Nestled in the heart of Midtown along 14th street and directly across from the Four Seasons, nearly four acres of green space were recently transformed into the nation’s first ever pop-up vineyard. Called Vineyard in the City, it was a new addition to the annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and featured actual rows of wine grapes, along with outdoor tastings among the vines.
Gathering inspiration from a similar pop-up installment from McGuigan Wine in Dublin, Ireland, organizers of the Food & Wine Festival teamed up with Bellwether Landscape Architects, a Buckhead-based company, to “capture the peaceful, earthy essence of a countryside vineyard, while infusing a few healthy sprigs of sophistication from Midtown,” Todd Yeager, Managing Principal of the architect team said.
The vineyard, which is also home to a wildflower meadow, two bars, a cafe area and two bocce ball courts, consists of 60 20-year-old Sun Grown grapevines from Jaemor Farms in Alto, GA and will continue being a destination spot for various community events until the end of June.
This past Saturday evening at the vineyard, guests were treated to a complimentary tasting event sponsored by Lexus, the official vehicle of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. The roster of the chefs who provided food on-site for the event was made up of some of the most talented in the South, including Ryan Prewitt of Peche in New Orleans, Louisiana, Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mama’s in Hilton Head, South Carolina, James Petrakis of the Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons Provisions in Winter Park, Florida, and Todd Richards of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails and Richards’ Southern Fried right here in Atlanta. Representing for dessert was Ben Rasmussen of Potomac Chocolates from Woodbridge, Virginia and Andrea Kirshtein of The Luminary in Atlanta.
There is hardly an outdoor space that could be considered more interesting and unusual than a four-acre vineyard tucked in between city skyscrapers. Even with that sticky Southern heat permeating the air, the backdrop was hard to not appreciate and several people did, by taking photographs and selfies next to the grapevines, wine glasses in hand. Guests were treated to tasting portions of the chef’s creations, which ranged from dishes like Duroc Carolina Gold Smoked Pork, to Kimchi-mole BBQ Octopus, to Rabbit & Quail Terrine (all delicious).
In between sips of sparkling rose served by Julie Dalton from Wit & Wisdom, a tavern by Michael Mine in Baltimore, Maryland, and Austrian wine from Juan Fernando Cortes of Restaurant Eugene based here in Atlanta, guests played bocce, listened to live music and mingled. A special barrel-aged negroni and barrel-aged Vieux Carre (a whiskey, Cognac and Vermouth cocktail) were served by Gary Crunkleton of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The overall consensus between event-goers that night seemed to be that they hoped the vineyard would become an annual installment. Perhaps it was the complimentary food, wine and cocktails, or perhaps it was the allure of an urban vineyard that draws people into closer awareness with the wine they drink.
It will be interesting to see if the Food & Wine Festival does indeed bring the vineyard back, and if festival organizers will address how an urban vineyard can provide an entertaining and/or educational space for the community. All things considered, it seems the country’s first pop-up vineyard was a rousing success.