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Charleston Wine + Food

Tasting Notes


Chef Profile: Marc Collins, Circa 1886

In this season of thanksgiving, there are so many people we think of with gratitude - people who have helped shape and grow Charleston Wine + Food into the world-class event it is today. There is one individual, though, whose fingerprint can be found on the very foundation of the festival. Chef Marc Collins, Circa 1886, played a significant role in founding Charleston Wine + Food more than eleven years ago. It was Collins who believed that this community, steeped in rich culinary tradition and full of incredible talent, was ripe for an event that would showcase Charleston as a notable culinary destination. Alongside other committed individuals from the culinary and hospitality communities, Collins helped to build the concept into reality, and in 2006, the inaugural Distinctively Charleston Food & Wine Festival was introduced. Several years later, Collins was recognized with a namesake award, and each year since, an outstanding chef in the Charleston community who shows leadership, dedication and innovation in his/her field is honored with the Marc Collins Chef Award. Recently, we caught up with the busy chef for a quick chat, and we must tell you - not only is Collins talented in the kitchen, he's also an incredibly nice guy, with a down-to-earth energy that is both warm and welcoming. Ladies and gents, it's our pleasure to introduce Marc Collins, Circa 1886 Executive Chef: Tell us about Circa 1886.
Circa 1886 is a beautifully restored carriage house set behind the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion, a luxurious 21-room inn. Circa 1886 means “of the year 1886” which happens to be the year the Mansion was finished. We are a small, 50 seat white tablecloth restaurant that specializes in creating dishes rooted in the south but with different parts of the world woven through it, just as Charleston was 200 years ago when it was the largest port city on the east coast, even larger than New York City. 
How would you describe your cooking style?
I am very grounded in French Classical cuisine and you will see that but I have adapted the great cooking styles of the southern U.S. to go right along side of it. I’ll add a dash of the islands and of course Africa plus a bit of creole. My goal is to push you to the culinary edge but not over it.
Who/what are your influences as a chef?
I’m influenced by creativity itself. I am the son of an artist and that seems to have had an impact on me. I get excited writing new menus. To me it’s a lot like walking down a trail and looking for unique things you might not see if you didn't take the time to look. I also love browsing cookbooks and looking at how chefs compose plates and bring flavors together.
You were one of the founders of Charleston Wine + Food. What are your thoughts on how the festival has grown and evolved?
You really can’t help but get a kick out of watching something so small, like an idea, grow into a nationally recognized Wine and Food festival! Each year it gets more amazing. The lineup of chefs, events, winemakers, and the list goes on and on. The Festival has had a great team each and every year that put a lot of thought and creativity into it. That’s no easy task, too. Trying to top what came last year is always a challenge but the team is very engaged in the Food & Beverage community both here and across the U.S., and they try to think outside the box when coming up with events. I truly feel that Charleston has solidified itself as a food town and will continue to play off of that reputation showcasing itself in the years to come. We have so much talent here in all aspects of the dining experience from the farm to the table that I can envision guests from all over coming to see why this city is so special and what it’s history has to do with it.
What would you go back and tell your younger self (just starting your career as a chef)?
Don’t change a thing. Life is truly a journey and in such it is full of so many ups and downs and I have learned from both of them. Besides, I don’t think I would have listened to myself anyway!

We're curious: what do you snack on, Chef?

Good question! I love pita chips and that Carrot Hummus with dried apricots. Chobani yogurt flips are addictive, too, and then there is peanut butter and jelly which reminds me of being a kid. I miss being a kid.
Just for fun: what would your theme song be?
The Best is Yet to Come by Frank Sinatra.
Want more? You can catch Collins in action during Charleston Wine + Food at Opening Night: Cheers to Charleston!, Life of the Party: All Things Entertaining with Tara Guérard, Circa 1886 Signature Dinner, and Bubbles + Truffles Dinner @ Circa 1886. Collins' legacy is strong and we are beyond thankful for the contribution he's made to the festival and Charleston's ever-growing culinary community. Recently, Circa 1886 was named #13 Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the U.S. by TripAdvisor's 2015 Traveler's Choice Awards. We can only imagine what's next for this accomplished chef.
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A Tribute to Mickey Bakst

