The 28th Annual Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival is now neatly stored away in the record books. In a way, it makes me a little sad; I wanted the festival to go on much longer. It’s not that I’m gluttonous or hedonistic; not at all. I just love wine.
The festival week started out for me on Tuesday. I was invited to attend a kickoff luncheon at the South Carolina Yacht Club. The luncheon was entitled “Lunch and Learn.” The idea here was to promote education and discussion about the harmony between food and wine. As a participant at the luncheon I can say, without reservation, that the entire presentation reflected careful thought and professionalism. Executive Chef Kevin Cavanaugh started out by making a Golden Tomato Romesco with Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi. This was served with Itsumo Ahi Tuna. Of course it was excellent. However, the important ingredient here was the way Chef Cavanaugh made the preparation look so easy. The Romesco and the Gnocchi were prepared from scratch. I can only say that I have to respect his experience. (His formal training was at The Cordon Bleu, Chicago.)
The wines that accompanied the food were presented by Ms. Lisa Drakman. Her choice for the aperitif was Roederer Estate Brut Multi Vintage. The education point here was to feature a dry sparkling wine with good acidity that makes for outstanding food matching. Roederer did just that by matching it with Chips, Berries, and selected cheeses. Lisa matched the Tuna, Romesco, and Gnocchi with Two wine selections. They were Windsor Sonoma, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Riesling called Eroica from Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State. Lisa had two brilliant points here that will surely give rise to some discussion. By presenting her guests with a bold White Riesling and a light, acidic Red pinot Noir, she was saying that both wines are an acceptable accompaniment to the Tuna preparation. The guests were asked to try both wines. Clearly Lisa did her homework, because all of the guests liked both wines.
Dessert was a Tiramisu, with Tiramisu Gelato, accompanied by a Chateau La Rame Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont dessert wine. Chef Patrick Alford is the Pastry Chef. The wine and dessert portions were very small, as well they should have been. It was a delightful finish to a terrific meal.
The Yacht Club has assembled a very creative team. The Grand Tasting and Silent Auction was Friday Evening at the Sea Pines Country Club. As is the norm, it was a sellout. A very enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the premium wines available for tasting. Wines were featured mostly from California, Oregon, New York, Italy, Argentina, and Germany. Tasters were also treated to some outstanding hors d’oeuvres, such as peppered tuna tarter, Carpaccio plates, roma tomato plates with olive oil and balsamic drizzle, mini crab cakes with honey Dijon, and a blue cheese and dark chocolate display. Decadence was the norm for about two hours, and then we had to return to being normal. It sure was fun.
New this year at the Grand Tasting was music provided by competitors in The International Piano Competition, presented by the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. Applause for the excellent music!
One of the tables at the Grand Tasting featured the top medal winners (Best-of-Show) from the judging competition that took place in January. The winners were: a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Bello Family Vineyards, Napa, California; a 2009 Riesling from S.A. Prum from the Mosel region of Germany; and the Best Value Wine was a 2010 Syrah from J.Lohr Vineyards, Paso Robles AVA. Paso Robles is in the Central Coast. This is the second time in three years that J. Lohr has walked away with a top honor.
The Saturday tasting at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn was very well attended. It featured 37 wine tents, a culinary court – holding 12 of the top restaurants in the area – and featured some of the area’s best chefs; some tents featured local artisan and retail shops such as food, wine, ice cream, condiments and travel. This is a very fast-paced three hours, but well worth the effort you put into it.
Volunteers make the festival a success. Without their dedicated spirit, the festival would be very difficult to bring about. My hat is off to them. The volunteers offset any labor expense. This helps to channel more monies into the John F. and Valerie Curry Educational Scholarship Fund. Well done, Hilton Head. See you next year.