Since its founding in 2013, the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival (WWFF) has pushed $10,000 back into local nonprofit sectors, to benefit 1,000 People Who Care, Cape Fear River Watch, Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, Inc., and Bellamy Mansion. As it returns in its third year, it won’t only be pushing people’s palates into pure bliss, WWFF will donate partial proceeds from the event to Nourish NC and Bellamy Mansion.
Nourish NC—Best Nonprofit winner on encore’s 2015 reader’s poll—makes sure children do not go hungry in New Hanover County. Their backpack program sends food home to kids who may only get fed through free lunches at school.
“As a festival based on the culinary scene of Wilmington, we felt this was an important issue to support those less fortunate,” Chrissy Absi Bonney, founding member of WWFF, says. “And the Bellamy is an iconic part of downtown Wilmington and is funded on the donations of the community. As our hosts of the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival, we want to help ensure their longevity and historical significance.”
The main event takes place May 1 through 3; however, this year Bonney and her Bacchus’ Brood group—board members who started the festival—expanded the lineup by a week and a half. Numerous wine tastings and educational events began on April 23, and rotated across area wine and bottle shops, from Fermental to Wilmington Wine (Bonney’s shop), The Olive Café and Wine Bar to the Fortunate Glass, and beyond. On Monday, April 27, Palate Bottle Shop and Reserve hosted the unveiling of the official WWFF art work, created by Palate’s general manager, Andrew Bopes.
“It just seemed fitting as someone who was vested in Wilmington’s wine community [to design the work],” Bonney says. “Many of us on the board were familiar with and admired Andrew’s art, and we just love what he came up with. It was a totally different media from our poster last year.”
Bopes’ work will appear on T-shirts and posters, each available for purchase at the event. Plus, it will be showcased on the awards given out during WWFF’s main soiree on Saturday.
Folks can enjoy other events throughout the week, too, including a wine dinner at The Seasoned Gourmet (1930 Eastwood Rd.) on Wednesday, April 29 ($65 a person). On Thursday, April 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Bakery 105 (105 Orange St.), Danny Sanford of Fine Wine Trading Company will hold a seminar on Riedel Glassware ($30 a person). Folks will learn the importance of which glass to choose for sipping a multitude of varietals; plus, they’ll be gifted a glass to take home. Also on Thursday, winemakers and winery folks will take over Fortunate Glass (29 S. Front St.), Olive Café (1125 Military Cutoff Rd.), and The Balcony on Dock (33 S. Front St.), from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., for wine-and-food pairing events (tickets vary).
Yet, the main attractions begin with the Friday Night VIP Cocktail Party. Much like last year, there will be a bartender throwdown, with three contenders mixing up their best spirits. Sponsored by Trey Herring Carolina Bourbon and Cathead Vodka, the best cocktails are judged by attendees. Returning champion Derrick Cook (KGB) will go shaker-to-shaker against and Andrew Bopes (Palate) and Jordan Culler (Pravda). Culler will be concocting his own take on the South’s beloved drink, featuring Trey Herring’s bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, cardamom bitters, Fentimans lemonade, and mint.
“It’s well-balanced and is inspired by the flavors of a mint julep with the added eccentricities of the Kentucky Derby,” Culler says. “I’m calling it ‘The Blank Space’ as an homage to my one true love, Taylor Swift.”
Folks will be able to judge the night’s best barbecue sauce, too, as entered by chefs from local restaurants. A pig pickin’ will take place and live music from Paper Stars will entertain from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 apiece or $60 a couple, and includes BBQ, samples of each of the three mix-off cocktails, and two drink tickets per person.
The Corks and Forks Grand Tasting will take place on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bellamy, with live music from Arthur Sake from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Hooch Runners from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Local restaurants and wine vendors will align the lawn and inside the historic structure, as folks meander and sip and nibble ($45 a person). Over a dozen local restaurants will be on hand, including return participants Rx, San Juan (winner from last year’s event), Basics, 9 Bakery and Lounge, and CAM Café, along with newcomers The Seasoned Gourmet, King Neptune, Olive Café, Ceviche’s, and the soon-to-be-opened Pinpoint.
“The restaurants’ offerings continue to blow me away each and every year,” Bonney says. “I especially love when it’s something out of the box from their normal fare.”
Fortunate Glass will serve Vietnamese cold melon soup and pickled-vegetable rice paper rolls. Little Dipper plans on making bison meatballs and chocolate truffles. 9 Bakery will dish out mojama (spice cured tuna) over radish salad with spinach fume.
As well, over 150 wines will be available for tasting, and attendees can purchase bottles and cases at discounts, with a portion of proceeds going to the featured charities. “It’s like a wine Christmas,” Bonney excites. Folks will sip on everything from Ancient Peaks Merlot from Paso Robles, to Huia & Hunky Dory wines from New Zealand (with winemaker Claire Allen in town) to Signorello Estates in Napa Valley.
A panel of judges will hand out awards in various categories, including sweet and savory for food, as well as four wine categories: old world red, old world white, new world red, and new world white. The industry experts, as chosen by the WWFF board, will judge on a blind tasting. There will be people’s choice awards given, too.
Sunday’s Bubbles, Brews and Street Eats wraps up the weekend from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. In fact, the WWFF board has focused a lot on improving this particular event by increasing participants significantly. More so, every brewery in town will be attending: Wilmington Brewing Company, Flytrap Brewing, Ironclad Brewery, Front Street Brewery, Broomtail Craft Brewery, Good Hops, and Kind Beer.
“Waterworks, which is slated to open later this year, will be on hand promoting themselves (no beer), too,” Bonney notes. “Also from North Carolina, we will be showcasing Double Barley out of Smithfield, Sierra Nevada, now brewing in Brevard, and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina’s Westbrook.”
There will be a mimosa and champagne cocktail bar set up as well. “We will showcase many sparkling wines, and mixologist Jonathan Jones from Salem, Oregon, will be creating the cocktails,” Bonney tells.
Entry is only $10 and comes with five tasting tickets. On Sunday, a $5 kid’s ticket is available, too; however, children 12 and under are admitted for free. Additional tasting tickets will be available for $1 each. WWFF is encouraging folks to bring can goods for Nourish NC to receive an additional tasting ticket.
“Nourish NC’s biggest needs right now are canned fruit, chili with beans, large canned chicken or tuna, boxes of crackers, and high protein bars (Cliff, Kashi, etc.),” Bonney says.
Sunday’s participating food trucks include PT’s Grille, A&M’s Red Food Truck, Vittles, Trolly Stop and pop-up shop So Sweet Chocolate. Wilmington’s newest brewery tour, Port City Brew Bus, will be on hand with games. Folks will be able to vote on their favorite brewery of the afternoon, too. Local bands Whiskey Point, Jesse Stockton and Perry Smith will perform throughout the day. “There will be an additional tent on the Bellamy grounds to allow us to comfortably host more attendees and invite more vendors this year,” Bonney tells.
Wilmington Wine and Food Festival
May 1 – 3
503 Market Street
Friday VIP Cocktail Party
7 p.m. – 10 p.m. • $35 or $60/couple
Saturday Corks and Forks Grand Tasting
2 p.m. – 5 p.m. • $45
Sunday Bubbles, Brews and Street Eats
1 p.m. – 4 p.m. • $10 or $5 for
kids 12 and under