Each year, thousands pour into the area for the annual Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival.
The six-day event, which kicks off Monday, is a big hit with those who enjoy good food, and of course great wine, but participants often leave with a whole lot more, said festival director Jeff Gerber.
From workshops and “knowledge sessions” to lectures and tasting events, the festival has earned a reputation that regularly draws crowds from outside the area, he said.
“It’s a fun way to find wines that you like and compare to others,” he said.
It’s a fun way to find wines that you like and compare to others.
festival director Jeff Gerber
Last year alone, the event had an estimated economic impact of $3 million in revenue from those who plan trips around the week, then spend money in restaurants and area businesses or on additional recreational or leisure activities, Gerber said.
The festival, now in its 31st year, also raises money for education, with proceeds from the festival’s wine auction at the “Grand” and “Public” tastings going directly to the John and Valerie Curry Educational Scholarship Fund for college students pursuing degrees in the hospitality and tourism field.
“We’ve given $30,000 worth of scholarships to USCB (University of South Carolina Beaufort) and TCL (Technical College of the Lowcountry) over the last three years,” he said.
Not bad when you consider the festival started as a one-day, three-hour tasting in a parking lot on Hilton Head more than three decades ago.
Back then the festival, organized by local wine enthusiasts, was meant to be a fun event that heralded in spring and, as Gerber said, it still is.
“It’s fun, but it’s a relaxed fun,” he said. “It’s not pretentious ...And it’s kind of a way to say, ‘Spring is here.’”
If You Go
The Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival runs from Monday, through Saturday.
All events, except Monday’s movie night, will take place inside The Sea Pines Resort, on the south end of the island.
Monday — “Wine and Cinema” starts at 6 p.m. at Custom Audio Video, 48 Pennington Drive, Bluffton. Will feature the film “The Year of the Comet” and include food, wine and a speaker.
Tuesday — “Zing Workshop” from 2-4 p.m. Will introduce participants to food and wine pairings.
Wednesday — “Wine Maker for a Day” from 2-4 p.m. Features a talk on grapes used in making Bordeaux, or Meritage wines. Participants try their hand at blending. The person with the best blend crowned “Wine Maker for a Day.”
Thursday — “AVV” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Meet Max Vater from Alexander Valley Vineyards. Includes tastings from their wines.
Also on Thursday, “Sip and Stroll” from 1-4 p.m. Participants visit a variety of shops in the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Includes wine, discounts at participating shops and scenic sights.
Friday — “Banfi Brunello Tasting/Seminar” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Meet Rudy Buratti, head wine maker for Castello Banfi. Includes a Brunello tasting and high-end wines.
Also on Friday, the “Grand Tasting” starts at 5:30 p.m. Features a large selection of high-end wines and an array of light hors d’oeuvres.
And, a “Wine Dinner” will be at 7:45 p.m. Meet Luciano Castiello, who has traveled all over the world and regularly speaks on wine, especially those made at Castello Banfi. Also features pairings by Hilton Head chef Hugo Lee.
Saturday — “Public Tasting” with gates opening at 11 a.m. Tastings begin at noon. Features more than 250 wines from all over the world, food, live entertainment, a “waiter’s race” and silent auction.
Tickets range in price, from $49-$125, depending on the event.
For details call 843-686-4944 or visit www.hiltonheadwineandfood.com.