Hilton Head Competition Showcases Best In Wine

The Hilton Head Food & Wine Festival highlighted the region's best cuisine and hosted an incomparable International Wine Competition that showcased gold and silver medal winners, culminating in a weekend-long festival.

"The wine competition is a true standout amongst the food and wine industry," notes Julie Ford Musselman, festival director.

Roughly six weeks before the festival begins, certified wine educators and advance sommeliers from across the country spend three days on Hilton Head Island judging 700 plus different wines. All of the wines are judged in various categories and at all price levels, making it unique by industry standards. 

"This private event is the backbone of the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival," Musselman explained. "It gives us credibility in the wine industry and elevates our festival above the others on the East Coast."  

This year's judging panel included master sommelier John Blazon of Orlando, Fla., and master sommelier Brett Davis of Louisville, Ky. Both happen to be among 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the master sommelier title from the court of master sommeliers.

"Almost every town has some sort of food-related festival nowadays," said Musselman. "But very few of them host an internationally recognized wine judging component that is 29 years old.  Our event is recognized and respected as one of the best judging competitions in the U.S."



Events were scattered throughout the island ranging from smaller wine tasting dinners at local hot spots like RedFish, to the large-scale Grand Tasting at the Sea Pines Country Club where festival organizers displayed the winners of the wine competition. Wines from J. Lohr Vineyards, Jackson Family Wines, and Bracey Vineyards, among others, were highlighted at the event.

The tasting also unveiled a plethora of local dishes like antipasti platters, crab cakes with roasted tomato and chili remoulade, as well as Bourbon BBQ scallops and bacon over cheddar grits with tabasco onions.

The public tasting had a much more casual vibe where friends and wine lovers alike were able to scour Honey Horn Plantation in search of top notch wine and delicious food. With maps in hand, guests had the choice of trying over 250 wines and several food trucks and stands that sold specialty items. The Whole Foods Market Mobile Kitchen, with quite a line, cranked out unique tacos with the big seller being the BBQ beet and cilantro goat cheese taco. The Redfish stand, with their creamy lobster mac n' cheese dish, was also a crowd favorite.

Regardless of how one decided to consume their wine and food, there was something for everyone at the Hilton Head Wine & Food Fest. It's continued success and inspiring cuisine is a testament to the growing food culture of the region.