Sitting under the stars, sipping bourbon while munching on fresh s’mores sounds like a perfect evening and, luckily, the Wolf Trap Foundation made such a night possible on Saturday, November 20. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’s philanthropic arm hosted “Bourbon & Bubbles,” an indoor/outdoor celebration of fall featuring delicious barbecue, sparkling wines from Virginia and France, a host of bourbons from near and far and gourmet desserts.
It wasn’t just delicious food that drew guests — this was also one of Wolf Trap’s annual fundraisers, with proceeds supporting Wolf Trap Foundation’s arts and education programs. Concertgoers might be familiar with Wolf Trap as a space for top-notch live music and arts, but some may not be aware of the various programs the Wolf Trap Foundation sponsors in the DMV area, throughout Virginia and across the country. These include children’s theatre, internships, or residencies with Wolf Trap Opera, with 90% of the education programs supporting students of diverse social and economic backgrounds.
Bourbon & Bubbles took place at the Pavilions, a north-and-south pair of brand-new covered event spaces, just a stone’s throw from the Filene Center. Spread across an outdoor patio and two grand wooden canopies made of stout Douglas Fir, the structures and paths remind me a bit of a five-star summer camp — string lights adorning railings and pillars; wide timbers holding up the pavilion’s soaring cathedral ceilings; and multicolored lights throwing colored accents on the trees, walking paths and awnings.
At the South Pavilion, warmly-swaddled luminaries dressed in their “ski chalet chic” finest — knit hats, pompoms, chunky sweaters, Russian ushankas and puffy jackets — devoured pulled pork, roast chicken, smoky collard greens, corn bread, and salad at communal tables under the basking warmth of glowing space heaters. In the North Pavilion, seven different sparkling wines — including Virginia offerings like Rosemont and Early Mountain — were served with expert guidance from winemakers. From cool, crisp wines made in the traditional “Méthode Champenoise” to funky and yeasty rosés, there were bubbles for any taste. Nestled between the two pavilions sat a wide patio, where guests made gourmet s’mores over gas fire pits to the whimsy music of a three-piece folk band. Tea, apple cider donuts and hot cider were just steps away.
To accompany our comfort food were a half-dozen bourbons and whiskey stations within easy reach of the buffet. A few of the mass-produced macro brands made an appearance, recognizable as staples in any bar, but some smaller-batch whiskies also made an appearance — of particular note was Catoctin Creek Distillery out of Purcellville, with head distiller Becky on hand to serve their delicious Roundstone Rye; Smooth Ambler Distillery brought both their “Contradiction” and “Old Stout” (the only overproof offering of the night); and the folks from Uncle Nearest poured their 1884 whiskey, famous for being one of the only Black-owned heritage whiskey brands (the brand’s namesake, Nathan “Nearest” Green, was the first Black master distiller who taught a young Jack Daniel how to make whiskey.). 1884 is made now by Green’s descendent,Victoria Eady Buttler. Smooth as silk, complex, and pleasingly soft, the 1884 was my favorite offering of the night and I may have had seconds.
It’s always nice to enjoy delicious food and drink under the stars, basking in the warmth of space heaters, but the cool and clear weather made it perfect to sit under the full moon, sipping autumnal treats — all while supporting a good cause.