Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival 2011

Wine and food abound at the Stars Across Texas grand tasting at the Long Center. Photo by Celeste Casas.

The Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival announced the program for the upcoming 26th edition of the event, taking place March 31 through April 3, 2011. I have had the honor to serve the festival, first as a volunteer and later as a board member, since 2003, and I am especially excited about this year’s program which features the return of some long-time favorites, new and fun events, educational seminars, and a revamped Sunday Fair.

A view of the VIP Lounge area at last year's Stars Across Texas. Photo by Celeste Casas.

The festival kicks off on Thursday, March 31th with three winery luncheons at Stonehouse Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, and Becker Vineyards, followed by Stars Across Texas Classic. This popular event has long been held on the Friday of the festival but we think it is a great way to kick off the weekend long festivities. The Long Center has been an unparalleled venue which allows an elegant setting, plenty of parking, and ample room to move around freely and sample an incredible variety of fine cuisine, wines and spirits from all over the state.  New this year, the Stars of the Bar: Maker’s Mark Craft Cocktail Competition will feature Central Texas’ top mixologists who will craft original cocktails to compete for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival’s official cocktail of 2011.

Learning wine and cheese pairing at one of last year's educational seminars. Photo by Celeste Casas.

Friday is filled with educational seminars, from winemaker luncheons at The Driskill and Aquarelle Restaurant to a sushi and sake panel tasting at Uchiko, a Cigar Smoker & Whiskey Slam at Cedar Street Courtyard, and a local charcuterie & wine tasting  at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center. To cap the evening, the festival returns to the beautiful Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch for an outdoor tribute to beef with Live Fire! Beef Supremacy Over Flames, where chefs with plenty of star power spanning from Portland Oregon to the Australian Outback will join local faves in showing their prowess on the open flame. This will be one not to be missed!

Drinking Champagne with Karen McNeil at last year's Toast To Stars Champagne Tasting. Photo by Celeste Casas.

Saturday is all about the wine seminars, as usual, with the return of Big Dog Reds, plus a beer and cheese pairing, a Champions of Walla Walla showcase, and a Spotlight on Texas Wines & Winemakers, and many more. The crowning jewel of the evening is the VIP wine dinner with actor Kyle MacLachlan and his Pursued by Bear wines paired with amazing cuisine from L.A.’s Animal Restaurant. Likely to sell out quick, this event promises to be one to remember.

For our Sunday event we won't have to drive out of town! Photo by Celeste Casas.

The festival ends on Sunday, April 3rd with Sunday Uncorked, our newly revamped event which replaces the Sunday Fair. There are  many reasons to be excited about this change. For one, it will be held at the Mexican American Cultural Center, a fantastic and underutilized venue in the heart of Downtown, on the banks of Lady Bird Lake. This will allow festival goers a number of transportation options, from bike to bus to taxi, for those who don’t want to drive their car. For one, I am happy not to have to drive 30 minutes each way! There will be more tasting tents, a bigger venue for cooking demos presented by Whole Foods Market, a craft brewers tent, and representation from East Austin eateries, plus the usual live music, wine, spirits, and local product samples. What’s not to love? But don’t sleep on it because tickets went on sale on Monday and I have a feeling many events will sell out fast.  See program details and buy your tickets here!

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