Wednesday, February 27, 2013

BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival, February 28 Thru March 3-Charleston's Only Winery And Distillery Rocks

Charleston, the toast of the coast, beautiful, hospitable, and drenched in romantic, southern history, is a sort of living museum. A plethora of 18th century homes, plantations, churches, galleries, and shops line its vintage roadways and waterfronts. A considerable number of historic hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts cordially beckon travelers to partake of their opulence. Award-winning restaurants featuring the famous Lowcountry cuisine entice hungry visitors at every turn of the corner and for the surf and sand lovers, four beautiful beaches wrap its coastline. But despite this abundance of old city amenities, Charleston is home to only one varietal repository, the Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island.

The Irvin House Vineyards is a 48-acre winery about 30 minutes south of Charleston. The vineyard offers walking trails, a petting zoo, a garden, large pond, winery, and gift shop. You can take advantage of the winery's affordable and informative wine tastings. For $4, you can taste all 5 of their varietals and will receive a complimentary wine glass for a keepsake to remember your time at the vineyard. Afterwards, you can enjoy a self-guided tour through the muscadine vines. Muscadine grapes are a fruit native to the Southeastern United States, perfectly matched to the climate needing fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.

One event to hone in on is the annual Grape Stomping Festival. In 2012, the event was in August. Check the event news on Irvin House Vineyards website for updates on this years stomping. Interesting fact: After naming their wines, they chose fine Charleston artists to create the labels.

The winery is also home to the Firefly Distillery, South Carolina's only distillery. Firefly became the world's first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka. It is distilled four times, infused with tea grown on the Charleston Tea Plantation just five miles from the distillery. The distillery has a tasting room, where people may taste Firefly products and purchase bottles right on the property. Tastings are $6. It is one of the very few in the country to be both a vineyard and a distillery. Visitors can also take a quick drive down the road to the Charleston Tea Plantation for tours any day of the week. The tasting room is located at 6775 Bears Bluff Road.

Now that I have you all wined-up, it is time to attend the annual BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival, February 28 - March 3, 2013. There will be 80 events over the course of the Festival weekend, affording you the opportunity to interact with and learn from the country's best chefs, authors and beverage professionals. The heart of it all is the Culinary Village in Marion Square Park where the JetBlue + Piggly Wiggly Grand Tasting Tents with over 80 food and beverage vendors from across the country will be set up. Firefly will be part of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival March 1 - 3. You can see them in the Piggly Wiggly Tent. For a complete list of venues and locations click on map. Events and tickets are posted here.

Here are some interesting wine facts:
1) The smell of young wine is called an "aroma" while a more mature wine offers a more subtle "bouquet".
2) Wine tasting is essentially wine smelling, women tend to be better wine testers because women, particularly of reproductive ages, have a better sense of smell than men.
3) Red wines are red because fermentation extracts color from the grape skins. White wines are not fermented with the skins present.
4) The world's oldest bottle of wine dates back to 325 A.D. and was found near the town of Speyer, Germany, inside one of two Roman sarcophaguses. It is on display at the town's Historisches Museum der Pfalz.
5) There is increasing scientific evidence that moderate, regular wine drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and gum disease.
6) Wine grapes rank number one among the world's fruit crops in terms of acres planted.
7) There is a right and wrong way to hold a wine glass. Wine glasses should always be held by the stem and not the bowl because the heat of the hand will raise the temperature of the wine.
8) One ton of grapes makes about 60 cases of wine, or 720 bottles. One bottle of wine contains about 2.8 pounds of grapes.
9) Most wine is served in a glass that has a gently curved rim at the top to help contain the aromas in the glass. The thinner the glass and the finer the rim, the better. A flaring, trumpet-shaped class dissipates the aromas.
10) Red wine represents 55% of restaurant wine sales.

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