The Wilmington Food & Wine Festival runs Friday through Sunday, May 18-20 at the Bellamy Mansion. The event is tented up and ready for Mother Nature. A dozen restaurant dishes, 150 wines, plus various beers and liquors will be available for tasting.
Tickets can be purchased at the event, but organizers advise getting tickets ahead of time online, at Bellamy Mansion, and at Bon Ame Chocolate and Wine Bar. The event is raising money for Bellamy Mansion and Nourish NC.
Listen above to Lauren Dixon, the Director of the Festival this year, and Laural Coffey, the Resource Development Manager at the Bellamy Mansion. See our extended conversation below.
Lauren: I'm the Director of the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival this year in our sixth year of the festival.
Laural: I'm the Resource Development Manager at the Bellamy Mansion Museum, and I'm also on the board with the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival.
Gina: What is the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival?
Lauren: So, it's a three day festival. Here, downtown Wilmington, at the Bellamy Mansion, and it's a three day festival full of beer and wine and good local restaurants sampling some of their food and some great food trucks, as well.
So, Friday night we're kicking it off. It's a North Carolina Spirits and Barbecue. So, Matt Register with Southern Smoke is going to be there serving up some delicious barbecue. And then, we've got local bartenders downtown. Basically, taking some of these North Carolina spirits that are also going to be sampled the same night and making a cocktail. And then, you get to judge for the best cocktail. We're going to see who the winner is going to be this year. We're going to have a different voting system this year, so you're actually going to be able to take a picture with your phone, and that's how you're able to vote. And then, we're going to calculate at the end, and the bartender gets bragging rights for a year.
And then, Saturday is our grand tasting. So, there's going to be over 150 wines being poured as well as over a dozen restaurants giving you a little sample. We're also going to be judging those as well - all of the foods going to be judged. So, you get to come and taste a bunch of wine and get a sample of different food. There are going to be winners for the food announced at the end of the day. And we've got DJ Professor Dubs playing music to keep us going for the entire day.
Sunday is our Brews and Bubbles and Street Eats. So, we've got four food trucks, local food trucks, and we've got local beer being poured as well as a Mimosa bar and a bunch of wine vendors pouring some of their best champagne as well.
The Bourbon Barbecue Night starts at 6:30, and the Grand Tasting starts at 2:00 PM for general mission but VIP is get in at 1:00. Then the Brews and Bubbles and Street Eats starts at 1:00.
Laural: The Bellamy Mansion hosts the event, and we're also one of the beneficiaries of the proceeds raised. The Festival was a great time for everyone to come along and enjoy good drinks and food. But in doing so, you are benefiting not only the Bellamy Mansion and our scores of community events that we have going on throughout the year, but you are also benefiting NourishNC, a local nonprofit. About one in four children in New Hanover County struggle with hunger, and NourishNC's mission is to provide healthy food to hungry kids, empowering them to succeed in the classroom and in the community. NourishNC has a backpack program that provides 1000 kids with nutritious food every weekend and over all school breaks. So, by coming out and enjoying the festival, you will be giving money back to our community and making sure kids have had food and nourishment.
Gina: And then, of course, the Bellamy Mansion. When you say the Bellamy Mansion has all kinds of stuff going on, tell me about some of those things.
Laural: The Bellamy Mansion, we are open for tours throughout the year, seven days a week. We do history tours. Besides our history tours, we also host jazz concerts, summer camps, food festivals, holiday celebrations. We also do weddings and private events for folks who are interested in renting the space out. So, we tend to stay very busy. We are a nonprofit organization, so we don't get any money from state or federal funding. So, festival was like this or just our numerous fundraisers that we hold throughout the year keep our open so we can keep our mission going.
Gina: How did the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival get started? What's the history?
Lauren: It is a nonprofit, 100 percent. The whole board, no one gets paid, but it all started at a little bottle shop actually at Wilmington Wine on Castle Street. And the owner, Chrissy Bonnie, who has been the president for the last five years, and a group of basically wine reps got together, and they have seen how Beaufort's Wine Festival was so successful, and obviously Charleston's. They decided, "Hey, we can do this too." So, we're on our sixth year now and it just keeps, we keep outgrowing it every single year.
