Wine Fest

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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March 2019 Issue

by Elizabeth Skenes Millen   
Photography provided by Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival

Have you heard the news making its way across the grapevine? It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No. It’s not Christmas, but for the thousands of oenophiles who will flock to Hilton Head Island for the weeklong Wine and Food Fest, it really kind of is. You don’t need to be a vintuitive to know that when you pair wine lovers with a plethora of wine, happiness and satisfaction abounds.

The Hilton Head Island Food and Wine Fest was launched 34 years ago as part of an island wide promotion to bring visitors and stimulate the island’s tourism industry in the early spring shoulder season. A group of devoted wine enthusiasts, along with some great island culinary talents, started the tradition of the annual Wine & Food Festival, serving as the herald of spring. From its origin as a one-day, three-hour tasting, the festival has now blossomed into a full week of events surrounding the iconic Harbour Town Yacht Basin at The Sea Pines Resort. On this year’s festival itinerary, you’ll find exceptional wine dinners, educational seminars, the Sip and Stroll, plus the traditional Grand Tasting and well-loved Public Tasting. The signature event, the original Public Tasting, is one of the largest outdoor, tented public wine tastings on the East Coast.

WineFest 0319 2Pink caught up with Jeff Gerber, Executive Director of Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival and Virginia Kavanaugh, Assistant Festival Director, shortly after the private judging portion of the International Wine Competition to get the juice on a few favorites. “If you asked me three different times, there would probably be three different wines,” Jeff said, when pressed for his favorite. Yes. We made him go there. Looking to the Double Gold winners, he threw praise to Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (2015) and Jean Max Roger Sancerre (2016).

We didn’t let Virginia off the vine, and asked for a few of her tasting notes, too. Again, turning to the double gold winners, she picked Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay (2015) and Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State.

The great news about the double gold winners is there are wines ranging in price from $20 and up. “Tasters will be able to explore their nightly “house” wine category and find new favorites for special occasions, as well,” Jeff pointed out.  In addition to the variety of wine offerings this year through the multitude of events, Jeff and Virginia are excited about the work they do because of what the festival gives back to the community.

“Most people don’t know we are a non-profit. We have given more than $100,000 to Technical College of the Lowcountry and University of South Carolina Beaufort to support hospitality, restaurant and tourism studies, as well as the developing culinary programs. Our aim is for our interest and contributions to help generate qualified staff to come directly back to hotels and restaurants in the Lowcountry,” Jeff said.

This year a fabulous new event is being crafted called Stay Gold. With an offering of 200 tickets, patrons will experience a beautiful sunset event in Harbour Town, where they will have tasting access to many double gold and best of show winners. The wine will be perfectly paired with traditional, smoked Lowcountry cuisine, such as oysters and brisket, live music with Mike Kavanaugh and all the proceeds help benefit the scholarship program. “We’re hoping Stay Gold will become another pillar event for the Festival like Sip & Stroll, Grand Tasting and Public Tasting,” said Jeff.

The Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival is a signature, world-class event that brings a throng of industry professionals, wine enthusiasts, and foodies to our area. The Lowcountry comes alive with everything gourmet. The festival can be best described as rich in culture, layered with fun, full of flavor and long on great memories. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year as The Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival kicks off spring on America’s No. 1 island. Now that is a perfect blend.

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34th Annual Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival
March 11-17, 2019
To see the full list of winners, get details on events and purchase tickets, please log onto

Bluffton Room Cooking Class - A Tribute to New Orleans

March 11  |  12:30-2 P.M.  |  15 Promenade Street, Bluffton, SC  |  $65/person
Join us for the 2019 Kick-off event, A tribute to New Orleans Cooking Class, at The Bluffton Room. Chef Jeff Condon will demonstrate his excellent cooking skills as you sip on Ste. Michelle sparkling and other amazing Chateau Ste. Michele wine.

