Kulsveen, Sean Brock, and Preston Van Winkle? One of the courses, “Grapes from A-Z,” appropriately takes place in the vineyard with a sommelier-led luncheon. 

Stoke the Fire ... aka a tailgate party in the park with curators Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q. Look for the smoke signals during Tasting Tent sessions, where southern chefs tend to smokers, Big Green Eggs, and open fires. We hear Porter Road Butchers from Nashville will be grilling a whole cow and ticket holders can learn how to grill a whole fish. Look for Pine Street Market’s Rusty Bowers, David Bancroft of Acre, Home Team BBQ, Kelly English of Restaurant Iris, and pitmaster Rodney Scott, among others.

Tickets to the 2016 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival can be purchased here