February 2013: Our Town- Winefest
Author: Michael Paskevich | Photographer: Rob Kaufman
Wine glasses will be raised, repeatedly, across the entire island in early March as the six-day Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival returns with an expanded lineup of education programs, chef dinners, home tours and auctions for fans of the vine, culminating in the big festival itself, Saturday, March 9, at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.
“A lot of people think the start of the (visitor) season is the Heritage golf tournament” said Tami Bream, chair of the 28th annual event selected as one of region’s Top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society. “But we think it’s us. This is a great culinary destination, and we’re really focused on bringing more people to the island.” More than 60 percent of attendees are historically out-of-towners and may be new residents one day, leading to a new home tour with food and wine pairings ($20 per person with trolley transport provided) to lend visitors a closer look at potential new digs. “We really want more people to see how we live and what we have to offer here,” Bream said.
Corks start popping Monday, March 4, with a series of nightly Great Chefs of the South Wine Dinners at select island eateries ($75 per person and up) plus a same-day reception at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, featuring member artists of the Art League of Hilton Head displaying wine-themed works. The home tour of five residences is set for Wednesday, March 6, along with a “Lunch and Learn” program at the South Carolina Yacht Club at Windmill Harbor, a “Cheese Ed” event at Roller’s Wine and Spirits on Palmetto Bay Road and the ongoing evening chef dinners. Updated details and ticket purchases are available at hiltonheadwineandfood.com.
More than 800 wines were submitted for judging in January at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa (presenting sponsor), and as many as half of them will be available for unlimited tasting at a pair of events featuring silent auctions. A Grand Wine Tasting & Silent Auction is set for Friday, March 8, at the Sea Pines Country Club (5:30-7:30 p.m., $90 per person) featuring gourmet appetizers and entertainment by finalists in the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s annual Piano Competition.
“The auctions are the way we raise money for our scholarship fund,” said volunteer Dr. Bob Hohman, noting more than $10,000 raised last year by the non-profit group for hospitality students at University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Select bottles from wineries across the country will be auctioned in lots of four, six and a dozen, starting with silent bids as low as $50 for the smallest lots, he added.
Of course, plenty more bottles from wineries nationwide will be available at a silent auction that accompanies the grand finale on Saturday at Honey Horn (noon-3 p.m.) when the Eastern Seaboard’s largest outdoor wine fest takes place. Nearly 5,000 locals and visitors attended last year, receiving souvenir wine glasses and carte blanche to freely sample any wines of interest, supplemented by artisan foods, art and craft exhibits and culinary competitions such as waiter races. Admission is $45 per person (online until March 8) or $50 at the gate at Honey Horn with half-price admission for active military with ID and their spouses.
Americana themed Cranford and Sons will provide entertainment at Saturday’s finale and, in another new twist this year, attendees still willing and able are invited to a free after party at the combined Chart House and Boat House restaurants nearby, featuring more music from Cranford and Sons and the chance to keep the revelry going through the evening. Remember, you still have Sunday to recover.