For weeks after coming across this event on Facebook and deciding to go forward with purchasing early bird tickets, we were excitingly anticipating attending the 1st annual Charleston Winter Wine Festival.
The event was held on Saturday, February 9th at the Meminger Auditorium in downtown Charleston, SC. As we drove by in search of parking, we were a little skeptical as there only seemed to be a few persons standing near the entrance. However, by the time we had found parking and walked up near the gate, we were surprised at how long the line had formed. The wait was not long, and in no time we were provided our sturdy plastic [acrylic] stemless wine glass and were enjoying our first taste of wine in the courtyard of the Meminger Auditorium.
The courtyard was set up with a food truck – Roti Rolls, one wine station, and a fabulous live band. The day was beautiful and it would have seem nice to enjoy all of tastings outdoor, but since the main event was inside of the auditorium, we made our way in to indulge in more of our favorite alcoholic beverage – wine.
Our first impression walking into the Meminger Auditorium was how dark and empty it appeared. Not empty because of a lack of attendees, but there did not seem to be enough wine stations or vendor booths to full the large space.
Although there were only 13 wine tables inside, each table included between 4-6 bottles of wines for patrons to choose from. The tables or stations were categorized by varietals so one station may have included only Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon wines, while another included sweet wines like Reisling and Moscato. We decided to start our tasting experience by going in order of the table numbers which made the sweet wines one of the first we tried. We immediately fell in love with one of the Reislings and noted that the wines that were served were not exclusive to any wineries, but were likely purchased from various wine retailers. Also, there was no option to purchase bottles at the event.
As the day went on and we slowly moved from station to station, the auditorium started to quickly full, but it seemed that we never had to stand in line for more than two minutes if at all. But one of the things that we found to be unusual for a wine festival is the very liberal pours. We do not think a limit was set. Some staff members serving the wine were literally asking us when to stop pouring! We were wowed, but we still set personal limits so that we could try as many wines as possible without feeling buzzed to early on.
However, the heavy pours may have made it easy for patrons to let loose for the next unusual thing we were wowed by – the wine festival turned into an outright day party. We’ve never attended anything like it. And it was a blast! DJ Q-tip was awesome and kept the dance floor moving. It then clicked why the auditorium had so much empty space when we walked in… It was purposely for the dance floor that was later to come. As the party rocked, the bottles kept pouring. It was probably not the wine festival for the snooty as some patrons seemed to be disappointed at the turned party-like atmosphere. Nonetheless we had a wonderful time and stayed just about until the end, which is also about the time some of the wines began to run out.
The Charleston Winter Wine Festival was a great event. We enjoyed the band, networked and met new friends, and even shook a leg or two.
On March 30th the same event planners will host the Charleston Mimosa Festival. We may attend especially since the mimosas at the wine party were pretty good, but if we do not make it, we will surely return for the next Charleston Winter Wine festival. We hear that there may be another in the summer!