By Donna Cornelius
Sponsoring a wine and craft beer event is a natural tie-in for the owners of some Birmingham-area Piggly Wiggly stores.
The Virciglio and Ajlouny families, which own multiple Piggly Wigglys, take pride in their stores’ weekly wine tastings and extensive selections of the two beverages.
But the second annual Piggly Wiggly Wine and Craft Beer Showcase isn’t a business promotion. For Andy Virciglio, who owns the Homewood Piggly Wiggly and is partners with the Ajlounys in the River Run and soon-to-open Crestline stores, the event has a much more important purpose.
“This is for a cause that’s close to our hearts – literally,” Virciglio said.
The showcase, set for Oct. 22, benefits The Daniel Project, created last year to raise awareness about a heart condition that can have sudden and tragic results. The project was started by the parents and brother of Daniel Ajlouny, who unexpectedly passed away eight years ago from undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart.
Virciglio said he and his family and the Ajlounys – Daniel’s parents, Basim and Pamela, and his brother, Chase – are close friends and part of the Piggly Wiggly “family.” The Ajlounys own nine Piggly Wigglys, including the stores in Bluff Park and on Clairmont Avenue.
The Daniel Project also is part of another organization with a similar mission. The Paul Meyers Foundation was started when two Meyers family members, father Greg and son Paul, died from the same condition that took Daniel Ajlouny’s life.
“The Paul Meyers Foundation helped us get off the ground,” Virciglio said. “The Daniel Project is under its umbrella.”
When Virciglio first talked with members of the Meyers family, “I felt like I was talking to Pam and Basim,” he said. “These are two families that have come together with the same mission, the same goal – to help test to detect enlarged hearts in people when they’re at an early age.”
The goal for this year’s showcase is to raise money to buy at least one portable echocardiogram machine to help detect the condition. Early detection of HCM is crucial, since the most common symptom, unfortunately, is sudden death. HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in those under age 40 and the leading cause of cardiac death among athletes.
Once a machine is purchased, the next step is to find a school that will allow the machine to be used to test students.
The Wine and Craft Beer Showcase is a way for people to support this cause and learn more about HCM – and it’s an evening of good food and drinks, too, Virciglio said.
Guests can taste more than 150 wines and get special pricing on their favorites through Nov. 21. A craft beer garden will include about 20 breweries not only from the Birmingham area, but from all over the Southeast.
There will be plenty to eat, too. Alabama Gulf Seafood will have raw oysters, shrimp wrapped in Conecuh bacon, gumbo with shrimp, and Conecuh sausage. Certified Angus Beef is bringing its New York strip steaks and sliders.
Other foods include smoked turkey breast from Bates House of Turkey, locally made D’Agostino sausage, Full Moon Bar-B-Que’s pork and chicken with Full Moon sauces and chow-chow plus chicken wings, and Fire Truck BBQ’s beef brisket, pork and ribs.
Also on the menu are assorted casseroles from Dirt Road Gourmet, a variety of raviolis from Bare Naked Noodles, Belle Chevre goat cheese, G Momma’s Cookies, desserts from Christina Duval at Bake My Day, and Merry Cheese Crisps and Merry Mac Shortbread.
“We try to focus on local and regional products,” Virciglio said.
The Piggly Wiggly Wine and Craft Beer Showcase will be 5:30-8:30 p.m. at a private club in Vestavia Hills. For more information, visit www.paulmeyersfoundation.com or the organization’s Facebook page.