Highlands Food and Wine

Highlands Food & Wine Festival, set for November 7-10, has won a passionate regional following, thanks to its intricate blending of food, drink (craft beers, exquisitely formulated cocktails, and internationally ranked wine labels), music, and, always, the unexpected.

Events are scheduled throughout each day and well into the evenings.

Each represents a way to sample the finest foods and beverages offered anywhere in the world.

For instance, consider French Champagne…All the Feels, from 5:30 to 6:30 P.M. Friday, November 8, at The Drouthy Heart, the private social haven tucked away downtown. Join Eric Cooperman (2019’s Southeast Champion of the Ruinart Challenge) and a panel of expert sommeliers, as they help decipher the region, soils and many splendorous wonders of French Champagne. During this fun and enlightening tasting class, you will learn about the intricate process called Methode Traditionnelle, discover top producers, and sample distinct wines from the region. You’ll learn tips on selecting the greatest bottles and tricks for finding the best values that won’t break the bank.  There are only limited spaces available, so visit highlandsfoodandwine.com for reservations as quickly as you can.

That same night, from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., The High Dive will host The Heaven Hill Distillery Whiskey & Bacon Tasting. Heaven Hill is the largest independent, family-owned and -operated supplier of distilled spirits in the United States. This very exclusive evening will include samples from its premium whiskey portfolio. Enjoy the whiskey and food as the discussion turns from the various styles and history of American Whiskey to the ways Heaven Hill has embraced that heritage and crafted its own unique twist. For reservations, visit highlandsfoodandwine.com.

In fact, don’t let sold out events dampen your enthusiasm for this year’s Food & Wine Festival.

That’s because at the center of all the excitement are the Wine Dinners that have been embroidered into the fabric of the festival since its inception.

The 2019 festival continues that tradition with a full lineup of wine dinners. 

On Friday, November 8, look for a fun evening  at Lakeside Restaurant on the shore of picturesque Harris Lake in downtown Highlands.

Lakeside opens its Dining Room for an exclusive Wine Pairing, The Davis Family Vineyards Wine Dinner (with winemakers/owners Gary and Judy Davis. Dinner will be five courses accompanied by five superb wine selections. Indulge in lush sauces, bold textures, and silky-smooth sips of Davis Family delights. The fun begins at 6:30 P.M. For reservations, call (828) 526-9419 or visit lakesiderestaurant.info.

An Evening with Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley and Aviva Vino will be staged at the Sapphire restaurant on Friday, November 8, from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M.  Guests will experience Canyon Kitchen & Lonesome Valley for a fireside wine dinner with the exceptional selections of Aviva Vino. Cost is $150 per person, which includes food, wine, tax, and a service charge (additional fees may apply).  For reservations, call (828) 743-7967 or visit LonesomeValley/CanyonKitchen.com. 

On Friday, November 8, plan to visit 4118 Kitchen + Bar at 6:30 P.M. for Chef Adam Bresnahan’s five-course tasting menu focusing on regional products prepared with both classic and modern technique. He’s pairing those dishes with six amazing beers from Sweetwater Brewing from Atlanta. Cost is $115 per person. For reservations, call (828) 526-5002.

Meritage Bistro’s deep connection to wine means that it’s a natural fit for the festival. On November 8, its popular  “Wine vs. Beer Dinner” will return – a five-course interactive tasting with both wine and beer pairings assigned to each course. Also that weekend and offered with the regular menu,  there’ll be a series of wine flights, featuring selections from the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. For reservations, call (828) 526-1019 or visit meritagehighlands.com.

Tug’s Proper, new this year to the Highlands culinary scene, presents its Compare and Contrast Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Friday, November 8. 

This is an intimate, 20-seat, four-course, six-wine pairings compare and contrast tasting featuring Natali Schlottig and Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.

Cost is $90 per ticket, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, please call (828) 526-3335 or email [email protected].

At 6:30 P.M. Saturday, November 9, it’s the Duckhorn Vineyards Wine Dinner at Lakeside Restaurant. This features five courses  with five wine pairings guaranteed to satisfy every lucky taste bud. There’s a fine art to matching flavors, red or white, dark or light, spicy with mild, savory or wild. Lakeside enjoys a wide reputation for getting it right. Cost is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call (828) 526-9419 or visit lakesiderestaurant.info.

Chef Wolfgang Green and the vintners of Caymus Vineyards and Wagner Family Wines will serve an unforgettable Wine Dinner at Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro,  7:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9.

