With a flurry of high-profile restaurant openings in the past several years, West Hartford has earned its reputation as a Connecticut dining destination. A new culinary event seeks to cement that standing.
The inaugural West Hartford Wine and Food Festival on June 17 will feature a showcase of fine wines and cuisine from area restaurants on the grounds of Kingswood Oxford School. The event is presented by Maximum Beverage, Hoffman Auto Group and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery.
The event intends to celebrate the town's reputation as a food and wine mecca, said Maximum Beverage owner Brian Whitney during a media presentation in May, in addition to raising funds for select town independent schools in support of need-based financial aid and scholarships. A portion of proceeds will benefit Kingswood Oxford, Intensive Education Academy, American School for the Deaf, Northwest Catholic, Solomon Schechter, Renbrook School, St. Brigid St. Augustine Partnership School, and The Watkinson School.
Whitney has wanted to organize a food and wine event in West Hartford for about a decade, he said, citing similar festivals in Greenwich and Westchester.
"We want to take advantage of the restaurant boom," he said of the town's growing dining scene. "There are even more on the way — and a lot of good ones."
Attractions and offerings include more than 30 wine tables, small-plate samplings from 30 area restaurants, a craft brewery tent featuring local beer, a CT Wine and Spirits Trail tent with local distilleries and wineries, raffles and auctions, live entertainment and music. JUSTIN master sommelier Joseph Spellman will host a Wine 101 presentation.
Wine participants have committed to pouring higher-end selections, Whitney said, with bottle retail prices ranging from $20 to $125. JUSTIN will sample its award-winning Isoceles red blend, for example. Other brand names include Caymus, Stonestreet, Rombauer, La Crema, Beaulieu, The Prisoner, Ferrari-Carano, Bonny Doon and Girard.
"Wine events don't [typically] pour these kind of wines; these guys are really stepping up for us," Whitney said. "We're excited about the quality of the wines and the quality of the food."
Participating restaurants, caterers and vendors include Millwright's, INDIA, Zohara, Grants, ON20, Park & Oak, The North House, Firebox, Blind Pig, Chango Rosa, Student Prince, Artisan, Carbone's Kitchen, Savoy, Shu, Rooster Company, Cavey's, @ the Barn, Table 570 Asian Fusion, The Rockin Chicken, Butchers & Bakers, 4 Eat & Drink, Noble & Co., Ideal Tavern, Cafe Louise, Seoul BBQ, Popover Bistro & Bakery, [oink], Sub Edge Farm and Killam & Bassette Farmstead.
David Borselle, chef-owner of Park & Oak, said he and his team are excited to be part of the event: "I think it's perfect because it showcases everything that West Hartford has to offer."
The Oakwood Avenue restaurant is known for its menu of classic American comfort fare, with highlights like pimento cheese and fried chicken, and Borselle said he hoped to create something local and seasonal to highlight at the festival.
The West Hartford Wine and Food Festival runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $149 in advance and $179 at the door, and include all wine and food. Designated driver tickets for $75 includes food and non-alcoholic beverages. A four-pack of tickets is $500, and a six-pack of tickets is $594.
A VIP Grand Cru tasting on Friday evening at 7 p.m. will be hosted at 69 Memorial Road in Blue Back Square, featuring higher-end wines and food by Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and NoRA Cupcake Company. Tickets are $299 and include general admission to Saturday's event, with access to hospitality comfort tents.
Information and tickets: westhartfordwineandfood.com.