Saturday, May 4th was the ninth annual Bending Branch Kentucky Derby Extravaganza in Comfort. Over the years this event has evolved as Dr. Bob and his wife Brenda were determined to have an event at their estate winery to celebrate their Kentucky roots. This lovely ticketed event of today is so full of fun and excitement. There is something for everyone who is a derby fan and enjoys celebrating this national pastime. This year’s event was held on a spectacularly lovely sunshiny day in spite of the crazy stormy skies that passed through the day before. It was a great day and perfect sky to get out into the Texas Hill Country to enjoy Texas wines with friends.
Bending Branch staff were ready as the VIP guests started checking in at 1:30 p.m. settling into their assigned seats at tables lovingly decorated with tablecloths, beautiful red rose garlands, and plates of assorted appetizers to enjoy with their mint juleps and favorite Bending Branch wines while visiting with friends and table mates.
The winery has created a special mint julep for the event crafted from their single barrel aged Picpoul Blanc that has enjoyed aging in genuine Kentucky bourbon barrels giving it a unique flavor profile. As such, these drinks are a little less intense than a traditional Mint Julep, yet incredibly refreshing and satisfying on a hot summer day. I loved this idea and the winery’s spin on the traditional derby drink in a unique Texas wine way!
Over 300 people were expected and by 2 p.m., the rest of the guests started arriving and the remaining seats and tables and grassy field area reserved for private tents quickly filled with eager party enthusiasts. Half of the fun was the people watching and checking out all of the fancy, creative and over the top party hats that individuals wore. The level of creativity was extraordinary, and some folks made sure they had multiple hats for each of the various hat competitions throughout the day!
A super-sized television was set up to display the races occurring through the afternoon. Vendors were also on hand with hand crafted jewelry and lovely hats that were both bold and beautiful. A photo booth featuring a lovely red rose background and props inspired many to pose for their souvenir shots, and a booth for unique Bending Branch items like their Debry T-shirts and their special pre-order for their upcoming new Rosé that will be released in about a month. It was stunning and a true delight to try as the weather changes to summer wine time.
The caterers for this year’s event were the Guerrilla Gourmet Team and they did a wonderful job showcasing some of the South’s best dishes with picnic friend chicken, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, a fresh vegetable salad, biscuits, ham, parker rolls, radish and salted butter, bourbon barbequed meatballs, and banana pudding. Bourbon truffles were available from Sweet Comfort. In addition to the mint juleps, there was a wide assortment of Bending Branch wines, water, and tea available.
Live jazz music was provided all afternoon by the Mike Kasberg Quartet, and throughout the day there were a variety of contests for spectators to participate in from fanciest hat contests, wine themed hat contests, and distinctive Derby hats. Guests were encouraged to vote for the winery staff member with the best hat and a chance to take their stab at picking the win, place, and show horses for the Derby race. Who knew though, that this year’s race would be one for the records due to the controversial decision to disqualify the presumed winner after issues were noted by judges during the race and the second-place horse would be awarded the prize. WOW! What a race for the history books!
If you have never attended this event, you should strongly consider getting tickets for the 10th Annual event next year. If you enjoy horse racing, cool hats, and every opportunity to show off your creativity and enjoyment wearing a cool hat, this is a party you should not miss. If you enjoy southern food and tradition, getting out and enjoying summer days in the Texas Hill Country and wine from one of Texas’ top fine wineries, you should plan to attend this event. After seeing the hat competition this year, I am already planning for next years’ hat competition and I know I will need to seriously up my game, but I look forward to having a lot of fun with it and seeing everyone again in May 2020!