On Friday, Greenspaces in SoHo played host to the Drink Well Do Good Tour – an African Food and wine exhibition, benefiting the International Society of Africans in Wine (ISAW). A charming, low-key little party, the friendly vibe was relaxed and welcoming, as the small gathering of people enjoyed food, drink and each others company.
Not having much previous exposure to specifically South African wine and cuisine, I arrived curious and was pleasantly surprised by the tame, but tasty spread put together by local South African restaurants, Madiba and Xai Xai, as well as Chef Nadine Nelson of the Boston based Epicurean Studios. The well-spiced dips and a couple of vegetable stews had the appeal of something home-cooked, which complimented the unpretentious atmosphere of the Drink Well crowd.
Further compliments, two white and two red wines and a delicious rose were available, from Seven Sisters and One World Vineyards, as well as Stellakaya and the M’hudi wineries. ISAW focuses on development with black-owned and socially progressive vineyards in Africa, such as Seven Sisters and M’hudi, working to support the socioeconomic development of African farmers and communities.
Friday’s Drink Well event in New York was only one stop on an international tour, focusing on bringing awareness to their cause and building a network of international support. This was the 29th day of their tour, and yet, the founders, coordinators and vineyard farmers were still as fresh and excited about their cause, and their presence in NYC, as though they were just starting out.
I had the pleasure of talking with the featured keynote speaker, Ntsiki Biyela of Stellekaya Vineyard, the only vineyard to be owned by a black woman. Soft-spoken, but with a sparkling sense of humor and an easy-going smile, she touched only briefly on coming into the business of wine in her early 20’s. She quickly interrupted herself, laughing teasingly, saying she’ll talk all about it in her speech– wanting to chat more about the sights in New York and the nice weather. (Watch a CNN video about Ntsiki at http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/03/17/south.africa.female.winemaker/index.html).
The night wound down with chocolate and African coffee, which was served in unique, and sustainably produced, individual disposable french press coffee cups (see photo). It seems like the Drink Well tour is having a good first run and getting some much needed attention for the ISAW organization. I will be looking forward to the next time they’re in town, and will definitely keep my eye out for ISAW vineyard bottles in my local liquor stores. As everyone knows, I am always a fan of enjoying a good drink for a good cause.
– Ava Fedorov