By Kathy L. Collins

The Tampa Theatre presents its 15th Annual WineFest beginning on Friday, September 16. This year’s event features bites from local independent restaurants, sips from the finest wineries, an exclusive evening of wine and food pairings, and a very special screening of this year’s theme film, Casablanca.

Now in its 15th year, WineFest is Tampa Theatre’s biggest fundraiser event of the year benefitting the historic movie palace’s artistic, educational and community programs as well as the 90 year old movie palace’s ongoing preservation and restoration.

On Friday, September 16, a two-tiered Wine Tasting invites you to taste dozens of boutique wines, sample favorite fare from more of Tampa’s top independent restaurants than ever before, and bid on premium silent auction items representing area retailers, restaurants, services and attractions. The Premium Tasting is from 7-8 p.m. and features exclusive wines for a limited audience. Tickets are $90 and include admission to the Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is from 8-10 p.m. and tickets are $55.

On Saturday, September 17, the theatre’s historic stage will be expanded to seat more than 250 and transformed into Rick’s Café for an elegant Wine Pairing at 6:30 p.m. The multi-course menu, catered by Mise En Place chef Marty Blitz, will feature delectable small plates expertly paired with wines. Seating is limited, and tickets are $275 per person or $500 per couple.

WineFest wraps up on Sunday, September 18 with the finale of Tampa Theatre’s 25th Annual Summer Classics movie series and a screening of Casablanca at 3 p.m. Tickets are just $10 and include a film talk with the Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall and former Tampa Tribune film critic Bob Ross.

“WineFest 2016 will be bigger and better than ever with fantastic independent restaurants, delicious wines and the elegant and classic film Casablanca as the backdrop for the weekend. Come drink wine, have fun and support the Tampa Theatre and its 90 years of service to the community,” said Michael Stanton, vice chair of the WineFest committee.

The Tampa Theatre is located at 711 N. Franklin St. in downtown Tampa. For tickets, visit tampatheatre.org/winefest.