Chef Wolfgang will create five remarkable courses to complement Caymus Vineyards and Wagner Family Wines.  The Wagner Family continue a true Napa Valley winemaking legacy tracing back over 150 years and eight generations.

The event starts at 6:30 P.M. with Champagne and appetizers, followed by dinner at 7:00 P.M. Cost is $160, excluding tax and gratuity. For reservations or more information, call (828) 526-3807.

On the Verandah pulls out all the stops for its Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9. Nationally-recognized chefs Andrew Figel and Jerri Fifer will conjure six Southern-style dishes with six impeccable selections from Champagne Laurent-Perrier. Cost is $155 (not including tax and gratuity). For reservations, call (828) 526-2338. 

Chef Todd Richards’ exclusive dinner at Half Mile Farm, set for Saturday, November 9, promises to capture attention far beyond the confines of the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau.

Chef Todd is also the chef/owner of Richards’ Southern Fried and has previously helmed the kitchens of prestigious hotels and restaurants including The Shed at Glenwood, The Pig & The Pearl, Rolling Bones Barbecue, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, The Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, The Ritz-Carlton (Atlanta, Buckhead and West Palm Beach), Villa Christina and The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hotel, which garnered the prestigious AAA 5 Diamond Award for restaurant excellence under his tenure.

Tickets for the inclusive evening are $185 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call (828) 787-2635 or (828) 787-2916 to reserve your seats. 

Tug’s Proper presents its Axel Schug Wine Dinner at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, November 9. Guests will be treated to a delightful dinner as Axel Schug will present five Schug Winery varietals, pairing them with each dinner course. Cost is $130 per ticket, plus tax and gratuity.

For reservations, please call (828) 526-3335 or email [email protected]

Festival plans are still being made, so you’ll want to visit highlandsfoodandwine.com to get the latest word. That’s also where you can read in-depth descriptions of everything that’s happening, and learn more about the chefs, musicians and restaurants that’ll be participating.


