In 2014, Philly Wine Week was but a baby, the love child of William Eccleston — the General Manager and Sommelier at Ristorante Panorama in the Penn's View Hotel — and Kate Moroney from Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro in Midtown Village. Their goal then, as it is now, was to show off how Philly restaurants and wine bars are, in Eccleston's words, "showing incredible creativity, value and variety in the wine experience."
For its 2016 iteration, Philly Wine Week (April 3-10) offers special access and recognition to all things wine at 55 restaurants and bars throughout the city, "nearly triple the amount of what we started PWW with just over 2-years ago," he says.
The wealth of participating wine vendors isn't the only difference in year three's Philly Wine Week. While Eccleston hosts his own new parties at Panorama such as the Blind PA Wine Challenge (flights sampling this state's best Chardonnays and Cabernet Francs next to classics from other regions such as California or France), the rest of PWW hosts fresh events such as those dedicated to little known wines and champagnes.
"Highlighting wines we don't know much about' is the beauty of PWW as we all exercise the chance to shine the light on different regions and themes," he says, remarking on Moroccan, Lebanese and Canary Island wines at Neuf. "There's much ancient history to the traditions of areas we might not automatically conjure as wine meccas."
Both Volver and Mica Restaurant host tasting parties dedicated to magnums of bubbly in order to remind wine aficionados how crucial champagne is to their experience. "It is, in our culture, too often overlooked or reserved only for special occasions," says Eccleston.
"Somms and wine lovers never forget though and most restaurant events and tastings start with bubbles automatically *Eccleston also reminds us that "great bubbles" are available in a staggering range of styles and price points).
One of the most fun Philly Wine Week events — after its opening night salvo at Stratus Lounge — is the "Grape vs Grain" battle at Johnny Brenda's which is obviously a way to poke sport at this area's craft beer fascination as well as taking the seriousness out of wine snobbery. "You definitely touched on a theme that's very successful — to embrace friendly and playful competition," he says pointing to additional PWW events such as Natural Wine vs. Funky Beer comparison tastings or Wine Quizzo. "We're certainly ringing all the bells that wine can be fun, de-mystified and enjoyed every day without breaking the bank."