The Highlandtown Wine Festival has come a long way since its spontaneous beginning 11 years ago, a small courtyard celebration between friends and family.
According to Joe DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale’s Italian Marketplace, the event started when he was seen delivering grapes by New York transplant Dan Schiavone.
“It was to people’s homes where they made wine,” explained DiPasquale. “The smell was in the air all around.”
According to DiPasquale, Schiavone’s reaction was: “You guys have to do something to celebrate this.”
So they did. The first year, about 50 people, mostly family, attended a celebration in the Claremont St. courtyard.
“We said, ‘That was nice; let’s do it again,’” said DiPasquale, adding that himself, Schiavone and Don Arnold, former president of the Highlandtown Community Association, were the principal organizers of the early festivals.
The next year, the crowd doubled, and so on every year until last Sunday’s festival, which–aided by sunny weather–drew wine enthusiasts from across Baltimore and beyond.
The festival is both a competition between local winemakers and a celebration of the neighborhood.
“It’s just a great spring day for everyone to come out,” said Brian Sweeney, current president of the HCA. “It’s an opportunity for us to promote the neighborhood to people from outside the neighborhood.”
Millicent Hoffman, who organized the vendors for the event, needed only a brief comment to sum up last Sunday:
“Great time, love it, good crowd,” she said.
by Erik Zygmont