Following the tradition of my father and grandfather, I embarked on an effort of wine making of my own. That was approximately 15 years ago. Because of the closeness of South Philadelphia, oftentimes my patients would hear that I also was involved with wine making and they would offer, proudly, their wine, and many times it was offered with the statement, “You must try my wine – I make the best." This pride in workmanship, especially something that requires so much tender loving care as wine making, was clearly exhibited amongst Italians, striving to be “the best.” It was almost a bit of tongue-in-cheek that I thought it would be interesting to create a contest among homemade winemakers, to bestow the crown of “Best Homemade Winemaker” and thus the birth of our local Vendemmia.
The first year’s contest was held in 1997 in the courtyard of Saint Agnes Medical Center. At that time, approximately 330 people attended the festival and there were 25 winemakers who entered the competition and a crown was bestowed. The event was so popular, it was felt that this small area of St. Agnes Courtyard would not be able to accommodate future years of festivals. In 1998, we moved the festival to Girard Park. Since that time, the number of the people attending, the number of winemakers and the number of vendors, have grown exponentially. On last year's 10th Anniversary of the event, we had approximately 6000 guests. It has been an event that has involved people from all walks of life, from Senators to laborers and has been instrumental in raising funds for the Vendemmia Foundation, a newly created non-profit foundation that provides academic scholarships to our children from South Philadelphia.
The festival will be held this year on Sunday, September 28, 2008. We hope to share this event with all of you for many years to come.
Gerard V. Vernose, MD