OCEAN SPRINGS -- Guests were dressed to the nines and getting all wound up at the Mary C. Winter Wine Down on Saturday night at the Gulf Hills Hotel.
The Wine Down was the first in a seasonal series of wine-tasting competitions for the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education.
Teams of four wine lovers brought four bottles of the same label of pinot noir. Two bottles were brown-bagged and entered into the competition and two were saved for the prize pot. Each team sampled all the entries and voted on a favorite. The team members who had brought the top pick received every single bottle in the prize pot.
"I was amazed at the diversity of wines," said Tara Skelton, Mary C. board member and event organizer. "We only had two teams bring the same kind of wine. We have 25 different wines here. People really put a lot of thought into this. People drove to New Orleans and Mobile to get something unique."
Guests enjoyed an elegant atmosphere with smooth jazz music by New Orleans band TJB, culinary delights from Mary C. Chef Danielle Rodriguez and wine discussions with local wine specialists.
Skelton said despite competition from Top of the Hops and a couple of Mardi Gras balls, event turnout was good.
"We wanted the room to be full, and it is. We want it to become a seasonal thing," she said. "I know that it's going to get bigger and bigger."
Skelton said the community always rallies behind the Mary C.
"I think the Mary C. is something that is unique. It offers so many different opportunities to learn and experience art," Skelton said. "We have one of art teachers, Carmen Lugo, here, and she's got some of her art here and people have the opportunity to meet her."
The event is held in partnership with Gulf Hills, which is a big sponsor of the arts center. The venue presented the Mary C. with a $10,000 sponsorship check Saturday night.
Skelton said to stay tuned for future wine-tasting competitions.
"In the summer, we might do a white wine and we're talking having a 'holiday bubble-down,' where we do champagne," she said. "We felt like if we could get a good turnout the first time, then that would be half the battle. It's going to be so much fun that people are going to talk about it and there's going to be a lot of buzz, and the next time I think the tickets will sell themselves."