Highlands Food And Wine Festival
by Luke Osteen
As organizers draw up their plans for the 2019 Highlands Food & Wine Festival, they’re mindful of the second portion of its title.
Since its inception, a concentration on the mystery and miracle of wines has elevated the festival to its rank as the premier small town culinary event in the Southeast.
This year, organizers are looking to cement that ranking with the announcement that they’ve booked the appearance of Master Sommelier Max Kast. He’ll serve as Master Sommelier on a panel of Advanced Sommeliers for a new “Somm’s on Site” component. They’ll stage a Master Class on one of the days of the festival, host a curated wine/dinner pairing, and answer questions and share opinions with festival-goers.
To those in the know, Kast’s inclusion in the festival is national news. He’s one of 164 Americans who have ever attained the rank of Master Somellier. In fact, since the title was created in 1969, fewer than 300 people around the world have won the honor.
Kast grew up in a first-generation German family in the Detroit area. The most important time of each day was dinner, where his family would slow down, talk about their days, and enjoy a wide array of different foods. Both parents were wine enthusiasts and since the family came from Franconia, Silvaner was the house wine.
Kast started to seriously get into wine after working in restaurants through college. After finishing a degree in history at the University of Montana, he started as Wine Director at Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais & Chateaux property in the Bitteroot Valley of Montana. Here Kast was able to work with long time Chicago Sommelier Scott Harney as well as Colan Vance, formerly of the French Laundry and the Inn at Little Washington. The wine list at Triple Creek boasted a selection of Classified Bordeaux going to the late 1970s, late 1990s DRC, and a who is who of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Oregon, and Washington State producers. At 25, Kast had found the perfect location to hone his service skills, learn about wine and develop a love of hospitality and service.
In 2009, he passed the Advanced Exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and then in 2018 he passed the Master Sommelier Exam itself. Kast currently works for Broadbent Selections, where he passionately promotes their diverse portfolio of family-owned wineries.
His arrival at The Highlands Food & Wine Festival was predicated upon the hard work of Nick Demos, Advanced Sommelier and Wine Specialist at Tryon Distributing. Demos, whose deep pool of knowledge is treasured by local restaurateurs, will also be participating in the festival.
For information about the continuously expanding line up of award-winning chefs, jamming live music, fine wines, creative cocktails, and craft brews, visit highlandsfoodandwine.com. This is also the place to buy advance tickets (a very good idea).