When Constance McDerby conceived the idea for Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands 15 years ago, there was nothing like it in the Houston region. Now, it's the largest food and wine celebration from New Orleans to Aspen, bringing together hundreds of restaurants and wineries for a six-day festival showcasing some of the best of Houston's restaurants and some of the finest wines from around the world.
"I've had this vision since the beginning," McDerby tells CultureMap about the way the event has ballooned. "And there's even more to come."
That might be hard to believe, given the lineup of this year's event, which kicks off to the public June 4 at 7 pm with "It's A Guy Thing" at The Woodlands Country Club's The Palmer Course. Hosted by master sommelier and Houston icon Guy Stout, the evening is set to be a real man's man event. Attendees can get a shoe or boot shine, smoke cigars, win door prizes, even try their hand at the poker table. And of course, there's wine.
"It's a real gentleman's night," says McDerby. "We want them to kick back and relax with a big bowl of red wine."
Tickets for the evening are $30 per person.
For those curious about how wine making happens, from grape to glass, McDerby recommends not missing "Dirt-y Talk," Wednesday, June 5 at 5:30 pm.
"Rudy Marchesi, who was the Oregon Wine Person of the Year, is hosting," says McDerby. "And it's about how wineries can manipulate the soil so it's replenished, rather than the grapevines ruining it."
Marchesi is a leading in Biodynamic and organic farming methods, and leads Montinore Estates. The discussion will naturally feature wine tasting — expect to sample 2017 Pinot Gris Borealis, 2018 Almost Dry Riesling, 2017 Rose, 2017 Red Cap Pinot Noir and 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir. As a bonus, Tim Hanni author of “Why You Like the Wines You Like," will be offering participants a tasting profile, helping them better understand their palates. Tickets are $45 per person.
Those who are into a more informal interaction will love the H-E-B Wine Walk at Market Street on Thursday June 6 from 5:30-8:30 pm. The event allows for lots of sipping and strolling, with savory bites, wine and craft beer and live music by Mango Punch in Market Street’s Central Park. There's evening something for beer lovers in the Ben E. Keith Craft Beer Garden, which will feature offerings from 14 craft breweries.
Sips, Suds, Tacos
Sips, Suds and Tacos is the Friday, June 7 from 6-9 pm at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center The taco take-down features tacos of all shapes and sizes, topped with all the fixings. Bragging rights are on the line here, as one taco will be crowned the winner and take home the quirky taco trophy. Tickets are $30 per person.
Wine lovers who want a little more in-depth experience should check out the Truth Talk Seminar and tasting at 7 pm featuring the Wine Enthusiast Wine Maker of the Year, Michael David Winery. Guests will meet Visionary Founder Michael Phillips, Director of Wine Operations Adam Mettler, and Vice President of Operations Kevin Phillips, and have the chance to sample their wines and see for themselves why they topped Wine Enthusiast's list. Tickets are $45.
The week reaches its crescendo on Saturday, June 8 with the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase. Billed as the week's "ultimate food and wine tasting," it features hundreds of wines and more than 60 major culinary talents from the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America in an elegant ballroom. Guests are there to eat and drink great food and wine, but the chefs are vying for the title of GOYA Foods Chef of Chefs Awards, which comes with both a trophy and $5,000 cash prize. Chef of Chefs Hall of Fame lifetime achievement inductees and Houston icons Michael Cordúa, and Carmelo Mauro will return to see who takes the prize. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $125 per person.
"This is such a great event because it lets people who are curious about wine enjoy it in an environment that's not intimidating at all," says McDerby. "There's so much to try, and if you wind up not liking it, you can dump it and move on to something else."
For those who do know what they like, and want to experience something a bit more high-end, McDerby notes that the Platinum Wine Vault Collectors Tasting, also happening on Saturday, from 4:30-6:30 pm, is right up their alley. The $250 per person entry fee also includes admission to the Grand Tasting, and allows guests to sample some rare offerings from around the world, as well as the chance to talk to wine makers and winery representatives about these fine wines.
"We have 500 wines across the week, 100 restaurants and three seminars," says McDerby. "This is just so much fun. It's a great culinary platform for the visiting chefs, and a chance for guests to experience cuisine from around the world. We're so fortune here in Houston to have such diversity, and seeing our chefs alongside chefs from all these other places is so great."
Among the bold-face names to take part this year are two of Aruba’s top chefs, Erwin Husken, owner and executive chef of Screaming Eagle and chef and owner Urvin Croess of The Kitchen Table by White. John Mueller, the longest-tenured White House chef, is also in attendance. Alex Au-Yeung, chef and owner of Phat Eatery; Wade Elkins, pitmaster and partner at Reveille Barbecue Co.; Drake Leonards, Eexecutive chef at Eunice; Omar Pereney, chef, A La Carte; Tim Welch, chef de cuisine of Emmer & Rye; Brandon Silva, culinary director for Wooster's Garden; Vanquelis Pablopulos, The Petroleum Club's chef; Nicolas Vera, chef and owner of Tlahuac HTX; Olivier Ciesielski, the chef at Avondale Food & Wine; Ben McPherson, chef and owner of BOH Pasta and Pizza; Manuel Pucha, chef and owner of Maison Pucha; and Ernesto Villarreal, executive chef at Thistle Draft Shop are also on the participant list.
McDerby points out the whole affair is what she calls "a party with a purpose," as proceeds from the week go to five area charities, including The Montgomery County Food Bank, the John Cooper School Signature Author Series, and Touch Base: Center for the Deafblind, among others.
A full event listing and ticker purchase options is available online.