Progressive Wine Dinner with 90 point wines from Down Under

March 12  |  6-8 P.M.  |  Sea Pines Country Club  |  $150/person
Join us for a night of amazing 90 point wines from Australia’s Old Bridge Cellars winery paired with delicious food prepared by Executive Chef Brian Coseo. Guests will be entertained by live music from a member of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra while learning about these amazing wines from Down Under with the backdrop of the gorgeous Lowcountry.

Homage to the 1976 Paris Tasting

March 13  |  6-7:30 P.M.  |  $150/person
Private Residence in Long Cove, Hilton Head Island
The story of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars is now legendary. Founded in 1970, the little known winery was thrust into the spotlight when it's 1973 estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stag's Leap Vineyard bested some of Frances greatest wines in the historic 1976 Paris Tasting. Join us for an intimate evening as we sample each decade that Stags Leap Winery has been making wine. Light refreshments and live music along with watching the sunset over the Inter-coastal waterway will make this a sought-after seminar!

Sip & Stroll

March 14  |  1-4 P.M.  |  149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head, SC  |  $49/person
Grab your glass and Sip and Stroll your way through the variety of shops that line the famous Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Treat yourself to a great selection of wines while enjoying discounts at participating shops, all while taking in the beautiful atmosphere. Friends, fun, and of course wine made this one of the most popular events last year, so grab your tickets before they sell out!

Stay Gold - a Lowcountry Wine, Music and Food Experience

March 14  |  6:30-8:30 P.M.  |  149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head, SC  |  $75/person
Join us for the inaugural Stay Gold: A Lowcountry Wine, Music and Food experience. Stay Gold will take place at sunset along the beautiful marina in  Harbourtown at Sea Pines. It will feature Double Gold wines from our international Judging competition and delicious Lowcountry foods.  Guests will be entertained with live music by Mike Kavanaugh.

Tour of Spain Wine Seminar

March 15  |  11:30 A.M. - 1 P.M.  |  $45/person
Magnolia Room at the Plantation Golf Club  |  100 N. Sea Pines Drive, Hilton Head, SC
Join us as Claire Henderson, a certified sherry expert, takes us on a tour of Spain through your wine glass. Claire will share her experiences, stories and knowledge of Spanish wines she acquired from living and working in the wine industry for the last decade, as we travel to five different wine regions in Spain. She will start in the NE region of Penedés with Cavas, then move west into Rioja and Rueda areas, afterwards turning south into the warm central plains of Toledo and finish in the SW corner of the country with the sherries that have made Gonzalez Bypass iconic.

Grand Tasting

March 15  |  5:30-7:30 P.M.  |  $125/person
Harbour Town Clubhouse  |  11 Lighthouse Ln., Hilton Head, SC
This traditional tasting is the festival’s most exclusive celebration, featuring award winning wines and an array of light hors d’oeuvres. We will be hosting this event through out the Harbour Town clubhouse, a truly fantastic setting for some truly fantastic wines.

Public Tasting General Admission

March 16  |  149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head, SC  |  $65/person
The Public Tasting is the Festival’s largest event, celebrating our 34th anniversary the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Come taste over 250 world-class wines from all over the world. In addition, see chefs in action at the Sysco Outdoor Gourmet Challenge, enjoy live entertainment and watch the fun and excitement of the waiter’s race. Also, do not forget to bid on award-winning wines at the Silent Auction where the proceeds support the John & Valerie Curry Scholarship fund.

VIP Lounge at the Public Tasting

March 16  |  11 A.M. - 4 P.M.  |  11 Lighthouse Lane, Hilton Head, SC  |  4th Floor
The VIP area will be located on the 4th floor of the Harbour Town Yacht Club overlooking the beautiful marina. The VIP area will have a special selection of medal winning wines and light hors d’oeuvres catered by the Harbour Town Yacht Club.

Beachside Brunch and Bubbles

March 17  |  11:30 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.  |  $42.95/person
Sea Pines Beach Club  |  87 N. Sea Pines Dr., Hilton Head, SC
In addition to a world-class brunch, you will enjoy ocean views, Deep Eddy Bloody Mary’s, Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Wine and Mimosas from the deck. Please call for reservations, 843-842-1888.

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