Winning Wines with Fellow Foodies… Last week I chatted with the Chairman of Delaware Theatre Company’s Board of Directors and co-chair of the MIDATLANTIC FOOD AND WINE FEAST (MAF+WF), Michael Marquardt, about the upcoming weekend of vino and tempting international cuisine. This four day, ten-event feast runs Thursday, February 23th through Sunday the 26th in private homes in the Brandywine valley and surrounding areas as well as the world-class Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, all benefiting the Delaware Theatre Company.

The Theatre and Wine Connection: Growing up in Germany, Marquardt’s mother was a stage actress for well over 10 years and did a great deal of commercial and dubbing work for American television programs (notably, as the voice of one the characters in the hit show Dynasty). “Like kids today go to the mall, I went to the theatre. I went to see a play virtually every week—sometimes twice when my mother was performing. I remember being mesmerized by live theatre that allows you to escape into an inspiring story. Similarly, growing up in Europe, we drank wine with our middle school teachers. As a teenager I became more and more interested in wine as a collector, and with my first job, bought a few extra bottles and never looked back.” Marquardt, who has been involved with the event for some six or seven years, and his team, co-chairs Ajit Mathew George and Lisa Quadrini, along with the entire Wine Guild, have been thrilled to re-brand this event after 23 years and expand its regional reach.

The Events: This weekend truly offers “something money can’t buy,” according to Marquardt. The Thursday and Friday evenings offer six Intimate Winemakers Dinners to choose from, hosted in private homes, with five to seven courses prepared by both local and visiting international chefs, paired with wines poured by the winemakers themselves. The home of Mike and Ellen Kullman in Greenville, the Oberod Estate of Vance Kershner in Centreville, and the home of Darren and Karen Wright in Historic New Castle are only a few of the hosted estates for these, what Marquardt calls, “quite exclusive culinary experiences.”

One event that truly spoke to me personally as a budding wine enthusiast (and recovering ‘starving grad student’) was the Tasting with the Pros event on Saturday from 12pm to 2pm in Hotel du Pont’s Gold Ballroom—merely $50 for this “tutored” wine tasting for beginners with the visiting winemakers, complemented by a light lunch. Marquardt noted that attendees to this event should not feel intimated to ask questions about the wines, and that he’s excited to welcome a great deal of young people to this and every food and wine experience this weekend (Spark Magazine will be there to capture the fun!).

Saturday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm in The Green Room (again at the Hotel du Pont) features a unique 1,000 Point Tasting:a master class of sorts for the serious oenophile (that’s ‘wine lover’ to you and me) guided by Charles Curtis, Master of Wine and Head of Wine for Christie’s Asia. Ten perfect 100-point wines from all over the world will be featured—an exceedingly rare experience, as few wines receive such a high rating. “Curtis was one of the first people we convinced to help us with the MAF+WF,” Marquardt explained, “and was the former head of the Christie’s Wine Auction in New York, then promoted to head of the auction in Asia. Curtis currently lives in Hong Kong and is coming in just for the Feast events. He is extremely well- respected in the wine world and when approached by Ajit, was very interested in supporting this great cause and offering his time and talents.” Marquardt additionally mentioned the work and research that went into creating the ultimate in wine perfection: “Even if you just have a small interest in wine, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever attend a wine tasting like this.” 10 PERFECT wines to sip and savor? To that I say: yes, please.

In the 7-Course Winemakers dinner and Live Wine Auction on Saturday night, guests will delight in high-end cuisine prepared by seven notable international chefs (from Portugal, Hawaii, Australia, South Africa, just to name a few), working in concert with seven local chefs, each preparing one course with perfectly paired wines. This black-tie international feast and wine auction led by Charles Curtis, takes place in the Gold Ballroom from 6pm to 11pm. Michael embraced this idea of “lots of cooks in the kitchen” and likened the idea of meeting a famous playwright to the star-struck feeling of being served by your favorite wine makers and celebrity chefs at this dinner.

The weekend culminates in a grand finale, the Sunday Gospel Brunch: Around the World with 80 Wines. This brunch from 11am to 2pm in the Gold Ballroom features food stations from 10 leading area restaurants and 80 wines. Guests are treated to the sounds of the 60-member Calvary Baptist Combined Choir while having the opportunity to mingle with Jennifer Behm from Fox TV’s Master Chef and Chef Dana Herbert of TLC’s Next Great Baker. The inspiration behind this brunch comes from Ajit’s experience with a food and wine festival in Charleston, S.C. that had a similar Gospel brunch finale.

The F+W Celebs: Obviously, many international chefs and winemakers will be lending time and talent over the course of these four days. Michael mentioned a few in particular, including Ntsiki Biyela from Stellekaya Winery, the most prominent wine maker in all of Africa. The New York Times recently featured her in an article. Other celebrities in the wine world that will be making appearances include Thomas Haag of Weingut Schloss Lieser, Germany, Bruno Eynard from Chateau Lagrange in France, Chef Vikram Garg from Hawaii, and Chef Juan Nale Ruckauer from Spain, to name a few. Each of these chefs and winemakers are well known in their own countries, Marquardt mentioned. He was particularly pleased that in addition to Ntsiki Biyela, three other women will be joining this stellar line-up, including Lauren Moran of Chateau Tanunda, Australia, Sandra Tavares da Silva from Wine & Soul in Portugal and Chef Carla Pernambuco of Brazil. “The wine and food world has been previously seen as male-dominated and we are so glad to welcome these incredibly accomplished women.”

Be sure to check out to purchase tickets or for more information. This weekend seems to have something for everyone and above all, allows the Delaware Theatre Company to continue to produce the incredibly high-quality theatre and education programs it’s been known for, for over 30 years. I’ll be there. Will you?

-Amanda Curry