Of course, new and expanded programs take money, and the Gardens hopes to get a big boost for its fundraising efforts when it hosts the second annual Cellar Stock wine-tasting event, scheduled to take place at the BBG’s Hill Garden on April 8.
All proceeds from Cellar Stock, which will feature more than 200 wines from across the United States, will go to the non-profit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Garden’s green programs. In its sophomore year, the event has been scaled down a bit (last year’s event featured over 600 wines) to better accommodate the size of the expected crowd and the environment of the Gardens.
According to Laura Brooks Bright of Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook, the primary sponsor of Cellar Stock, the goal is to take advantage of the atmosphere of the Hill Garden and create what she calls a “sophisticated, but not fussy garden party.” Attendees will stroll in the mellow twilight in the lantern-strewn garden while enjoying an ample supply of fine wines and grooving on the subtle backbeat of the “L.A. lounge” music to be provided by DJ Coco.
If this isn’t enough to lure you, consider the flaming 100-pound wheel of cheese. You heard me right. A big, fat chunk of cheese, set aflame, will be used by specialty chefs to prepare an endless supply of fresh pasta complete with the accoutrements of a legit street-side Italian trattoria. The entire menu of wine-complimenting heavy hors d’oeuvres will be prepared by Whole Food’s staff of gourmet chefs.
Bright has high hopes for Cellar Stock, seeing it as a kind of partnership that benefits wine drinkers, wine suppliers and a worthy local organization whose goals are consistent with the values that Whole Foods espouses. “The Gardens is there to educate people about plants and the environment,” Bright says. “One of Whole Foods’ core values is supporting the community and supporting the environment as well as providing the highest quality natural and organic ingredients anywhere.”
The funds will directly aid the Gardens in implementing the vision expressed in its recently released master plan, which emphasizes the Gardens’ commitment to educating people about plants and the environment. “Proceeds from events are critical,” according to Andrew Krebbs, director of marketing and membership at the Gardens. “They allow us to do what we do, and to carry out things like the master plan.”
According to Krebbs, education is one of the driving forces at the Gardens. “We have 10,000 school children come in during the year and they don’t have to pay a dime,” he says. In fact, the Gardens is the only facility of its kind in the state offering free admission, making it a great resource for school science programs.
With the help of monies raised from Cellar Stock and other spring events, The Gardens also hopes to become a leader in innovative management and sustainability practices.
The Gardens hopes to institute a storm water management system that will be able to effectively channel flooded rainwater into its plant systems, using solar power. The Friends of the Gardens hope to fund a project that will heat the ground of the greenhouses, rather than the air. “It’s more cost-effective and efficient,” Krebbs says. The Friends also help raise funds to sustain the Gardens’ plant therapy program. “We have clients from ages 3 to 99,” Krebbs says. “It’s a fast growing trend in the country to use plants to heal.”
In addition, the Gardens houses the largest horticulture library in the country. “We just hope to be a model for some of these green initiatives for other people to look at us and say, ‘They’re doing it. We can do it and look to them to learn how,’” Krebbs says.
This thirst for learning is another reason why the Gardens provide the perfect backdrop for Cellar Stock. “It’s not pretentious,” Bright says. “It’s an education mentality. We’ve learned that by telling people who their growers are, it connects them to their food in a way that nothing else can.”
Twenty-five tables will be set up to host wine producers from all over the country. Each wine was selected by Wendy Watts, wine buyer for the Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook. Growers and distributors will be present to represent their products, giving attendees the chance to ask vendors important questions about their practices and processes in making their wines.
Both serious wine drinkers and newbies will find the environment to be a non-intimidating one. “It’s an event not just for people who really know wine well, but also for people who want to learn about wine,” Watts says. Many wines will also be offered at what Brooks calls “non-scary price points.”
Lara Tucker, international wines manager at Whole Foods, has worked closely with Watts and Bright to bring a handpicked selection of wines to the table. “The great majority of them are from smaller producers—more hands on,” says Watts.
“We’re talking hundreds of cases versus hundreds of thousands,” Tucker says.
“Pretty much the antithesis of the stuff that you find at the bottom shelf in Walmart. Small lots are going to be more in tune with where they came from, meant to connect the people who drink them with the people who made them.”
Sounds like a purple-mouthed taste of heaven. But, take heart, even if you’re not a wine-drinker, you’ll still be able to enjoy the digs and sip some gourmet cold coffee drinks, courtesy of a Whole Foods coffee expert, set to come in from Atlanta especially for the evening.
“It’s almost just a huge customer appreciation event,” says Tucker. “Sure, we have to cover the cost of the event, but at the end of the day, [attendees] are hopefully going to go home with this experience that has really changed the way they look at and buy wine.”
Cellar Stock will be held Thurs., April 8, from 5-9 p.m. at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 2612 Lane Park Road. Tickets will be $50 at the event. Advance tickets are $40 and can be ordered online at http://cellarstock.wholefoodsrsvp.com. Attendees will be able to place advance orders for Whole Foods’ discount sale of cases of wine. The cases can be picked up at the store from April 26 to May 2. Other event sponsors are Birmingham Magazine, Birmingham Beverage Inc., WAPI 100.5 FM and Birmingham Weekly.
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