On Wednesday, November 11, we ambitiously set out to produce the biggest surprise in festival history when we announced the honoree of our annual Tribute Dinner, Mickey Bakst. To say our efforts were successful would be an understatement, and we could not have made this magical evening happen without the help of Mickey's wife, Ellen, as well as a host of other co-conspirators, including Belmond Charleston Place, Baker Motor Company, Republic National Distributing Company, Ben Arnold Beverage Company, Southern Wine and Spirits, The Country Vintner of South Carolina, Grapevine Distributing, Advintage Distributing, PSAV, Hed Hi Media, Andrew Cebulka, Rick Rubel, Chef Michelle Weaver, Chef Mike Lata, Chef Takashi Yagahashi, Chef Michael Scognamiglio, Chef Ben Berryhill, Leo Horton, and all the many friends + family who traveled far and wide to be part of the celebration. Special thanks to Deidre Schipani for writing this lovely recap of an unforgettable 2015 Charleston Wine + Food Tribute Dinner. The dinner raised $10,000 for Feed the Need, an organization founded by Mickey that brings local chefs together to help local shelters bring food to the hungry. These proceeds will be used to feed more than 1,500 mouths during the holiday season. Learn more about Feed the Need here Charleston Wine + Food honored Mickey Bakst, on November 11, for his contributions to the Charleston community and his global embrace of humans in need. Gillian Zettler, Executive Director of Charleston Wine + Food, welcomed the guests and rejoiced in the ability to manage surprising the guest of honor – no easy feat. The “FOM” – Friends of Mickey – travelled great distances and shared more than a half-century of memories about a man who it was clear was no Albert Schweitzer in his formative years but like the phoenix rose from the ashes to embrace the ethical character and energy that defines a humanitarian. High school friends Phil Katz, Hal Schwartz, Mike Solarz and Randy Fenton parlayed their shared memories of their friend, a diamond in the rough, who while operating an “ice cream truck”, brought new meaning to the brand “good humor”.   Mickey’s prowess as both a critical reviewer and sports analyst was made clear by his engaging book report on Sandy Koufax – an assignment that made it from elementary school to high school! Mickey Bakst and the Merry Pranksters of his youth, at times, travelled dark roads of misbehavior and wretched excess. Yet these spidermen of Mickey’s youth all recall the integrity, loyalty and love they shared in common.  Each a mitzvah:  A blessing to the other.  All spinning a web of support and lifelines for their friend. It was in 1974, as the doorman at the Studio Café in Newport Beach California, that Mickey got a glimpse into his future:  Holding back the lengthy line to enter into this popular club (by singing, dancing, joking) - he brought smiles to their faces and realized he had the ability to be the gatekeeper to happiness. This seemingly native ability, shining a light on a smile, is a skill Mickey attributes to his parents – “they gave me this gift”. It is one whose heartfelt authenticity everyone and anyone who meets Mickey Bakst experiences. It was the hospitality industry that eased Mickey into a new way of being.  It was an act of grace in which the warm and welcoming embrace of a smile polished the diamond that is MB. From Sam at Mario’s in Detroit, to Pete Peterson at Tapawingo, to Takashi Yagihashi at Tribute and Slurping Turtle, Mickey Bakst was being recast. With friend of 30 years Ronnie Schwartz and the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous, a cycle was broken and Mickey’s heightened awareness of his skill to make people feel good was broadcast on the waters of food and beverage. In 1995, humanitarian Mickey Bakst was birthed, by a devastating fire at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul warehouses where a fire destroyed 150,000 square feet of space containing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods for southeast Michigan’s needy.  Before the fire was extinguished, Mickey had organized a relief effort that raised nearly $10 million dollars to continue the work of the Society. September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire tragedy and the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church this summer:  heartbreaking human events that triggered the immediate responses of support and generosity by the network of like-minded community activists that Mickey Bakst has cultivated. One that supported Crisis Ministries (now One80 Place) to create Feed The Need of which Mickey is president and Teach The Need, co-founded with Michael Miller to provide training and employment opportunities in food and beverage. Mickey Bakst is our smiling Ambassador of Goodness. A chef’s dinner with Bob Waggoner resulted in Mickey’s move as General Manager to Charleston Grill.  Here he began his partnership with Executive Chef Michelle Weaver and the two of them glide in culinary harmony to provide the hospitality dance for their guests.  It was with a grateful heart that Weaver and Bakst gave thanks this night for their shared vision. For local chefs:  Mike Lata, Ben Berryhill, and Michael Scognamiglio – there were no fist bumps, high fives, daps or pounds but the warm embrace of a righteous hug and the loyalty and shared affection for a man they easily say, “I love you, Mickey.” The staff of the Charleston Wine + Food were accomplished at crafting this surprise tribute dinner but the maestro behind it all was Ellen Gansen, Mickey’s beloved wife, muse, anchor, caretaker of joy and master chef.  Their affection for each other is humbling and the power of their love remains palpable as they expressed their gratitude for the evening. Gillian Zettler brought this tribute dinner to a close encouraging all of the guests to take a bit of this shared goodness with them and share it in their daily lives:  “Mickey’s power to inspire” – a gift that keeps on giving. [embed]https://youtu.be/FVv-0jRIYio[/embed] Written by Deidre Schipani Photos by Andrew Cebulka Film by Hed Hi Media  
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Reserve your seat: Signature Dinners

Over the years, our Signature Dinners have become a staple Charleston Wine + Food experience. Each unique dinner brings together the perfect pairing of beloved local chef, acclaimed guest chef and prestigious winemaker for one unforgettable menu and evening. And, although quite a few of the over 25 Signature Dinners planned for 2016 have already sold out, we wanted to give you the scoop on tickets remaining. See the quick list below and link through to each event page for the full bite. Be sure to reserve your seat at before they're all gone! Thursday, March 3 Cypress The Grocery Twenty Six Divine Two Boroughs Larder Wild Olive Friday, March 4 Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House Beer Dinner High Cotton Magnolias Old Village Post House Pole-to-Plate Fish Dinner Poogan's Porch Beer Dinner Saturday, March 5 South Carolina BBQ Tent Revival with Jim 'n Nick's and the Southern Foodways Alliance Lana The Park Cafe Bubbles & Truffles @ Circa 1886
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Need Assistance?

We totally get it. The 2020 festival has a lot going on. Contact us to guide you through the ticketing process, answer any questions, and help point you in the right direction.


843 727 9998
635 Rutledge Avenue, Suite 101, Charleston, SC 29403