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Cheers to the Wine and Food Foundation’s Fall Events That Support the Local Hospitality Industry

Learn about this Austin organization's philanthropic mission and mark your calendar for their signature fall events

Kathy Morin, Quita Culpepper, Lisa Hall at Rare and Fine Wine Auction (photo by Taylor Prinsen Photography)

If you love wine and live in central Texas, you may have already attended a fabulous, wine-centric event hosted by the Wine and Food Foundation (WFF). And if you haven’t yet done so, any time is a great time to get in on the charitable and delicious fun! In fact, their Rare and Fine Wine Auction, one of their biggest fundraisers of the year, is coming up on October 21, along with some other special classes, tastings, and events.

Krista Church, Matt Saeta, Johann Moonesinghe at Rare and Fine Wine Auction (photo by Taylor Prinsen Photography)

Denise Silverman, Wine and Food Foundation’s Executive Director, beams when she discusses their mission. “The best part about the work we do at the Wine and Food Foundation is that it essentially achieves three different goals at the same time – programming, community, and philanthropy. First, from intimate, educational classes to larger, ‘sip and stroll’ style tasting events, our unique programming satisfies a need for local wine and food enthusiasts. Second, our events inherently lead to the curation of a community of individuals who are looking for connections with like-minded people. Third, we are then able to harness the collective power of this awesome community to support philanthropic initiatives that align with our core values.”

Wine-inspired philanthropy

The Wine and Food Foundation is a local philanthropic organization with a mission to support those working in all aspects of the wine and food industries with scholarships, grants, education, and other hospitality industry support. They host approximately 75 annual events yearly, ranging from smaller tastings or classes led by a sommelier or winemaker to full-scale events like Big Reds and Bubbles, Toast of Texas, and the Rare and Fine Wine Auction. 

All of their programming raises funds for their charitable contributions to outstanding organizations like Lift Collective, Urban Roots, and the Texas Hill Country Wineries Association, each of which has their own philanthropic mission to help people who work or want to work in agriculture, winemaking, or another aspect of the food and wine industries. 

Lift Collective advocates for equity and inclusion in the wine industry. This organization is the beneficiary for the WFF’s 2023 Rare and Fine Wine Auction, and has received more than $30,000 over the past two years from the WFF. 

Rania Zayyat, the Founder of Lift Collective, expresses her gratitude for the foundation, saying,

“We are so grateful to the Wine and Food Foundation for supporting Lift Collective in our mission. The Foundation is well-known for its loyal community of wine lovers and connoisseurs, and we are thrilled that they are advocating for progress in our industry. Their fundraising efforts support a great cause and provide education and opportunities for the greater public to participate in elevating overlooked communities in the wine industry.”

Jo Chan, Leah Schwebel at Toast of Texas (photo by Erica Wilkins Photography)

Giving back in many ways

Since being established in 1985 and incorporated in 1997, the Wine and Food Foundation has given away more than $1.7 million to organizations like the Lift Collective. Past beneficiary organizations of note include Southern Smoke, Austin Shift Meal, Urban Roots, Central Texas Food Bank, KLRU, The Sustainable Food Center, and Dell Children’s Medical Center. In addition to supporting organizations working to uplift, advocate, and educate those in the industry, the WFF has also supported individuals. 

Among other scholarships and grants for individuals who are seeking to further their education in wine or food, these awards have included scholarships to attend institutions and programs including Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, TEXSOM (the annual Texas Sommelier Conference), Texas Culinary Academy, and Texas A&M’s Agriculture Program.

Gwen Schuler, Tiffany Edmonds at Toast of Texas (photo by Erica Wilkins Photography)

Wine events galore!

Many Austinites may be familiar with the WFF’s grandest fundraisers, like the upcoming, 3-day Rare and Fine Wine Auction, their annual humdinger celebration, Big Reds and Bubbles, or all-Texas wine event, the Toast of Texas, but there are lots of regularly occurring, more low-key events. Their regular event offerings include monthly membership happy hours and bottle shares, and Imbibe wine classes (almost always with tastings), where members and other wine lovers can get to know one another in a casual setting. The member happy hours are also a fun way to share wine finds from recent vacations or vintages from their own wine memberships.

The Imbibe classes cover a lot of ground, and are often led by local winemakers such as Rae Wilson, of Wine for the People or Bénédictine Rhyne with Kuhlman Cellars. They are also sometimes led by other wine connoisseurs and experts. While these classes are intended to deepen one’s knowledge and appreciation of wine, they are anything but stuffy. 

Manika + Anjan Nandula at Rare and Fine Wine Auction (photo by Taylor Prinsen Photography)

Save the date and buy your tickets

Here is a list of approaching events for the Wine and Food Foundation: 

September 6 & 21: The two September Imbibe classes are designed for wine newbies, taught by Denise Clark, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Educator, and Director of Texas Fine Wine: How to Buy Wine (September 6) and How to Taste Wine (September 21) at Twin Liquors on South Lamar.

September 14: At the Caymus Vineyards Garden Party, Napa darlings Caymus Vineyards will be on hand for an “evening of indulgence” to showcase six of their most popular wines at east Austin’s stunning Barr Mansion Farmstead and Ballroom. Tickets for this event are now sold out.

October 4: Holiday Wine Guide (perfect pairings)

October 19 – 21: Rare and Fine Wine Auction Weekend Events:

Kandace Ayala, Leslie Brockman, Lexie LeBouf at Toast of Texas (photo by Erica Wilkins Photography)

WFF classes and membership

How can you participate in all the wine and food goodness the WFF curates? Easy! Attend a class or an event. Even better, become a member! Memberships start at $15 a month and include early, exclusive, and/or discounted access to all of the Wine and Food Foundation events. There are three levels of membership

  • Aficionado
  • Connoisseur
  • Epicurean

The WFF brings winemakers and wine lovers together to give a hand up to others in the wine and food community. It’s a noble mission for the humble grape. No surprise, though, that wine has inspired such good works. French scientist Louis Pasteur, who saved the wine and beer industries in France through his microbiology work, couldn’t help but wax poetic when considering wine and its effects on the human psyche, when he noted, “A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” Indeed.