Earlier this spring, I was graciously invited to attend one of the 'pre-events' for the annual week long Winefest Des Moines.
What is Winefest?
As I wrote previously, "Now in its 17th year, Winefest Des Moines has developed into one of the premier annual events in the Des Moines metro. The foundation behind these events exists to promote, educate, and celebrate the wine industry through wine and culinary partnerships on a local and global scale. The foundation and the festival helps to enrich the cultural and economic fiber of central Iowa through event-driven advocacy, education, and awareness toward arts and culture. Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised through these events to support worthy endeavors that are tied to the arts, culture, and education."
Winefest concluded it's week long run of early June events this past weekend and I was fortunate to also be invited to attend the final event of the week: the Willis Grand Tasting. Winefest Des Moines describes the Willis Grand Tasting as, "An intimate evening at the Willis Grand Tasting showcases the best food and wine available in central Iowa. Des Moines’ finest restaurants and caterers will prepare hearty hors d’oeuvres to be paired with high-end wines from visiting wineries and importers."
The Willis Grand Tasting was sponsored by Willis Automotive, one of Central Iowa's premier dealers of luxury vehicles. Thus, there were several very nice vehicles parked throughout the event area.
There was also a whole list of other sponsors and patrons as well.
Willis Grand Tasting was held at the gorgeous Cowles Commons in Downtown Des Moines. Cowles Commons was renovated a few years ago and is now an outside event space that is perfectly suited for this kind of event.
Most of the Willis Grand Tasting was outside but some of it was inside the Capital Square Office Building, which adjoins the Cowles Commons.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted with a literal red carpet.
Your ticket to the event entitled you to unlimited beverages and food and there was no shortage of either. No matter an attendee's wine or food preference, it would probably be hard not to find something to enjoy.
Literally, there were row after row of tents or tables of vendors inside and outside happily pouring or serving their offerings all night long.
If you ended up at Winefest and wine was not your thing, they had other beverages including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. For example, Templeton Rye was serving up some samples of their famous Prohibition Era whiskey and Mars Cafe had some terrific pour-over coffee.
There was lots of food options. From more savory RoCA pork sliders (so good!) to sweets like Creme cupcakes and Chocalaterie Stam chocolates.
Live music was playing both inside and outside. Max Wellman, a popular local jazz vocalist, was playing outside.
The event provided hours of mingling both inside and outside. I ran into numerous people I know and met a few new acquaintances. However, for those that wanted a VIP experience, there were designated areas for that both inside and outside. Of course, that means you needed the more expensive VIP ticket to get into those areas. In case you are now wondering, no...Iowa Adventurer was not VIP status.
Part of the allure, beauty, and uniqueness of the Cowles Commons is the great artwork, plants, and water fountains.
Of course, there were was other decor including a great balloon arrangement that served as a photo back drop. People were having lots of fun with that all night long.