Our Story: Celebrating 35 Years and Counting!
Each March, Hilton Head’s wine and food enthusiasts greet the island’s popular spring season with a week long celebration to embrace the fruits of global wine partnerships, signature Lowcountry cuisine, grassroots cultural happenings and the authentic fabric of a unique artists’ community.
What unfolds is an inspiring series of events that allures guests from all corners of the country to participate annually—and fervently.
In March of 2019, we celebrated the 34th anniversary of this annual Hilton Head rite of passage at beautiful The Sea Pines Resort. Guests experienced a new schedule of events including spectacular local chef showcases, intriguing wine education sessions, live entertainment and of course the famed Grand and Public Tastings.
Celebrating our 35th anniversary this year, the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival launched three decades ago as part of an island wide promotion to bring visitors and stimulate the island’s tourism industry in the early spring shoulder season. Hilton Head Island was mostly known then as a summer beach and golf destination. A group of devoted wine enthusiasts along with some great island culinary talents started the tradition of the annual Wine & Food Festival serving as the herald of spring. It was a coming out party of sorts, for residents and visitors alike who wanted to shake off winter. And with the help of many hands, the festival grew. From its origin as a one-day three-hour tasting (in a parking lot), the festival has now blossomed into a full week of events surrounding the iconic Harbour Town Yacht Basin at The Sea Pines Resort. On this year’s festival itinerary, you’ll find exceptional wine dinners, educational seminars, the Sip and Stroll, Stay Gold, plus the traditional Grand Tasting and well-loved Public Tasting. All culminating with a seaside brunch on Sunday. Our signature event, the Public Tasting, is one of the largest outdoor tented public wine tasting on the East Coast!
Another unique feature of the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival is the festival’s cornerstone: the International Wine Competition. In early February, Certified Wine Educators and Advanced Sommeliers spend 3 days judging over 500 different wines. Gold and silver medals are awarded and those wines are featured throughout the festival events along with other vintner’s choices. Wines are judged in various categories and at all price levels. You will find the double gold winners from here featured at the Stay Gold event which became an instant classic last year.
The Festival is an event produced by the non-profit corporation Hilton Head Wine & Food, Inc. The proceeds from the festival’s wine auction at the Grand and Public Tastings support the John & Valerie Curry Educational Scholarship Fund for college students pursuing degrees in the hospitality & tourism field. Scholarships are currently offered at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry. In the last seven years, we have provided $75,000 in scholarships to deserving students!