Commercial Appeal: Vintage901 Wine & Food Festival brings Memphians together for community, culture and lots of wine
If you love wine, food and good company, you need to put Vintage901 Wine & Food Festival on your calendar. In its third year, Vintage901 is a 3-day wine, food and music experience that is not to be missed. This year it is the weekend of March 1-3.
Wines will be flowing, good food will be plentiful and, most importantly, Memphians will have a unique opportunity to come together as a community.
In addition to enjoying good wine and food, the organizers had a bigger reason for organizing this event.
“The mission and purpose of Vintage901 is to bring the Memphis community together. And there is no better way to do that than over food, wine and music,” explained event founder Stephanie Ferreira.
The Grand Tasting
The Grand Tasting is the main event of the weekend. This six-hour event will be held at Crosstown Concourse for the second year in a row. This year, organizers doubled the length of the event so attendees could have more time for tastings and visiting.
During the event, guests will wander Crosstown’s second floor and east atrium sampling wines from around the world. Ferreira said they expect about 600 attendees this year.
“We will have lots of good wines,” Ferreira explained. “Tables will be organized by region or country of origin. We even have a Tennessee table. And – the sparklers! That’s my favorite table.”
Since day one, Laurie Forster has been part of Vintage901. Known as “The Wine Coach,” Maryland-based Forster travels the country teaching at wine events. She actually met Ferreira at a wine event in Connecticut and the two hit it off. When Ferreira was initially envisioning Vintage901, Forster was one of her first calls.
“Stephanie calls me the Grand Sommelier for Vintage901,” said Forster. “Each year I work with our sponsor West Tennessee Crown to pick the wines that will be served at the weekend’s events.”
In addition to pairing wines, Forster also teaches seminars at the event. This year, her topics include “Rosé All Day” and “Weird Science: Food and Wine Reactions.”
“I love being able to bring my wine ‘edutainment’ to events like Vintage901,” Forster said. “And what I love about this event is there is such great diversity and such a great sense of community.”
Andrea LeTard, cookbook author and personal chef, will be teaching one of the four cooking demos at Vintage901. It is her second year to participate. (Photo11: Vintage901)
Having the event be more than just a wine tasting was an important goal for Ferreira and her board.
“We want our attendees to have interactive experiences,” said Ferreira. “No matter what stage of wine knowledge you are in, you will learn something at Vintage901.”
To enhance the culinary aspect of the event, Ferreira has planned four cooking demonstrations. Cookbook author and personal chef Andrea LeTard, chef Aaron Winters of Sur La Table, caterer and personal chef Sheronda Peeples and chef David Johnson of Sunrise Memphis will each be participating.
“I’ve always been a big cheerleader for Vintage901. I love wine, I love food, and they do a phenomenal job of bringing those two together,” said LeTard. “This year will be my second year to do a cooking demo at the Grand Tasting, showcasing how you can cook restaurant-style pasta at home and pair it with great wine.”
LeTard plans to make sure she has time to enjoy the event after her demo.
“They don’t call it Grand Tasting for nothing. ... I was blown away last year by how many different wines were featured - all available to taste! There were just so many and a lot of unique ones I was introduced to all thanks to that great event. No one is going thirsty at Vintage901, that’s for sure! It’s a festive event in a cool space that brings together all kinds of people in our city who have one thing in common - the love of wine.”
Food for the night will be provided by Crosstown Concourse restaurants such as Global Café, Farm Burger and Next Door American Eatery. Since wine and cheese go hand-in-hand, Kroger is planning an elaborate Murray’s cheese display.
Each year, local artist Melissa Bridgman of Bridgman Pottery has designed a special piece of pottery for Vintage901. This year, she plans on making ornaments and trinket trays.
“I'm excited to be partnering with an organization that is building community in Memphis through food, wine, music and art, and that I love how Vintage901 combines the best of Memphis culture and is presented in a way that everyone in the city can enjoy it. It is not a rarefied event, but something that is accessible to everyone,” said Bridgman of her participation.
Vintage901 kicks off on a Friday with its annual Perfect Pairings wine dinner. This year’s event, which sold out quickly, will be at The Gray Canary and will feature chef Ryan Prewitt from the award-winning restaurant Peche in New Orleans.
“Whereas Ryan now lives in New Orleans, we consider him a local since he is from Memphis and his family still lives here,” Ferreira explained of their choice of the featured guest chef.
Ferreira added that tickets to this dinner for 100 guests go quickly each year.
“We really want to keep this dinner small and intimate,” she said.
Wine and cheese are a perfect pairing! For Vintage901 again this year, Kroger is planning an elaborate Murray's cheese spread. (Photo11: Vintage901)
A Sparkling Brunch on Sunday morning brings the weekend to a close. Tickets are available for this finale event, but only through Feb. 28.
The brunch will be held at the FedEx Event Center at Shelby Farms. Chef Jimmy Gentry of P.O. Press Public House & Provisions,Paradox Catering & Culinary and Paradox Underground will be preparing the food, and Forster has selected a large number of sparkling wines for the day.
Ferreira and her husband Chuck loved to travel and often found themselves making wineries and wine events their destinations.
“Chuck opened my eyes to what is possible for everyone,” explained Ferreira.
When asked what inspired her to found Vintage 901, Ferreira is quick to answer, “Chuck.”
Vintage901 founder Stephanie Ferreira (second from the left) with Regina Myers, Nicole Treadwell and Melodie Myers at last year's festival. (Photo11: Vintage901)
Before his death 2013, the couple had discussed the idea of creating a community-building wine event in Memphis. A year after he passed, Ferreira found the mission statement they had created and said to herself “let’s make this happen.”
Her travels with her late husband had shown her how food and wine could bring people together, and she wanted to create that same experience in Memphis.
“This is my tribe. I love the people I met while attending wine events around the country,” she explained. “We would often run into people we had met on previous trips. Everyone was so open, and diverse.”
She intentionally planned the event for three days to give attendees the chance to really get to know each other. Stephanie is obviously proud and excited by the fact that by Sunday “everyone is friends.”
The event now draws not only Memphians, but wine lovers from across the region and United States.
It’s not the wine or the food that Ferreira's favorite part of the weekend – it’s the people.
“I want to get to know each attendee and I want them to know us. We want each of them to have a connection with each other, our team and Memphis.”
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining Reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.
If you go
When: March 1-3
Perfect Pairings Dinner: March 1 at The Gray Canary. Sold Out.
Grand Tasting: March 2 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Crosstown Concourse. Tickets are $75 in advance/$85 at the door.
Sparkling Brunch: March 3 from 12 – 2p.m. at Shelby Farms FedEx Event Center. Tickets are $95.
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