Without question it is the oldest Wine-related festival in the area. It might just be the longest running event on either side of the Savannah River and it is just about to get underway on Hilton Head Island. The 32nd Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival is just about set to roll out for another year.
At its heart, the week-long festival is an international wine competition. In January every single year hundreds of wines from dozens and dozens of vineyards are lined up in a quite large hotel ballroom. Wine experts from all over America descend on Hilton Head Island and taste.
And they taste. And they taste.
I’ve watched the process. It is grueling. They take breaks. They push away from the table. They stop to eat. But they keep tasting and they vote. They pick their favorites. Sometimes there is debate over what is their favorite. Other times, it’s pretty unanimous. There is nothing unique about what goes on here on Hilton Head Island every year. Scenes like this are repeated all over the country. What is very likely different are the entries as well as the judges.
It’s important to note that these aren’t exclusively high end wines. In 2016, I attended the Festival’s “Grand Tasting” and was told most bottles we were sampling were in the $45-$65 retail range. Are there some that are higher? Sure. Are there some that are lower? Maybe, but not so much at the Grand Tasting. Your “Tuesday night Porch Pounder” you can find at the Public Tasting on Saturday.
The Public Tasting is a lot of fun. Sometimes very crowded, but very fun. The scene is set along the marina at Harbortown in the Sea Pines Planatation on Hilton Head Island, without question the most photographed spot on the Island. Not familiar? The red and white lighthouse. Yeah, that’s it.
For 4 hours on Saturday guests are invited to sample hundreds of wines. Yes, hundreds of samples. Trying to taste them all isn’t advised nor is it smart. It’s not supposed to be a drunk fest. It’s a great way to sample those bottles you see every week at Publix. Yes, the event’s title sponsor.
Of course, there is food. Several Hilton Head Island chefs will be offering not only samples, but also conducting cooking demonstrations. Anything from seafood to braised short ribs. All of it part of the cost of one ticket. When you combine the scene, with the scenery and the opportunity to sip and sample your way around the harbor? What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
See you on TV,