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Charleston Wine and Food Festival – Part 1

The Charleston Wine and Food Festival (CWFF) has been a mainstay event in town for the past 13 years, but I had yet to attend.  The event tickets are pricey and can add up quickly if you want to dig into the festivities. I decided this year I would stick my toe in the water and go to a couple of events and I am sure glad I did.  Much of my experience this year was through connections with passes, but that will change next year because this was an absolute blast. This year’s festival started on Feb. 28th and ran through to March 4th.  Today’s post covers the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday events I attended. Whoa! Crazy fun… Here we go!!

Perception Wines: A Fringe Event

Wednesday’s event was Perception Wines Welcome Party for its members (We were guests of a member). This is not a sanctioned Charleston Wine and Food Festival event but coincides with it, thus a fringe event. This was a super fun tasting party with excellent food pairing at In The Kitchen with Chef Bob Waggoner in downtown Charleston.

A Vertical Tasting

We tasted a five year vertical of the Charlatan Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from 2010 to 2014. This was an incredible experience. If you are a geek like me or a “geek in training” this is a must do on your wine geek’s bucket list. Unfortunately for you, I scribbled my tasting notes on what was my order form, and I did not realize that. I guess you will have to wait for tasting notes when my order arrives.

FYI: A vertical tasting is sampling different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery. This emphasizes differences between various vintages due to variations in climate, weather, and other issues, environmental and otherwise. Us wine geeks love this stuff.

Suffice it to say that this was a fantastic event. We met lots of great people and drank excellent wines. Can’t wait for our shipment to arrive. Perception Wines is a Sonoma County, California winery.

Charleston Wine and Food Festival: Don’t Diss the Screw Top!

Left to Right: Matt McKeown, General Manager Grassroots Wine Wholesalers;   Peterson-Nedry, Winemaker, Chehalem Wines; Thom Sichta, National Sales manager, Chehalem Wines

My Thursday event was Don’t Diss the Screw Top!. A look at the usage of screw caps on wine instead of corks and how it affects the aging of wine. This was another vertical tasting of ten vintages of the Chehalem Three Vineyards Pinot Noir from 2006 to the current 2015 vintage. This tasting is usually an “industry event” designed to showcase screw cap usage used on premium wines. This was the first time they did this vertical tasting with the general public. Wow, I was thrilled to be there.

My absolute fave was the 2006 vintage followed by the 2013 vintage. Both had a rich texture with substantial fruit and delicate acidity. It was surprising how fresh and bright the 2006 vintage was after so long in the bottle.

This event was to be a 90-minute tasting but actually ran for 2 hours. The winemaker for Chehalem Winery was engaging and passionate, and she loved sharing their story. An unknown bonus was another example of the value of screw caps. Our palate cleanser wine was the Chehalem 2003 Inox Unoaked Chardonnay. Yep, that is correct a 15-year-old white wine with a screw cap was our palate cleanser.

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

This event ticket was $95.00 and in my opinion worth every penny. Chehalem Winery is in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Some Chehalem Wines are sold locally at Bottles in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival: Unicorn Wines

My Friday event was Unicorn Wines. The description on the website was pretty vague, and so I was unsure what exactly I was getting. From the Charleston Wine and Food Festival website… it reads: Just as mythical, rare and mysterious as the unicorn, these wines are as elusive as they come… What did they mean by rare and mythical? I was certainly intrigued and was excited to see what I was in store.

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Perhaps it was the $175 price tag (that I did not personally pay for) but I had high hopes for this and left somewhat underwhelmed. This was a walk-in style tasting with no formal presentation. The winemakers had to pour and talk in a bustling and sometimes crowded room, so it was challenging at best to learn much before another person was asking for a taste, etc.

I enjoyed tasting the wines and had a few moments with the winemakers. Yes, some were in limited supply, others had big scores from well-known wine critics while others were made using lesser known vinification practices or had big price tags. Some perhaps were a combination of several of these factors. But big scores and big price tags don’t mean anything if the wine is not to your liking. To me, a more structured presentation on what makes these wines “a unicorn” would have given this event more value.

The winemakers all hailed from California and included Arnot-Roberts, Matthaisson, J. Brix and Spottswoode.

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival

Charleston Wine and Food Festival


I am really glad I did some toe dipping this year.

But I am going to have to do some serious budgeting for next year. I think it is safe to say that one will spend a minimum of $500 for the long weekend of tickets at the very least.

Stay tuned to my next post on our experience at the Culinary Village.


That is all for now!





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