Early bird tickets for Atlanta Food & Wine go on sale March 18

This year’s festival features a pop-up vineyard, Friday night tasting tents, and an expanded Sunday brunch
AFWF co-founder Dominique Love
AFWF co-founder Dominique Love

Courest of Dominique Love

The 6th annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will be held June 2-5, 2016, and tickets go on sale March 18 with early bird pricing available through April 15. Tickets range from $45 dinners and $100 tasting tents to $2,000 for the three-day connoisseur pass, which includes access to special classes and tastings. We spoke with festival co-founder Dominique Love about what to look forward to this year.

What’s new this year?
We have a lot of new talent for the advisory board. We’re expanding our Sunday brunch and adding musical elements. We reconfigured our tasting tents and are moving them to the Greensward Promenade section of Piedmont Park. They have two flat oval spaces, a pretty marble stairwell, and a gorgeous fountain. It’ll be a great place to be outdoors and spread out. We’re moving our Friday tasting tent to nighttime. We felt like that was a great way to end the work week. We’re trying to make the tents more interactive. One is a pairing tent. You’ll pick up your drink and follow a color-coded system to match up the pairings, like a really great Bordeaux with meats and cheeses, for example. We’re adding a cool tailgating area with barbecue rigs, lawn chairs, coolers, and music. Friday we’re doing some wine lunches.

That’s exciting. What else should we look forward to?
We are building a pop-up vineyard. It will open with the festival and close July 14. It’s in the lot across from the Four Seasons–the old Symphony Hall lot. You’ll buy a ticket to key events [there]. There’s a two-hour class focused on lower alcohol spirits great for day-drinking. We’re also going to have a wine lunch there. After the festival weekend, it will be open for the community to use for picnics. PNC Bank is sponsoring the vineyard. I can’t guarantee the vines will all have fruit… it’s the vineyard environment—an event space. The grapes are more for décor. We’ll have a bocce court and can do seated dinners and parties. Some of the sponsors will do music programming there after the festival.

What kind of feedback did you get after last year’s festival and how are you addressing it this year?
Overall we got good feedback. We had one event that was a real challenge logistically with the space. We got annihilated by the weather. We lost a couple of palettes of glassware and things like that. But many of the guests have been year after year, and they know it’s an anomaly.

Any time you are trying to do an event, space is a premium. Last year, we lost a huge section of our tasting tent space due to construction. We’re moving it.

The Connoisseur dinner series will be included in a Connoisseur ticket, but we will also make some tickets available to other consumers who want to attend. We have a new ticketing system that’s easier to use online. It’s better technology—a little more user friendly.

Which chefs, restaurateurs, or mixologists are you most looking forward to seeing participate this year?
We try to look for talent who are doing new and exciting things and also remember the past and doing their part of preserve Southern food and beverage traditions. We all know the big names, but we also want to extend a broader spotlight and showcase the folks who are a little undercover.