March 2007

Wine Talk: Gearing Up for WineFest

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

On the second Saturday of March, hundreds of people will flock to the Shelter Cove Community Park to sniff, swizzle, and savor over 1500 wines at the Hilton Head Hospitality Association’s 22nd annual WineFest—the largest tented wine tasting on the East Coast—featuring domestic and international wines, live entertainment and delicious food, prepared by some of Hilton Head Island’s best restaurants.

The event actually begins in February, when a panel of wine experts and enthusiasts (some local, some from afar), get together and “blindly” judge the wine selections. The judging takes place over the course of three days, with two shifts per day. Wines are divided into categories and specific guidelines apply. For example, one table, approximately 5-8 people, may taste $25 Pinot Noirs from Oregon, observing the color, smell and taste. Is the wine bright, the “proper light red to dark plum” for Pinot Noir? Does the wine smell fruity, corky, or does it even have a smell? Does the wine have a pleasant fruit flavor? Is it typical of a Pinot Noir? (Oregon wines are usually fruity with some hints of earth or smoke.) Judges tally up their votes, collaborating to assign each wine a score. A certain percentage of wines in each category will earn a silver, gold or the cherished gold medal +, meaning the wine has been nominated for Best in Show.

Best of show judging takes place the following week. All of the nominated wines are tasted again by a panel who must vote to determine:

Best in Show White (last year—2004 Olivier Laflaive Bourgogne Blanc “Les Setilles”)

Best in Show Red (last year—2004 Marquis Phillips McLaren Vale Shiraz Number 9) Best in Show Dessert (last year—Lilly Pilly Riverina, NSW Noble Blend) Best in Show Value-Oriented (last year—2004 Little Boomey Cabernet Sauvignon).

Competition is fierce, but the results are always delicious. At WineFest, you will have the opportunity to sip (or swish and spit) many different wines. Take a pencil and a small notebook so that you can note your favorites.

This year’s event takes place on March 10, from 1-4 p.m. Parking is plentiful, but the festival gets crowded later in the day. So get there early.

Admission is only $30.00 and includes all wine tastings and your very own souvenir glass. (Additional charges apply to food services.) Purchase tickets in advance by calling 1-800-424-3387 or 843-686-4944, or at the event at 1 p.m. For more information, visit

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