Like your favorite Auslese Riesling, the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival continues to get better with age. Longtime fans of the event say that just as the best grapes mature, the festival’s biggest selling point is that it continues to evolve with the tastes of the times.
COVID concerns caused a shortened event in 2020 and a move from the traditional March window to its Sept. 14-18 schedule this year.
Festival executive director Jeff Gerber, now in his sixth year in charge and 18th overall working the week-long affair, said the time of year is not the only change for the 36th year of the event.
“We’re excited to base the festival at the new Lowcountry Celebration Park on Pope Avenue,” Gerber said. “We enjoyed our six years in Sea Pines but the event has a history of changing locations every 5-6 years. The town suggested the park, and we’re thrilled to spotlight this beautiful new space. We’re so close to the beach, it’s just the perfect setting to enjoy the best wine and food.”
The festival kicks off with Uncorked on Thursday, Sept. 9 atop the Marriott Courtyard Rooftop Bar. Guests are invited to bring a bottle of wine and share it with old and new friends while enjoying a sampling of appetizers and hors d’ouevres.
“I love this in setting up the week. It’s like an epic dinner party. Open that bottle you’ve been wanting to uncork for years, share stories and just enjoy the company, the food and a gorgeous sunset view,” Gerber said of the 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. event. Tickets for Uncorked are $35 per person.
Movie Night at Park Plaza Cinemas gets the official week underway Tuesday, Sept. 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be appetizers from Rockfish and an array of wines to taste before heading in to watch “Bottle Shock,” the 2008 cult favorite about the early days of California wine making.
That’s followed by the Sip and Stroll on Sept. 15, a night of wine tasting while scoring great discounts at the Shops at Sea Pines Center.
The best wines among the 400-plus entries in this year’s International Judging Competition, those deemed “double gold,” are on display at the Stay Gold event on Sept. 16. The sunset event features live music and the Double Golds paired with food offerings by Fresh on the Menu partners from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.
The Grand Tasting, the festival’s most exclusive celebration, is Sept. 17 at the Country Club of Hilton Head. That leads into the public tasting on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Lowcountry Celebration Park.
This year features live music and more than 250 world-class wines from across the globe and a new beer garden which will feature samplings from five different local breweries (Hilton Head Brewing, River Dog, Lot 9, Southern Barrel and Lincoln and South) and meads from Bee-Town Mead and Cider.
Chefs will compete in the Outdoor Gourmet Challenge and guests can bid on award-winning wines at the Silent Auction to benefit the John and Valerie Curry Scholarship Fund. A VIP lounge at the park pavilion will feature the festival’s most decorated wines and food from Fresh on the Menu partners. “It’s just a day where you can try a number of tastes, where no matter what level of wine enthusiast you are, there is something for you,” Gerber said. “No risk, try it, rinse your glass and move on to the next one.”
Gerber is proud of the $85,000 raised over the past eight years through the event that has helped deserving hotel and restaurant students at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, as well as helped build the school’s new culinary kitchen.
“You have fun, enjoy some incredible wines and food pairings and you’re helping build the future behind our passions,” he said.
For more information, visit them online at hiltonheadwineandfood.com.