Gina: And when you come to it, how much food and wine do you will you get?
Lauren: So, you get sample glasses for the samples of wine and cocktails and beer. You just hang on to that so you can basically refill it as much as you would like. Obviously, we don't recommend you trying and tasting all 150 wines. We will have spit buckets and obviously water available as well. And all the wine is actually for purchase. You can purchase it at a discount and you can pick the wine up at a Pallet Bottle Shop on Fourth Street in the Brooklyn Arts District.
Gina: And then the food, it's in little bites?
Lauren: Yup, it's little bite size - you'll get little recyclable boat containers. There's gonna be, I mean there's different stuff. Every restaurant is doing something different. I think Basics is doing a shrimp and grits, and a lot of people are doing sliders and that kind of stuff. So, it's just little couple bites of everything, and obviously it's unlimited. If you like it, you can go back and get more.
Gina: So, it's really kind of thing where you're going to get plenty to eat, like a whole meal.
Lauren: You'll be full, and you'll have a nice buzz going on. That's for sure. We recommend Ubering.
Gina: For people who don't use the spit buckets?
Lauren: For people who don't use the spit buckets. You'd be shocked, actually, we have to clean them out throughout the day, throughout the event.
Gina: That's probably not the fun job.
Lauren: It's not. No, it's not. But, we give those people extra wine when they're done with their shift.
Lauren: We pay in wine.
Laural: Not from the bucket though.
Lauren: Oh, that would be awful.
Gina: In term s of like in the last three years that you've been involved in this, both of you, what's the most fun part of this thing? What do you see? What is it like to be at the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival?
Lauren: So, Friday night is the big, it's kind of like a Derby themed party. So, you'll see the girls and their big dresses and big hats and head pieces. We actually have local musician David Dixon playing that night. So, he'll keep, keep you moving throughout the entire night, that's for sure. And then Saturday, DJ Professor Dubs kind of keeps the hype going throughout the entire day and spinning some good tunes - and that's a little bit more casual. It's kind of dressy casual. And then on Sunday, it's just a relaxed day, and we've got The Jared Show playing. So, it's two guys, and they're great and they're upbeat and they're really fun. So, a lot of high energy.
And I think one of the biggest things about going to the festival is the education you can get. We've got winemakers and wine suppliers coming from all over the world to pour wine. And it's really, you have a chance to be face to face with some of these people and get to pick their brain. And if you're a lover of wine or just want to learn about it, there's over 150 wines you can learn about.
Laural: And, in terms of just coming together as a community, you really get to meet lots of different people. And we're all coming together for a similar interest - our love of wine and food. And this year is something else to keep in mind, we have an amazing silent auction that will be benefiting the Bellamy Mansion and NourishNC. We collected, scores of great things - artwork, we have jewelry, we have, let me see here, candles, t-shirts, swag from local restaurants and breweries. I believe all in all we have about 22 silent auction packages that we're going to be auctioning off on the Friday event. So again, it's a lot of fun. We're coming together and enjoying food and drink. But at the core of it, we're still coming back and benefiting our community and benefiting some local nonprofits.
Gina: And can people buy tickets at the event? Or, do you have to buy ahead?
Lauren: No, you can buy tickets at the door. We don't recommend it. Local shop on Second Street, Mon Ame, I think actually has a few extra tickets if you don't want to pay the online fee. But, we do recommend getting them ahead of time because we've sold out in the past - like Friday night.
Laural: And we do have tickets available for sale at the Bellamy Mansion for the events.
Gina: Are there going to be desserts?
Lauren: Yes. On Saturday, there's a sweets category, that you can also judge on as well as the savory. Sweet and savory.
Gina: I understand that we're going to have some horrifying storm, and it's going to rain for the next 40 days …
Lauren: We are prepared. We've tented everything, but this is rain or shine. We don't stop.