Wine lovers and enthusiasts gathered March 7-12 for the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival sponsored by Publix. In its 31st year, the annual wine festival featured a week of specialty events, catering to the wide range of interests and tastes of those who love fine wine.
The festival started with the often-overlooked 2016 Wine Judging, a quiet, non-public competition open to winemakers from all over the globe.
In the end, the Best of Show White award went to Foley Family Wines for their Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Best in Show Red went to Old Bridge Cellars' Maison L'Envoyé Two Messengers Pinot Noir, and Best of Show Dessert went to Barboursville Vinyards' Paxxito (Passito).
With 44 other Gold and Double Gold honors awarded on top of numerous silvers, the judges had their palates full with the wide range of extraordinary entrants.
The public festivities in March drew visitors to the island by the thousands. Exclusive events such as Alexander Valley Wine's Tasting took guests on a unique journey, allowing them to experience seven of AVV's finest wines, three of which were double gold winners, and two past Best in Show winners at the festival.
A special guest from Italy offered a rare tour de force of some of Castello di Banfi's finest wines.
The week continued with numerous knowledge sessions and the always popular Sip and Stroll along the Harbour in Sea Pines.
The Grand Tasting, Banfi Wine Dinner, and Public Tasting concluded this year's offerings by HHIWFF.
A unique opportunity with more than 250 wines hailing from countries all over the world, it is clear the Public Tasting was conceived by wine lovers for wine lovers.
As a direct result of funds earned by this year's events, the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival's scholarship fund raised thousands for students in the hotel, restaurant and tourism management programs at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and Technical College of the Lowcountry.
Adding to more than $30,000 from the past three years, the annual festival has proven to be a huge benefit for the next generation of professionals in the Lowcountry.
The bar was set high this year, but according to festival director Jeff Gerber, "We are excited to make next year even better!"
For more information on next year's festival and this year's wine competition winners, visit www.hiltonheadwineand food.com.