The American Woody:The first generation of depot hacks boasted open bodies constructed of wagon-style solid planking. But by the mid-1910s, closed station wagon bodies became more common and lighter construction was required. The rib-and-panel style that is familiar today made its first appearance on these vehicles and allowed for the first partially enclosed wooden station wagons with side curtains, two or more rows of seats, and side doors. These new wagons could still be considered depot hacks, but were now called Suburbans, Combinations and Country Clubs. (Versions of these names still appear today.) The lower halves of these wagonette bodies resembled the earlier versions and were now combined with a flat roof. These designs found favor with non-commercial customers, and an increasing number of firms began building them. Major manufacturers such as Ford started offering woodies through dealerships, although independent body builders performed the actual construction. The Martin Truck and Body Corp. in York, Pennsylvania, made so many bodies for Ford, Dodge and others during the 1910s and 1920s that they billed themselves as "The Largest Commercial Car Builder in the World." The golden age of the custom wood body maker ended during the Depression, as many of the small independent firms went out of business. Some reorganized and diversified, like the Kentucky Wagon Manufacturing Company, which stopped making wood Ford Model T and Model A bodies (and its own line of automobiles as the Dixie Motor Car Company) and started manufacturing truck trailers. The company is still in business today as Kentucky Trailer. The major automobile manufacturers acquired many others at fire-sale prices during this time. The fortunes of Martin Truck and Body, who called themselves "The Largest Commercial Car Builder in the World," changed dramatically during the Depression. After merging with failed carmaker Parry in 1919, Martin Truck and Body was acquired by Chevrolet in 1930 and became its first in-house commercial truck body division. Ford, with its vast timber operations near Lake Superior, was gaining experience in woody manufacturing. That experience would be put into practice in 1936 when a plant opened at Iron Mountain that built complete wood wagon bodies that were then shipped to Ford plants around the country for final assembly. While Ford was the only manufacturer building woodies from the ground up, there were still coachbuilt versions available based on GM, Chrysler, Packard, Willys, Hupmobile, Graham, Hudson, Studebaker and even American Bantam chassis. The trend toward luxury continued through the 1930s, although woody amenities lagged far behind those in production automobiles. Pontiac, for instance, did not offer full glazing until 1939. As the country began to recover economically, woodies were increasingly perceived as upscale vehicles and sales rose accordingly. Ford easily maintained its dominance, selling almost 10,000 redesigned Standard and DeLuxe station wagons in 1940 alone. Chrysler introduced its first truly car-quality woody, the Town & Country, in March of the following year. It boasted an all-steel roof and a white ash and mahogany body by Pekin Wood Products of Helena, Arkansas. With Willys, Buick, Pontiac and Plymouth all getting serious about passenger comfort in their woodies, things were about to heat up when the manufacturers were told to cease production of passenger cars and contribute to the war effort. A trickle of cars continued for a brief time, but all domestic automobile production had ended by March of 1942. Ford continued to produce a small number of Ford and Mercury woody sedans and ambulances used during the war. We reach Crystal Cove and its landmark Shake Shack and pull in to switch drivers. Remembering the earlier starting difficulty, we leave the Ford idling while photographer Joseph Puhy shoots some images. Little do we know, the ethanol-laced modern gas blend is busy vaporizing in the fuel line, a common Ford flathead V-8 problem. It happens on the uphill leaving the Shake Shack, the woodie chugging slower and slower, until it can’t chug anymore. Now we’re stranded beside the Coast Highway, with Audis and Acuras zipping past at speed. Bad scene. With no luck re-firing the engine, I resort to bump-starting it backward downhill. This works, and the ’34 has just enough power to get us turned around and find safe haven in a nearby park. But the woodie’s day is over. “I think this has cured me of wanting an old car!” Dean says, laughing. Oddly enough, another “Surf City” lyric has portended our current situation: “And if my woodie breaks down on me somewhere on the surf route/Surf City, here we come/I’ll strap my board to my back and hitch a ride in my wetsuit.” With the photo and video teams close behind, our rescue isn’t quite that dramatic, and we all safely return to the museum in modern cars, leaving the generous McPherson and his beautiful ’34 awaiting Hagerty Plus Roadside Service. The last great year of the woody was, by some accounts, 1949. Handcrafting complicated and maintenance-intensive wood frames and panels was becoming very difficult to justify in the red-hot, new-car market. The epochal Chrysler Town & Country switched to Dinoc vinyl (still available in aftermarket "wallpaper woody" kits today) with ornamental ash framing, and the 1949 Ford used all-steel construction with experimental plywood-like panels that underwent a dramatically high rate of failure. General Motors abandoned wood framing after 1948, and from 1948 through 1951, Packard produced station wagons with window framing and ornamental wood door trim by Briggs Manufacturing. The few coachbuilders that survived the Depression and World War II were again in jeopardy during the 1950s. Despite efforts to make the transition to more modern products such as hearses and other steel bodies, the wood-body manufacturers, steeped in old-world hand craftsmanship, were almost all gone by the end of the decade. Car design and manufacture, as well as the tastes of the car-buying public, were undergoing radical changes and the woody, redolent of 1930s and 1940s country clubs, fell from favor. The Chrysler Town & Country was discontinued in 1951, and while Fords continued to sell well, they now increasingly used vinyl and paint instead of real wood. The 1953 Buick wagons were the last real woodies from any major American manufacturer. Various wallpaper woodies or "vinylies" are still offered by Detroit to this day, but the age of the real woody ended in 1953. Fiberglass would come to substitute for ash and Dinoc for mahogany. It was a slow death, and the last real wood exterior trim of any kind on an American vehicle appeared on the Dodge Adventurer 150 "Li'l Red Express Truck" option available in 1978 and 1979.By the time I had my summer epiphany in San Diego, woodies were already in their second incarnation as an American icon. Furniture makers constructed the first of them on truck frames in the late 1920s. The car replaced the horse-drawn vehicles–jitneys or hacks–that had hauled passengers from train depots to hotels. Woodies were, literally, “station wagons,” and you’ll see them turn up. In Southern California, the place to see any style in wood cars is the annual Wavecrest meeting, held every September at Moonlight Beach near San Diego. Trophies are given for Best 1960s Surfing Woodie and Best Hot Rod Woodie. There are big-money restorations and Model A’s with rotting wood, Buick Estate Wagons with fewer than 50,000 miles on the odometer and more Town and Country wagons than Pasadena’s Rose Parade. Lovely as these ghosts are, there’s nothing that can duplicate your first time. Nearly 40 years ago, on the afternoon when I saw that first woodie in a San Diego gas station, I was just way to my part-time job in a suit and tie. What I watched from across the street was a preview of another kind of life, one that was raw and vital, one where a whole world was spread out along the coast waiting to be discovered. It was a moment that changed my life–because that day I quit my job and started surfing.