Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
This past weekend, my fiancé and I traveled to Washington, Mo. to visit a restaurant that I was reviewing for Missouri Life magazine. While planning the trip, I discovered that the 32nd annual Art Fair & Winefest would be taking place during our stay. The event promised three days of art, wine, gourmet food and live music, so it was a no-brainer for me to purchase tickets.
Day One: Artists and Winemakers Takeover Downtown Washington, Mo.
The festival began Friday evening. A few downtown streets were closed off to accommodate the vendors and attendees. We lucked out with getting a room at the Old Dutch Hotel & Tavern which was only about a block from all of the activities. We started the night by checking out the various artist booths. There was everything from watercolor paintings, photography, and pottery to handmade jewelry and clothing. Twenty-three artists were featured at the fair. They came from all over Missouri and even Illinois and Arkansas to participate. In addition, many of the downtown storefronts remained open to capitalize on the festival crowds and contribute to the lively scene.
Our next stop was the wine tasting tent which was set up at the Washington Farmers' Market pavilion. Upon entry, we were given 20 tasting tickets, each ticket was good for one ounce of wine, and a commemorative wine glass. Fourteen Missouri wineries were represented and each booth had four to five different varietals to try. There was also complimentary cheese and crackers to nibble on between sips. The festival organizers created a handy wine list with the name of each wine, a description and the price per bottle. This made it easy for us to keep track of all of the wines that we sampled. We spent more than an hour in the pavilion going from booth to booth. By the end, we had our favorites picked out. I really enjoyed the semi-sweet Devil's Den Red from Blumenhof Vineyards, the Vidal Blanc, a semi-sweet white, from Holy Grail Winery and Seyval, a dry white, from Robller Vineyard Winery. My fiancé was partial to the semi-dry Hunter's Red from Adam Puchta Winery and Hermannsberger, a dry red, from Stone Hill Winery.
Not surprisingly, the marathon wine tasting worked up our appetites. We headed down to the food court and our noses led us to a mobile eatery called Olivia's that was serving grilled pork kabobs, spring rolls, fried rice and noodles. Everything was prepared fresh and tasted amazing. I'm not sure how I resisted the urge for a second helping. During dinner, we were entertained by a rock band from Union, Mo. called "Crazy Aunt Linda". Following our meal, we each got a glass of our favorite wine from the tasting to use up our remaining tickets. After taking some silly pictures at the photo booth that was set up outside the wine pavilion, we decided to walk back to our hotel and call it a night.
Day Two: A Delicious Crash Course in Missouri Wine and Food Pairing
The next day, we ventured back to the festival for a wine and food pairing class called 'MO Wine/MO Food 101." The session featured a four course meal from Joe's Bakery & Delicatessen. The flavor and texture of each course was complemented with a wine from Robller Vineyard & Winery.
The first pairing was bacon wrapped shrimp with a horseradish mousse and an off-dry, white wine with hints of floral and spice called Traminette. The second course was a strawberry spinach salad with a sweet vinaigrette dressing. A blueberry muffin was added to the plate for a variety in texture. This dish was matched with a semi-sweet, blush wine called Rosé. Robller describes their Rosé as "the perfect summer wine" which is why it works so well with warm weather fruits like strawberries and blueberries. The main entree of pork loin stuffed with andoille sausage and topped with brandy Dijon sauce was served with Le Trompier Noir. This semi- dry red is Robller's version of a pinot noir. Our meal ended with a peaches and cream parfait that was matched with a sweet, white wine called Jeu D'eau. This dessert wine is like Moscato, but isn't quite as sweet.
The wine and food pairing session was extraordinary. I really enjoyed the bacon wrapped shrimp appetizer and the Traminette that went with it. Everyone was raving about the peaches and cream parfait and its spot on pairing with the Jeu D'Eau. Beyond the food and wine, the event coordinators took the time to elegantly decorate each table with pretty flowers, placed appropriately in blue wine bottles, and white linens. A couple of talented, local high school students set the upscale mood with violin music. Five other people sat at our table, including KFAV radio announcer Chris Dieckhaus who was doing a live broadcast from the event, and everyone was a lot of fun to hang out with for the 90 minute session. Throughout the weekend, there were three more wine and food pairing courses with each featuring a different restaurant and winery.
The 32nd annual Art Fair and Winefest in Washington, Mo. was an excellent way to spend a weekend. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. The experience was bolstered by the picturesque setting on the banks of the Missouri River in the center of historic downtown Washington. My only regret is not staying in town for the third day of the festival. If I'm lucky enough to return to Washington again next May, I won't make that mistake again.
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Hello! I am Porcshe Moran Murphy. For nearly two I've created print and and digital content for brands and organizations, cover food & wine, travel, home design, weddings, healthcare tech, business and more.