• Laurel Contributor

Highlands Food and Wine

by Luke Osteen

Highlands Food & Wine Festival, set for November 7-10, has won a passionate regional following, thanks to its intricate blending of food, drink (craft beers, exquisitely formulated cocktails, and internationally ranked wine labels), music, and, always, the unexpected.

Events are scheduled throughout each day and well into the evenings.

Each represents a way to sample the finest foods and beverages offered anywhere in the world.

For instance, consider French Champagne…All the Feels, from 5:30 to 6:30 P.M. Friday, November 8, at The Drouthy Heart, the private social haven tucked away downtown. Join Eric Cooperman (2019’s Southeast Champion of the Ruinart Challenge) and a panel of expert sommeliers, as they help decipher the region, soils and many splendorous wonders of French Champagne. During this fun and enlightening tasting class, you will learn about the intricate process called Methode Traditionnelle, discover top producers, and sample distinct wines from the region. You’ll learn tips on selecting the greatest bottles and tricks for finding the best values that won’t break the bank. There are only limited spaces available, so visit highlandsfoodandwine.com for reservations as quickly as you can.

That same night, from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., The High Dive will host The Heaven Hill Distillery Whiskey & Bacon Tasting. Heaven Hill is the largest independent, family-owned and -operated supplier of distilled spirits in the United States. This very exclusive evening will include samples from its premium whiskey portfolio. Enjoy the whiskey and food as the discussion turns from the various styles and history of American Whiskey to the ways Heaven Hill has embraced that heritage and crafted its own unique twist. For reservations, visit highlandsfoodandwine.com.

In fact, don’t let sold out events dampen your enthusiasm for this year’s Food & Wine Festival.

That’s because at the center of all the excitement are the Wine Dinners that have been embroidered into the fabric of the festival since its inception.

The 2019 festival continues that tradition with a full lineup of wine dinners.

On Friday, November 8, look for a fun evening at Lakeside Restaurant on the shore of picturesque Harris Lake in downtown Highlands.

Lakeside opens its Dining Room for an exclusive Wine Pairing, The Davis Family Vineyards Wine Dinner (with winemakers/owners Gary and Judy Davis. Dinner will be five courses accompanied by five superb wine selections. Indulge in lush sauces, bold textures, and silky-smooth sips of Davis Family delights. The fun begins at 6:30 P.M. For reservations, call (828) 526-9419 or visit lakesiderestaurant.info.

An Evening with Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley and Aviva Vino will be staged at the Sapphire restaurant on Friday, November 8, from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M. Guests will experience Canyon Kitchen & Lonesome Valley for a fireside wine dinner with the exceptional selections of Aviva Vino. Cost is $150 per person, which includes food, wine, tax, and a service charge (additional fees may apply). For reservations, call (828) 743-7967 or visit LonesomeValley/CanyonKitchen.com.

On Friday, November 8, plan to visit 4118 Kitchen + Bar at 6:30 P.M. for Chef Adam Bresnahan’s five-course tasting menu focusing on regional products prepared with both classic and modern technique. He’s pairing those dishes with six amazing beers from Sweetwater Brewing from Atlanta. Cost is $115 per person. For reservations, call (828) 526-5002.

Meritage Bistro’s deep connection to wine means that it’s a natural fit for the festival. On November 8, its popular “Wine vs. Beer Dinner” will return – a five-course interactive tasting with both wine and beer pairings assigned to each course. Also that weekend and offered with the regular menu, there’ll be a series of wine flights, featuring selections from the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. For reservations, call (828) 526-1019 or visit meritagehighlands.com.

Tug’s Proper, new this year to the Highlands culinary scene, presents its Compare and Contrast Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Friday, November 8.

This is an intimate, 20-seat, four-course, six-wine pairings compare and contrast tasting featuring Natali Schlottig and Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.

Cost is $90 per ticket, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, please call (828) 526-3335 or email tugsproper@gmail.com.

At 6:30 P.M. Saturday, November 9, it’s the Duckhorn Vineyards Wine Dinner at Lakeside Restaurant. This features five courses with five wine pairings guaranteed to satisfy every lucky taste bud. There’s a fine art to matching flavors, red or white, dark or light, spicy with mild, savory or wild. Lakeside enjoys a wide reputation for getting it right. Cost is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call (828) 526-9419 or visit lakesiderestaurant.info.

Chef Wolfgang Green and the vintners of Caymus Vineyards and Wagner Family Wines will serve an unforgettable Wine Dinner at Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro, 7:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9.

Chef Wolfgang will create five remarkable courses to complement Caymus Vineyards and Wagner Family Wines. The Wagner Family continue a true Napa Valley winemaking legacy tracing back over 150 years and eight generations.

The event starts at 6:30 P.M. with Champagne and appetizers, followed by dinner at 7:00 P.M. Cost is $160, excluding tax and gratuity. For reservations or more information, call (828) 526-3807.

On the Verandah pulls out all the stops for its Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9. Nationally-recognized chefs Andrew Figel and Jerri Fifer will conjure six Southern-style dishes with six impeccable selections from Champagne Laurent-Perrier. Cost is $155 (not including tax and gratuity). For reservations, call (828) 526-2338.

Chef Todd Richards’ exclusive dinner at Half Mile Farm, set for Saturday, November 9, promises to capture attention far beyond the confines of the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau.

Chef Todd is also the chef/owner of Richards’ Southern Fried and has previously helmed the kitchens of prestigious hotels and restaurants including The Shed at Glenwood, The Pig & The Pearl, Rolling Bones Barbecue, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, The Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, The Ritz-Carlton (Atlanta, Buckhead and West Palm Beach), Villa Christina and The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hotel, which garnered the prestigious AAA 5 Diamond Award for restaurant excellence under his tenure.

Tickets for the inclusive evening are $185 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call (828) 787-2635 or (828) 787-2916 to reserve your seats.

Tug’s Proper presents its Axel Schug Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9. Guests will be treated to a delightful dinner as Axel Schug will present five Schug Winery varietals, pairing them with each dinner course. Cost is $130 per ticket, plus tax and gratuity.

For reservations, please call (828) 526-3335 or email tugsproper@gmail.com

Festival plans are still being made, so you’ll want to visit highlandsfoodandwine.com to get the latest word. That’s also where you can read in-depth descriptions of everything that’s happening, and learn more about the chefs, musicians and restaurants that’ll be participating.

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