Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Partners in Wine 

150 Gallons of Soup & 5,000 Chocolates


After appearing on Virginia calendars every February or March for the past 13 years, Richmonders probably know something about the Virginia Wine Expo.

But, what you might not know, and what might motivate you to attend or get involved, is one of the original goals for the event was raising money for a charitable beneficiary.

A short history: in 2008 Alex Papjohn approached the Virginia Wine Board (yes, there is a Virginia Wine Board) with the idea of holding a premier indoor wine and food event in the wintertime. The Board liked the idea and Alex, along with Tracey Leverty and Jessica Corbett teamed up for the first Expo.

Accomplishing its purpose, since its inception, the Virginia Wine Expo has raised over $100,000 for such organizations as Komen for the Cure, Feedmore, Richmond Performing Arts Association, and Autism Society Central Virginia. 

In 2020, the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation will join this list as the Expo's next charitable beneficiary, with proceeds supporting The Kitchens at Reynolds.

More short history: When Chef Jesse Miller came into the Reynolds culinary program in 2009, one of the first items on his “to do” list was a dinner with Business School Dean David Barrish and Alex Papajohn. “We discussed this event and our involvement, and it grew from there,” said Chef Jesse.

“Now, anywhere from ten to forty students volunteer per year; having exceeded a couple hundred student volunteers overall. They help with any, and everything, from food prep, to serving at the Reynolds booth, and setting up and cleaning up. The Expo is more than just a wine tasting, it’s an opportunity for attendees to learn.”

Yes, Expo attendees learn, but it’s the Reynolds culinary students who truly get an education.

“This is the perfect opportunity for students to learn about events and what it’s like to prepare for thousands,” says Chef Jesse, “this is difficult to do in the classroom, but the Expo is a great time to teach them to prepare 150 gallons of soup or 5,000 chocolates. This also gives them a chance to engage in offsite catering, which includes menu planning, purchasing, food prep, packing and loading, unpacking, setting up on site, meeting deadlines, all the while executing and assuring high quality food and safe handling. And of great importance to their future, it's a chance for the students to make connections with industry leaders at the event, many of whom have jobs to offer.” Whole Foods Market is among the industry employers and is providing a sponsorship of ingredients for Reynolds' culinary arts booth.

Fine wine. Amazing food. Education. What more could you want in a single event? How about the chance to volunteer in support of The Kitchens at Reynolds and its fabulous student chefs-to-be?

A portion of the proceeds from the 2020 event will go to the Foundation which will help fund projects such as scholarships, equipment, buildings and grounds, and curriculum enhancement. As the charitable beneficiary, the Foundation will recruit and manage hundreds of volunteers to help execute this event. You can help by volunteering! 

Volunteers will receive one complimentary walk-around pass to the Saturday Evening or Sunday Walk Around Grand Tasting (a $55 value) per shift completed. 

IF YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER, please e-mail Ms. Ariel Cole, Special Events Manager at Reynolds Community College, at events@reynolds.edu.

IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND, the Virginia Wine Expo runs from Tuesday, March 3 to Sunday, March 8, 2020. Tickets to individual events and ticket packages are on sale now at www.virginiawineexpo.com.

The Expo is a multi-day, immersive and educational craft beverage and culinary experience featuring more than 30 events. Enjoy an exceptional variety of brilliant wines, spirits, ciders and high-end craft beers (at the new Ultimate Brew Fest) with Virginia's vintners, distillers, cider-makers and craft brewers, including highly sought-after top-scoring bottlings. And, experience Richmond's vibrant and flourishing culinary scene, savor delicious cuisine from some of the region's hottest chefs and pitmasters at our signature dinners, lunches, brunches and larger culinary events. Among the ticketed events in a weekend full of activities is a sneak preview tour of The Kitchens at Reynolds.

The 2020 Virginia Wine Expo presented by Publix and is coordinated by Variant Events. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation is the charitable beneficiary of the event. Alex Papajohn is the Executive Director of Variant Events.