Welcome to the the Columbus Food & Wine Affair.
It’s been 10 years since Greg Maurer of Heidelberg Distributing Co., and David Miller of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants developed the signature event for the Central Ohio Restaurant Association, offering a wine competition and the grand tasting.
It was the tasting that brought about 500 of us together at the Conservatory under cloudy skies that occasional sprinkled on us, but there were too many delectable options to worry about weather, and there was much more for the pallet than wine.
Cheryl and I met at the reception table to gleefully pickup our glasses and tickets, and immediately sought out some sampling from among the more than 400 wineries and seemingly countless area restaurants. It was almost impossible to choose, so embarrassing were the riches before us. We bopped from table to table–whites wines for her, reds for me–sampling such winning labels as Nickel & Nickel, Ruffino, Rodney Strong, Beringer, Trefethen and Trinchero Estates.
And when we were not sipping, we were sampling–OK, we did both at the same time–from everyone including Giant Eagle Market District, Sushi Rock, Milestone 229, Bon Vie, 89 Fish and Grill and Marcella’s.The layout made it easy to navigate all of the options and feel like your evening might never end, as we moved through a trio of circular setups in the outside garden–the upper terrace, lower terrace and grand mallway–ending in the pergola ring of dessert. There we savored a champagne float from Ciao Bella Gelato and the confections of the Columbus Culinary Institute, and we both admired the chocolate fountain from The Melting Pot (thought we questioned the recommendation to dip potato chips in the flow).
We thought the experience a rousing success just through that circuit, but soon realized the Grand Tasting was grander still, taking over the Palm Court, (where we found the much appreciated Duckhorn Vineyards), the Grove Garden, Show House, Zen Garden and Grand Atrium (the salmon and seaweed cups from Sushi Rock were a highlight of the evening).
Even when we took a seat outside to soak up the ambiance and await the evening-ending fireworks, kind gentleman bearing bottles of wine sought us out to offer even more tastings.
At a starting price of $130 ($195 for Discover Hospitality and Grand Tasting), the Columbus Food & Wine Affair may prove pricy for some, but there is was a reason for that lengthy line to get in. Not since I left Napa Valley have I experienced so much quantity of wine and food quality in one location, in a well-organized, welcoming event with a charitable outcome that left Cheryl and I, and I expect many others, pretty darn disappointed when the 10 p.m. closing time seemed to come far too soon.
I’ve already saved Sept. 27, 2013–the date for next year’s event–on my calendar, and suggest you do the same.