Divas Uncorked weekend aids Island Food Pantry

Grand Tasting speaker Marie-Claude Mendy, of Food Network fame, owns Terenga in Boston, a Senegalese cuisine restaurant. — Photo courtesy of Karen Ward

The fifth annual Divas Uncorked Wine and Food Festival bubbles up this weekend around the Island with a menu of authentic and exotic food and gourmand wine-tasting events to benefit the Island Food Pantry.

Culinary stars, including Island food diva Jessica Harris, and celebrities from Bravo and The Food Network’s cooking shows will prepare food, pour wines from around the world, and teach us how to appreciate fine dining at several Island locations.

Events include demonstrations by top wine experts and chefs, wine tastings featuring top wine brands, author book signings, vintner dinners, and live and silent auctions.

Festivities begin tonight, Thursday, August 11, with two public events and a VIP reception at The Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs. Weekend dinner and wine tasting events will occur at Island venues in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Edgartown, and Chilmark, featuring food prepared by celebrity chefs.

Since its 1998 formation, the African-American women of Divas Uncorked have expanded their work to reach new consumer markets, specifically women and people of color, with the mantra, “Wine savvy, not wine snobby.”

The organization has traveled from Napa and Sonoma in California to vineyards of South Africa. Divas’ efforts have been showcased in Newsweek, in O, the Oprah Magazine, and featured on NBC’s “The Today Show.”

Divas Uncorked shows up as a high-intensity group of successful women with a growing agenda, but it wasn’t always that way, Karen Ward, a Diva and Channel 5 (Boston) public affairs director, said earlier this week.

“This is more like a hobby run amok. Divas was started innocently enough by founder Stephanie Browne 13 years ago. She wanted to learn about wine and envisioned gatherings like her mom’s bridge club. We began a monthly dinner at each other’s homes at which the hostess was responsible for creating a dinner with appropriate wine and a primer to educate us about her choices.

“Interest grew for the idea. Men began asking ‘Hey, what about us?’ and we began to stage public dinners. Five years ago we decided to launch the Vineyard Festival with proceeds going to a different service organization each year. We are thrilled to have the Island Food Pantry as our partner this year. IFP is doing important work here,” she said.

Ms. Ward said the Divas’ high-profile success is translating into other socially-relevant work internationally. “Several years ago, we were the first people of color to address South Africa’s largest annual wine auction,” she said.

Thursday, Aug. 11

Best Cellars: Books for Wine Lovers with Stephanie Browne, Divas Uncorked founder, 5–7 pm, Cousen Rose Gallery, Oak Bluffs. Free.

Table & Vine: Minding Your Wine Manners with winery owner Lauren Maillian Bias, 5–7 pm, L’Elegance, Oak Bluffs. Free.

Taste & Toast Reception 6–8 pm, Sailing Camp Park, Oak Bluffs. VIP and All-Access only.

Divas Wine & Dine Island Dinner Party 8 pm, Lola’s, Oak Bluffs and The Roof at the Mansion House, Vineyard Haven. $95.

Friday, August 12:

High on the Hog: Vintners Reception and Dinner 7 pm, Beach Plum Inn, Chilmark. $145.

Saturday, August 13:

Corks & Forks Grand Tasting 1–5 pm, Sailing Camp Park, Oak Bluffs. Featuring Bravo’s Top Chef’testant Tiffani Faison; Food Network’s “Chopped” winner Marie-Claude Mendy, chef/owner of Teranga (Boston, Massachusetts); Chef Cynthia Haynes, Broadway Gourmet Catering; chef and culinary educator Cheryl Straughter. $75

Sunday, August 14:

Swallow This! 1–3 pm, The Boathouse, Edgartown. Author & wine expert Mark Phillips. $75.

Sunset Sippin’ on the Beach 6 pm–sunset, Home Port Restaurant, Chilmark. Lobster bake. $75.

Tickets are available at divasuncorked.com. An all-access ticket is $295 for the four-day event and tickets for individual events range from $75 to $95. Several events are already sold out and readers should check the website above for ticket availability.