Behind The Scenes With Vintage901 Festival Founder Stephanie Ferreira
by Holly Whitfield
Live link: Behind The Scenes With Vintage901 Festival Founder Stephanie Ferreira
Vintage901 is a Memphis non-profit that brings Memphians together through the best wine and food in the world. They host events throughout the year in addition to their flagship festival, the three-day Vintage901 Weekend that’s coming up on March 1-3, 2019.
Note that this Friday, January 18 is the last day for Early Bird discounted tickets for the Grand Tasting (Saturday’s big event) and the Sparkling Brunch (Sunday) so hurry to get your tickets before they sell out.
Photo provided by Vintage901
VINTAGE901 WEEKEND 2019
Sadly I was unable to attend Vintage901 Weekend in its first two years, but I look forward to finally experiencing it for myself in 2019. I did want to get a better feel for the event before blasting it out to y’all, so I sat down with the event’s founder Stephanie Ferreira to talk about the organization, its origins, and what we can expect from the third annual Vintage901 Weekend.
Before we get into that, let me do a rundown on the event. I know y’all need details.
Vintage901 Weekend is:
“Perfect Pairings” seated wine dinner on Friday night March 1 at the gorgeous Gray Canary restaurant downtown. This year’s Friday night dinner (featuring Chef Ryan Prewitt of famed New Orleans restaurant Pêche) is sold out already.
“Grand Tasting” festival on Saturday, March 2, featuring 75 wines, food, vendors, music at the spacious Crosstown Concourse from 3 p.m.. – 9 p.m. $80+.
Vintage901 concludes on Sunday with the “Sparkling Brunch” at Shelby Farms’ Event Center – which has one of the best views in town – a seated brunch with sparkling wine pairings from noon to 2 p.m. $90+.
Again, there are tickets available for Saturday’s Grand Tasting and Sunday’s brunch still (very limited) and Early Bird pricing has been extended until midnight on Friday, Jan. 18. That ticket link again is here. More details on Grand Tasting are at the bottom of this post.
OK, here’s more about my chat with Stephanie.
Stephanie at The Gray Canary, which will host Friday night’s wine dinner with visiting NOLA chef Ryan Prewitt.
WHY NOT MEMPHIS?
Stephanie Ferreira was born and raised in Memphis, and while she’s lived in other places, she can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. I didn’t ask her about her thoughts on the city, she just offered up her Memphis love right away.
She says that Memphis “doesn’t get the credit that it should”, remarking as many do that we have the same issues as any other city, but that the good outweighs the bad. “People need to experience Memphis. That was a lot of reason for doing the event.”
For years, Stephanie and her husband Chuck traveled the country attending food and wine events. They began to notice the same people again and again at different events and places. They also began to feel like part of that community, with people who traveled to experience not only the events themselves, but the offerings and hospitality of each locale. According to her, foodies who follow festivals are willing to travel. So Stephanie wondered – why not Memphis?
Photo provided by Vintage901
Her husband passed away a few years ago, and while Stephanie is adamant that the story of Vintage901 is not one and the same with her personal story (“it has its own voice now”) it seems that the desire to honor her and her husband’s experiences served as the catalyst for Vintage901.
With Stephanie’s background in social work and connections to the community, choosing to partner with the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis also make sense. The proceeds from Vintage901 support this organization.
“Initially, it was personal, something built around what my husband and I had enjoyed doing. But at this point, it’s much larger than that,” she says. “The food, the wine – for me, that’s secondary – it’s the actual feeling that happens when you’re there, the feeling between the people. People walk into the room one way, and they leave feeling differently.”
What she’d experienced in her travels was an un-polarized atmosphere, void of the feeling that you don’t belong or that no one (or everyone) in the room looks exactly like you. Again she wondered, “How can we get this feeling in Memphis?”
Stephanie is honest: she didn’t know exactly how to do that. She worked with a team to put together an outstanding food and wine event, one infused with good music at the perfect Memphis venues. That approach worked. The inaugural event in 2017 drew near sellout crowds, and 2018’s Vintage901 Weekend’s seated events sold out. 2019 is on track to do the same.
After sitting with her for half an hour, I’m personally convinced that the open-hearted, earnest energy she puts out into the universe also played a role in how Stephanie’s dream for a Memphis food-and-wine event unfolded so successfully. “I didn’t know who would buy tickets, and no one knew who I was,” she laughs. “My friends at the event asked me ‘where did all these people come from?!’ ”
She says the most common feedback is that the event is different than most people’s expectations. It’s a diverse group in terms of age, background, and ethnicity, and it’s not an ultra-exclusive atmosphere. By the end of the weekend, you’ll probably make a few new friends.
“Vintage901 has been unique, and over and above anything else I know of. It’s bridging the gaps between people. It’s organic, it’s not consciously cultivated to be like that, and that makes it a true community,” she says.
THE GRAND TASTING + SPARKLING BRUNCH
Here are a few other points I wanted to share with you about Vintage901’s Grand Tasting at the Concourse on March 2.
Tickets are $81.20 for Saturday’s event, the Grand Tasting, and $91.81 for the Sparkling Brunch. After this Friday 1/18, prices go up.
The Grand Tasting offers access to 75 wines, organized by a dozen or so regions, i.e., South Africa, Germany, Oregon, etc. So you can explore your tastes by region and not get overwhelmed with choices.
You don’t need to be a wine snob to attend any Vintage901 event. You don’t have to know any of the details about wine to know what you like, and it’s a relaxed atmosphere.
The Grand Tasting at Crosstown Concourse will also feature food from Concourse restaurants, craft vendors, and live music.
Crosstown Concourse, where the Grand Tasting will be held.
March 1-3, 2019
$81.20 – $91.81