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Wednesday Wine Walks in South Bend

Courtney Cox | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sick of settling for Franzia and its bottled cousin, two-buck Chuck? Wednesday Wine Walks in Downtown South Bend might be just what you were looking for.

Tonight from 5 to 10 p.m. you can take a leisurely stroll through downtown South Bend as you eat small dishes of food and sip casually on wine pairings chosen specially for each plate.

The eight participating restaurants are Café Navarre, East Bank Emporium, LaSalle Grill, South Bend Chocolate Café, Tippecanoe Place Restaurant, Trio’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, the Vine and Sunny Italy Café. Each restaurant offers three different dishes and three different wines to go along with those dishes.

This is the fourth Wednesday Wine Walk that has been put on by the Downtown Dining Alliance as a supplement to the other events put on by the alliance.

“It started out in March of 2011 with creating downtown Restaurant Week,” said Mark McDonnell, founder of the Downtown Dining Alliance. “We modeled it on various cities we found searching on the Internet.”

McDonnell said another town in Indiana inspired the group.

“We saw that Valparaiso had something like this and we thought if little Valparaiso can do this, we should be doing something like this,” McDonnell said.

The problem for the Downtown Dining Alliance was maintaining interest between the two downtown Restaurant Weeks they offer each year. The Wine Walks were started to occupy foodies in the downtime. The first walk in June drew about 120 people, according to McDonnell, and it grew to include about 300 people in August.

McDonnell said the event draws a wide demographic of people, but they tend to be great events for couples or groups of couples. He also said that it’s perfect for a girl’s night out and many women have gotten together groups of friends for the event.

The Wine Walks are a way to raise money for the Downtown Dining Alliance as well as for other charities. This Wednesday’s walk will donate 25 percent of proceeds to Reins of Life Inc., a therapeutic horseback-riding center in Michigan City, Ind. The rest of the profits go toward promotion and the expenses of the event.

One of the features of Wine Walks is a free carriage ride for participants of the event. The carriage rides are paid for by the Downtown Dining Alliance and provided by Dream Coach Carriages.

The goal of events like these is to showcase the downtown area, McDonnell said.

“We make no money on it, we do it as a group to highlight Downtown South Bend and the unique features we have, one of which is walkability,” said McDonnell.

Participants can begin at any participating restaurant and purchase a wristband for $40 that will allow them access to each restaurant and the three wine pairings they have available. From there, it’s an easy walk to the rest of the participating locations. The $40 also includes a special tasting glass etched with the “Eat, Drink, South Bend” logo that can be kept as a souvenir.

The food offerings are enough to make any foodie jealous, including spicy shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and Wagyu beef sliders.
The South Bend Chocolate Café will offer a desert sampling for participants to serve as a perfect ending to the night.

While wine tastings can sometimes be an intimidating event for beginners, Wednesday Wine Walks are the perfect way to elevate your palate and experience a night of drinking, eating and enjoying eight of the best restaurants in South Bend.