Date ArticleType
1/2/2017 Member News
The Stuart Society Presents World-Class Wine Weekend St. Pete 2017: Wine & Chocol’art To Support The Museum Of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg


MEDIA CONTACT: David Connelly,  or 727.896.2667, ext. 224

St. Petersburg, Fla.—Wine, chocolate, and art are a supreme combination. Some of the world’s top wines will flow and will be auctioned during Wine Weekend St. Pete 2017: Wine & Chocol’Art, presented by The Margaret Acheson Stuart Society. Three stellar events will highlight this celebration in February, benefiting the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

Two dinners, paired with wines of excellence, will be created by three superstar chefs. Beth and John England are the overall chairs, and Dr. Dimity Carlson is President of The Stuart Society. To purchase tickets, please go to To become a sponsor, contact Mrs. England,

A Coastal Chic Party kicks off this extravaganza on Friday, February 10, from 7:30-11 p.m. at the MFA. Participants can savor Florida favorites, craft beer, wine, and decadent chocolate. The Mad Beach Band will provide the music. Individual tickets are $99; dressy casual resort wear is suggested.

Paint the Town Red, White & Chocolate follows on

Saturday, February 11, from 6:30-

11 p.m.

at the MFA. Individual tickets are $300; cocktail attire is recommended.

Tyson Grant, Executive Chef of the Parkshore Grill, will prepare the dinner and select the wines. He has been named Tampa Bay Magazine’s Best Chef of Tampa Bay three times. Parkshore has also received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for six years and Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon Award.

Chef Grant is known for his generous involvement with area nonprofits. Along with his wife Sommer, he created Zoe’s Edible Garden at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in memory of their daughter. He is Chef Ambassador to Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin’s "Healthy St. Pete" project, using the Garden as an educational resource for children.

There will be live and silent auctions, and the TomKats Jazz Orchestra will add to the ambience. Among the stellar auction items are: a 10-day cruise to any place in the world offered by Holland America, a one-week stay at Vermont’s legendary Stowe Mountain Lodge in a three-bedroom suite sleeping six, and a one-week vacation at a Casita at Pebble Beach, California.

Another unique lot centers on four tickets to Ruth Eckerd Hall’s Friends of Music Member Appreciation Concert with country icon Toby Keith at an undisclosed private location. That comes with two guest rooms at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater and luxury transportation to and from the show. The lucky winner will enjoy a private concert, gourmet food, specialty drinks, and luxurious preshow and after parties with dancing all night long.

The 1000 Points of Wine Gourmet Dinner on Saturday, February 18, from 7-11 p.m. is the pièce de résistance and will be held at the Rolls Royce Tampa Bay Showroom, 3255 Gandy Boulevard in Pinellas Park. The luxury dealership is part of the Dimmitt Automotive Group. Individual tickets are $1,800. Seating is limited. A combined ticket for this and the previous Saturday dinner/auction is available for $2,000 each. Dress to impress is the suggested attire.

Five incredible courses will be curated by gifted chefs David Varley and Jeffrey Hileman of the San Francisco-based Mina Group. They will be paired with 10 wines, which have all received the highest rating—100—from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

TIME has described Mr. Parker as "the man with the paragon palate…for countless wine lovers, Robert Parker’s tastes are infallible." The Los Angeles Times has called him "the most influential wine writer in the world today," and Jacques Chirac, the former Prime Minister and President of France, has praised him as "the most followed and influential critic of French wines in the entire world." The Wine Advocate, which he founded, is the bible of fine wine.

The dinner will be an unforgettable five-star experience. Both David Varley and Jeffrey Hileman are leading lights of the powerhouse Mina Group, founded by celebrity chef Michael Mina and based in San Francisco. The Mina Group has 27 top restaurants across the country and abroad, including FarmTable Kitchen and Locale Market in St. Petersburg. Michael Mina and the Mina Group have been honored repeatedly by the James Beard Foundation, which honors the very best in the world of cuisine.

David Varley is Director of Culinary Operations for the entire Mina Group. He holds his degree from the Culinary Institute of America and has been a chef at some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants.

While Executive Chef at Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C., he earned high praise for the restaurant, also part of the Mina Group. Forbes named it the Best New Restaurant in the Country in 2010 and DC Luxury Magazine cited it as Restaurant of the Year in 2009. Previously, in Las Vegas, he garnered awards as Chef de Cuisine for Bradley Ogden within Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino and at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. He continued his illustrious career at RN74 in Seattle, before being promoted to his current position.

Jeffrey Hileman collaborated at Bourbon Steak with David Varley and has secured a wealth of admirers as Executive Chef at FarmTable Kitchen and Locale Market. That venue has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wine Spectator, among other national and local publications. He received his degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University with a 4.0 average and his BA in humanities and music history from Florida State University.

He has also served as the Sous Chef at the storied Seasons Restaurant at Four Seasons Georgetown, where he catered events for some of the biggest names in politics and entertainment. In addition, he has been Executive Chef at The Handle Bar, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, again part of the Mina Group.

Wine Weekend St. Pete 2017: Wine & Chocol’Art is a great event for a great cause. The area’s premier wine extravaganza continues to expand its reach and audience, thanks to The Stuart Society’s creativity and commitment. For more information, please visit


Founded three years before the MFA opened to the public in 1965, The Stuart Society is named in honor of Museum founder Margaret Acheson Stuart (1896-1980). Over the years, this impressive service organization has raised substantial funds for art acquisitions, exhibitions, educational programs, building renovations and additions, operations, and publications. Members have donated countless volunteer hours to the MFA.

The Stuart Society was a Lead Sponsor for the construction of the Hazel Hough Wing, which opened to the public in March 2008. The Society initiated Art in Bloom at the MFA, as well as the Wine Auction and Wine Weekend St. Pete. The organization’s importance to the MFA and the community is recognized by a gallery named in its honor. Dr. Dimity Carlson is the current President and in that role, serves on the Museum’s Board of Trustees. For more information, please go to




The MFA at 255 Beach Drive N.E. has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Morisot, Rodin, O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and many other great artists. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. Selections from the photography collection, one of the largest and finest in the Southeast, are now on view in a gallery dedicated to the medium. Kristen A. Shepherd is the new Executive Director.

Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursday. Regular admission is $17 for adults, $15 for those 65 and older, and $10 for students seven and older, including college students with current I.D. Children under seven and Museum members are admitted free. Groups of 10 or more adults pay only $12 per person and children $4 each with prior reservations. The MFA Café is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. For more information, please call 727.896.2667 or visit