It’s called the Mystery Wine Tavern and it offers guests the opportunity to discover a new wine for a good cause. This is just one of the fun experiences guests can enjoy at this year’s Savannah International Food and Wine Tasting hosted by the women of St. Barbara’s Philoptochos Society at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.
Philoptochos is the largest organization of Greek Orthodox women supporting charities and their annual event is aimed at raising much needed funds for local charities. It features more than 50 wines from around the world paired with small plates from some of Savannah’s best restaurants.
The local ladies' group will host their 16th annual Savannah International Food and Wine Tasting from 3-6 p.m. Feb. 23 at the church's Hellenic Center.
The wines are selected by local wine connoisseur and distributor Diane Rousakis, and this year’s list of restaurants include Crystal Beer Parlor, Sweet Potatoes, Yia Yia’s Kitchen, Olympia Café, Vic’s on the River, Papa’s Bar-B-Q and Seafood, The Chromatic Dragon, Taste of India, Catered Creations by LaVon and Gnam Gnam Gelato of Savannah.
And while the food and wine will take center stage at the event, festival co-chair Lynn Blenkhorn Koukoulas says the heart of the event is their goal to give back to the community — a key mission of St. Barbara’s Philoptochos Society.
She says they try to pick different local charities with each event. This year, charities selected include Employability, Senior Citizens Inc.’s Meals on Wheels. and Old Savannah City Mission.
“The one thing we do is reach out to the community and get suggestions,” she explains. “One of our criteria is to also look for those groups that maybe are not really in the forefront and that maybe need a little more help, and we like to reach out to new ones.”
And with fundraising marked as the No. 1 goal, the ladies decided to expand their unique Mystery Wine Tavern at the event. Koukoulas explains they started the tavern last year and it sold out in an hour, so it will be expanded this year.
“We get donations of wine that cost $10 and up. We wrap the bottles, so it’s a surprise when you open it to see what you picked.”
Tickets to select a wrapped bottle are $10 each or four for $35. For $10 you could end up with a really nice bottle of wine.
“It's a nice part of the fundraiser and it brought in more money for our charities, so this year we doubled it to 200. It goes towards those in need and local charities, which is what we are all about.”
Another portion of the event includes a silent auction with unique items donated by community businesses including gift baskets and gift certificates from Byrd Cookie Co., The Peanut Shop, Savannah Sweets, The Memorial Hospital Gift Shop, Art Bash Studio, Crystal Tavern, The Salt Table, Revolution Yoga, Howlin Hound, Tybee Vacation Rentals, Beachside Colony Resort and more.
“It’s a nice variety of choices and we feel that adding that element enables us to get more proceeds for our charities and it makes the festival a lot more fun.
“Last year we had tickets at $40 and we knocked it back to $30 this year to make it accessible to everyone. We felt the $40 mark was a little high for most in the community, and plus, we thought, let's have fun with this. We are all about charity and we really want to have fun with this event.”
The group is also offering a few free tours of the historic St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church during the event.
“... This festival is not about just our community. We are all about helping those involved in the greater Savannah community and extending help to our local community that we live in and are a part of.”