You may have heard some strange noises coming from the zoo last night—and it wasn’t amorous alligators or lustful lemurs. No, last night it was a crowd of dedicated conservationists, each doing her best to save the animals, one drink at a time. That’s right, at the Memphis Zoo’s 16th Annual Wild World of Wine and Beer, attendees could taste 48 wines from around the world, safe in the knowledge that 100% of the proceeds from the event would go toward conservation. In the words of one party-goer: “Drinking is my favorite way to help animals.”
When it comes to outdoor parties in Memphis, April can be dicey. But last night the zoo hit the jackpot. At 7 p.m., when the party got going, the sky was lit up with a gorgeous orange-and-pink sunset. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperature hovered in the low 70s—ideal weather for drinking, talking, and dancing.
The event featured beer from three local breweries: Memphis Made, Wiseacre, and High Cotton. But the main attraction was definitely the wine tasting, featuring 48 different wines from around the world. These were organized geographically, with eight tables representing regions like Oregon, Australia, and Argentina. When I spoke to nurse Jutta Siebert, she had just tried a Belle Ambiance Cabernet Sauvignon from California. “It’s very succulent,” she enthused “and not too sweet.”
There was also a silent auction, featuring abstract paintings by both human and animal artists. That’s right, they actually got the giraffes to paint! And sea lions and orangutans. But for my money, the real show-stealers were sublime plant arrangements made by Memphis Zoo horticulturalist Jill Maybry.
Memphis Zoo Conservation Director Andy Kouba said he expected to make between $40,000-$50,000 thousand dollars from the event. “Some of that money,” continued Kouba, “will actually help us reintroduce local endangered species into the wild—animals like the Mississippi Gopher Frog, the Trumpeter Swan, and the Louisiana Pine Snake.”
Live music was provided by the Kathryn Stallins Band, who performed covers of rock classics like “Proud Mary” and “Mustang Sally.” The crowd seemed shy at first, but as the evening wore on, perhaps swayed by the plight of the endangered animals, they lost their inhibitions. The dance floor was crowded and lively until the band stopped playing, at 10 p.m.