Although the 28th annual Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival features a food-heavy schedule of dinners crafted by some of the island's brightest culinary minds, cooking demonstrations and cookbook signings, for many who will attend the festivities, the wines will be the stars of the show.
More than 700 varieties of wine, a daunting deluge of vintages even for the most experienced wine drinker, will be available for tasting at this year's festival, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. March 9 at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn on Hilton Head. General admission is $50 at the door. Admission includes a souvenir glass and a chance to taste as many wines as you want. Food samples are extra.
The event's finest wines already were chosen during the festival's International Wine Judging and Competition in January -- Bello Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 took home Best in Show honors -- but there are still many more hidden gems worth tasting next week.
We asked a couple of wine experts to give a list of the wines they think shouldn't be missed during next week's festival.
MARGARET GOLSON, CERTIFIED SOMMELIER, CHARLIE'S L'ETOILE VERTE
Macrostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2010 -- "Steve Macrostie was one of the California pioneers who saw the potential in the Sonoma Coast's ability to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Come back to the style that got everyone drinking California Chardonnay: fresh lively citrus and pear, with a clear balance of acidity, and just the right amount of richness added by French oak."
Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2011 -- "If we were really to look at modern American wine making, it all started with Dr. Konstantin Frank. He is responsible for successfully cultivating vinus vinifera (Cabernet, Riesling, Chardonnay -- there are only seven total) in the United States. Pay homage to the man that made others believe they could."
J. Lohr Petite Sirah Tower Road 2010 -- "If you are looking for a red with power that isn't going to break the bank, you found it. J. Lohr Petite Sirah Tower Road is like Christmas morning and spice cake in a bottle. Mouth filling with a silky texture, this wine is loaded with impact of blackberry and toasted butter on the palate."
LAIN BRADFORD, FOUNDER, WINETALK.ORG
Pollack Vineyards Merlot 2010 -- "A terrific merlot from Virginia that is packed full of flavor and style."
J. Lohr South Ridge Syrah 2010 -- "This wine has loads of velvety soft red fruit flavors, really delicious and a steal for under $20."
Macrostie Winery Chardonnay 2011 -- "Clean and crisp with a perfect amount of fruit and a touch of creaminess."
The festival's main tasting isn't the only event worth attending next week.
For the second year, the festival will have a celebrity cookbook author's tent. Inside, authors Pat Branning ("Shrimp, Collards & Grits"), Gullah chef Sallie-Ann Robinson, Sheri Castle ("The New Southern Garden Cookbook") and Fred Thompson ("Fred Thompson's Southern Sides 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate") will be available to sign copies of their latest tomes.
Cooking demos will last throughout the day from chefs Robinson, Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mama's, Keith Josefiak of Old Fort Pub, and, new to this year's festival, Roberto Leoci of Leoci's Trattoria in Savannah.
Looking for something a little more fancy? The festival's Grand Tasting and Silent Auction on March 8 at Sea Pines Country Club offers an opportunity to taste and learn about premium wines and snack on a menu of hors d'ouevres that includes smoked pork loin on blue cheese polenta cakes and peppered tuna tartar with seaweed slaw and wonton tuiles. Tickets are $90.
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