Merlot, please: Over 260 come out for Bristol Hospital’s Festival of Wine and Spirits

merlot please over 260 come out for bristol hospitals festival of wine and spirits - Merlot, please: Over 260 come out for Bristol Hospital's Festival of Wine and Spirits

BRISTOL – Around 270 people attended Bristol Hospital Development Foundation’s annual Festival of Wine and Spirits Saturday.

They sampled over 250 wines, beers and spirits, ate from food stations serving up burger sliders, stir fry and tacos, and listened to music as they wandered through the banquet room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

“The hope is for all of our guests to enjoy the wine, spirits and amazing food, all while helping an amazing cause,” said Mary Lynn Gagnon, director of the development foundation and coordinator of the event.

A mix of hospital employees, physicians and community leaders attended.

And, of course, wine lovers.

“People who truly believe in Bristol Hospital and people who truly love wine” are here tonight, said Gagnon.

“There’s been great support from the community,” said John Walker, chair of the event and a retired physician with Radiologic Associates, the premier sponsor. “It’s a great event.”

The festival started over 20 years ago at the Farmington Country Club and slowly grew, Walker said.

“Now we have one of the largest wine tasting events in Connecticut,” he added.

“I love this event because it raises money to help sustain our community hospital and brings people together in anticipation of the new medical building opening downtown, which everyone is talking about tonight,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.

Money raised at the wine festival will go toward renovating the hospital’s Emergency Center. The renovation project costs more than $10 million and will add more space, equipment and a 10-bed behavioral health unit to the center.

“This event really supports the ER development and brings it into the state that people expect,” said CEO Kurt Barwis. People come into an ER with anxiety and not feeling well. “We can create an environment that eases that – so this is a homerun for us.”

It was a homerun for the guests as well.

“We’ve been to this event since its inception and it’s always been a great event,” said Phyllis Rizy, business coach for YardeZone. “It’s great to support Bristol Hospital and its endeavors.”

“We love to support worthwhile charities,” said Carmen Romeo, president of Fascia’s Chocolates, who supplied some of the desserts for the night.

“It’s a great event for a great cause,” said Stephen Post, system director of supply chain at Bristol Hospital. He just joined the hospital in January and was attending the festival for the first time. “I’m happy to support a hospital that supports the community.”

After sampling the many wines, beers and spirits, people had the option of ordering some from Maple End Package Store to take home.

Marvin Friedman, owner of the store, has been working on the event since it started.

“This has been a culmination of literally the entire year,” Friedman said. Wine, liquor and beer distributors call him asking to participate and he arranges it. Sometimes one distributor will have several stations, all manned by expert salespeople.

“These are the people who are knowledgeable about the product. They can answer questions,” Friedman said.

Friedman added that the festival is a premier event.

“Where can you find over 200 wines, liquors and beers in one evening?” he asked. “And it’s right here in your backyard.”

Friedman said his store will get between 70 and 100 orders from the night.

Bristol Hospital hosts three major fundraiser events throughout the year. The Festival of Wine and Spirits is the first, followed by the golf tournament in June and the gala in November. Last year’s wine festival raised $50,000 between the ticket sales, wine orders and the silent auction.

The date is already set for next year’s festival. It’s on March 14 and tickets are on sale now.

Michelle Jalbert can be reached at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 24 March 2019 20:47. Updated: Sunday, 24 March 2019 20:49.

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