T he Ninth Annual CoCo Wine & Culinary Festival set for Saturday will be bigger and better than ever.
The wine and food tasting event run by CSRA Wine, Inc. moves to the Augusta Conference Center downtown, after outgrowing its previous home at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
“We decided to move because so many people came out last year, we outgrew our capacity,” said Pat Goodwin, who founded the non-profit festival and continues to run it.
“Last year we ran out glasses, ran out of food, ran out of wine. This year we’re planning on even more people. We will be ready to handle them.”
Since its beginning in 2006 the festival has always been a lively affair and has grown to the largest wine event in the Augusta area. This year attendees will be able to sample 150 wines, taste food prepared by local chefs, listen to local jazz performers and see paintings from the Columbia County Artists Guild.
“It will be jazzy and classy at the same time,” said Goodwin. “People should just come out and enjoy themselves, learn about wine, ask those questions they’ve been afraid to ask. Talk to the folks pouring wine, they’ll help educate you.”
The festival is a good way to learn about many different wines without having to buy so many bottles. Wines in all price ranges will be offered for sampling, including many of the wines that won medals from an independent panel of judges.
Representative from several local wine shops also will be on hand to pour wines and talk about the business. If samples from the local chefs aren’t enough food for you, some local food trucks will be on hand to sell additional dishes.
Tickets cost $40 in advance and $45 at the event. Admission includes the wine samples, food and a glass you can keep. Advance tickets may be purchased at Washington Road Storage, Bowles Construction Company on Damascus Road, the Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Rd. in Evans, or online at csrawinefestival.com.
Active duty military tickets cost $35 and designated drivers tickets are $25. The festival is open 1-4 p.m.. People who have bought special early bird tickets will be admitted at 12:30, but the deadline for buying those tickets has passed.
Money raised from ticket sales will support a Culinary Endowment Fund for scholarships for the Culinary Arts Program at Augusta Technical Institute. Many students in the program will be on hand to help the local chefs.
“It’s great to be able to assist these young people interested in culinary arts,” said Goodwin. “Someday some of them will be famous chefs in New York, and we can say we helped them get through school in difficult times.”
Each year the festival has supported a local charity, but several years ago Goodwin thought it would be more appropriate to support the culinary program since festival is all about food and wine.
Even though the festival continues to grow in popularity, Goodwin has some ideas for how to make it better. This year volunteers will be checking IDs starting at 12:30, so people won’t have to wait in line to get in at 1.
“I’d also like to see more distributors from all across the state join the event,” she said. “I wish the event was so well known they’d be chomping at the bit to get here. And I’d love to have Paula Dean or another celebrity chef join the show. I really enjoy at the end of the event knowing that we’ve reached our goal to help the culinary program.”
Three weeks ago 16 judges tasted more than 100 wines supplied by wine distributors to come up with the best wines in several categories. The best of show gold was won by John Anthony Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Best of show silver went to SeaGlass Pinot Noir 2013.
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut won honorable mention gold while Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon was honorable mention silver.
Other medal winners, with gold medal listed first and silver medal second:
Cabernet Sauvignon: Chateau Smith 2012, Firestone 2012.
Chardonnay: Merryvale 2012, Hayes Valley 2013.
Merlot: BV 2011, The Velvet Devil 2012.
Pinot Noir: Ghost Pines, Lincourt Lindsay’s Pinot Noir 2012.
Pinot Gris: Elk Cove 2012, Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2013.
Red Blend: Noble Vines 1 Red Blend 2012, Gnarly Head Authentic Red 2012.
Riesling: Pacific Rim 2012, Belle Ambience 2012.
Sangria: Rex-Goliath, Sol Rio.
Sauvignon Blanc: NewHarbor 2013, Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc 2013.
Sparkling: Yellow Tail Moscato Bubbles, Barefoot Bubbly Prosecco.
Syrah: Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah 2012, Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Shiraz 2011.
White Blend: Gnarlly Head Authentic White 2012, Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2013.
Zinfandel: Brazin Old Vine 2012, XYZin Old Vine 2013.
(If no year is listed, it is a non-vintage wine.)

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