A pop-up vineyard, new themes and location for the tasting tents, new class schedules: big changes are in store for The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this year.
The festival is in its sixth year and as co-founder Dominique Love said at a recent press event, “We want to stir things up in year six.” Here are three ways she and co-founder Elizabeth Feichter are mixing it up this year at the June 2-5 festival.
If you’re looking for me during the month of June, chances are I’m chilling and sipping a refreshing glass of wine in the Vineyard in the City, the first pop-up vineyard in the country.
Remember way back when Atlanta was going to get a new symphony hall on 14th Street behind the 1180 building? Well, that site is now slated for a mile-high skyscraper, but this summer this grassy plot will be transformed into a vineyard. A huge tent with a capacity for 80-100 guests will be the spot for private parties and events during the festival, while trucked-in 30-40’ trees will provide shade.
The vineyard will be for reserved for festival use through June 5, but will remain open for the rest of the month for private events and public programming, like lunchtime classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
These tasting tents are my favorite food experience ever. Year after year I somehow find myself up to the Herculean task of trying just about everything without busting a button open right there. (Tip: loose, flowy dresses are both a fashion statement and a ticket to comfort no matter how much I overindulge.)
Partly due to its huge success and partly due to continuing construction in the Midtown area, the AFWF ran out of space in its previous location for the Tasting Tents. The good news is the festival snagged a fantastic semi-private area in Piedmont Park close to the Monroe Drive parking lot. The new location has more space, a flat landscape, a fountain and grassy areas. It’s much more fun to plop down in the grass than pull up a patch of asphalt to take a minute to enjoy the tasty morsels.
In the past the tents have been organized into trails like the Fried Chicked Trail, the Barbecue Trail and the Bourbon Trail. This year a major theme is “Ingredients” and tents will be organized around that, with themes like Southern Staples, Pairings and Provisions (with a peanut butter and jelly bar!) and the Road Trip Tent. Also new this year are a Farmers Market and Live Fire Tailgate where chefs will prepare veggies, meats and fish over an open flame.
Rather than starting Friday afternoon, this year the Tasting Tents will be open Friday night and in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday.
The tents are about a mile from Loews Atlanta Hotel, where the classes are held. A shuttle and golf cart service from the 12th Street entrance will be available, although as Elizabeth said, “You’re eating and drinking all day. Just walk it off, people!”
Changes in classes
In years past classes, aka Learning Experiences, have taken place over three days. This year the tasting seminars and cooking, technique and grilling classes all take place on Friday and Saturday.
The festival is also experimenting with the concept of adding master classes, which will be longer and more in depth.
Dominique acknowledges that one challenge they face is the perception that the focus is only on Atlanta restaurants, when chefs come from an area spanning from Texas to Washington, DC.
“We want Atlanta to be the host, but also a gateway to the southern dining experience.”
And this is one experience you don’t want to miss.