Elkin Municipal Park was filled to capacity with wineries, wine and food tasters, music lovers, and plenty of local goods for sale on Saturday during the 13th annual Yadkin Valley Wine Festival.
Organizers said it was the biggest festival ever with 8,000 to 10,000 festival goers in attendance. Since its inception, the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival has grown from eight to 29 wineries, said organizers.
Time and again on Saturday festival goers said the growth of the festival is exciting to them, and locals and out-of-towners alike said it is becoming a planned favorite activity every year.
In particular, the ability to experiment with tasting so many varieties and blends found in the Yadkin Valley area is appealing. One patron claimed, “I am loving every minute of it.”
A popular wine yolk glass holder adorned the neck of veteran wine festival goers and beginners alike as they made their rounds with diligence to fit in the possibility of tasting a total of 29 Yadkin Valley wineries during the wine festival adventure. Seasoned veteran festival goers called the yolks convenient and make for a safe day of intense wine tasting.
Festival veterans remarked with excitement on the creativity of winemakers found in the Yadkin Valley, a fact that keeps them buying and returning, they said.
Karen Haugland made her first visit to this year’s wine festival from Georgia and was enjoying it with local director of Foothills Art Council, Leighanne Wright, and Wright’s sister, Leslie Guerin, also in from Atlanta.
Haugland said, “I was amazed at how it reminds me of an art fest having pottery and jewelry. It is neatly spread out and nice that we are able to buy the bottles.” Haugland said she enjoyed dry wines and would be looking to find the top dry in red and white during the festival. Haugland and friends said some of their favorite wineries were Elkin Creek, Carolina Heritage and Slightly Askew.
Savoring the tried and true Yadkin Valley traditional favorites was a must but many remained on a mission to uncover any hidden gems until 5 p.m., the exact closing time of the festival.
2010 from Surry Cellars proved to be one of the many hidden gems with seasoned professional Rich Carey of Charleston, South Carolina, and Bob Akagigilio of Raleigh. Some claimed the Tannat from Herrera as the hearty wine gem. Others said Scarlett Mountain from Laurel Gray is a must.
Raffaldini Reds and Old North State Restless Soul red and white Riesling with only natural sugar remained other consistent favorites throughout the tasting. Sweet Mountain Bliss from Weathervane remains a steady favorite.
Vivace Chardonnay by the less than one-month-old winery Adagio was a festival hit for several white wine drinkers. Divine Llama and Slightly Askew selections were the favorites of several in the younger crowd and in particular women.
A doctor attending the festival declared his favorite as a Spanish gem found in the Yadkin Valley made by JonesVon Drehle called Tempranillo.
“It is Spain in Yadkin County, and my favorite wine,” said the Clemmons resident.
Anthony Parigi of Parigi’s Event Transportation declared Rooster Black by Weathervane, friends and music by Carolina Soul as a festival must.
Junius Lindsay offered a chilled red, entitled Metro Red, some festival goers called “the most interesting” and good for summer drinking.
Mark and Pat Newman from Winston-Salem said this was their second trip to the festival and got in on the early sales of the Cabernet Franc from Shelton Vineyards, one of their all time favorites, they said.
LaTasha Kennedy from Pilot Mountain said early in the day that she would be sticking with the Blue Ridge Reds because of a nice crisp finish hard to find in reds and perfect for summer.
Other red tried and true from locals were recommended from Grassy Creek and Chatham Hill wineries. Blends from RagApple Lassie were so good, with several calling them guzzlers, as were Hanover reds.
RayLen remained a traditional local favorite among many.
Donna Carlyle Hutchins of Cellar 4201 said wine tasters were more savvy than ever, an important fact for winemakers to consider.
4201’s release of Warrior proved to be a big hit after many festival goers declared it a festival favorite and came back for more, but it was sold out.
“We should have brought three more cases,” said staff at 4201. She said others enjoyed the Rose Frizzate for a nice surprise finish at 4201 and the Sangiovese.
Many of the wineries reported cases of traditional wine-goer favorites had sold out before the end of the day. New patrons now loyal to Yadkin Valley circled around to find any left they may have missed before the day ended, and it paid off.
Dark Shadow from Shadow Springs and Windsor Run is a smooth red with with hints of dark chocolate that kept wine enthusiast returning time and again to the winery still full of tasters just before closing. Those who love Sangria also found a home at the winery as they tasted the version made from 12.5 percent Cabernet Franc, said owner Chuck Johnson.
Brooke Hathaway said for sure her festival gem is Dark Shadow by Shadow Springs and Windsor Run. “My heavenly day,” said Hathaway.
Four patrons came from Fayetteville — Risa Garland, Glenn Davis, Micheal Greene and Kim Albermarle — to savor and learn more about Yadkin Valley wines and cited some early favorite wines as being reds from Chatham Hill and Grassy Creek. They said they were on the search for semi-sweet wines during the festival and found them at Blue Ridge Winery.
Jam’n Tees T-shirts dotted the park with a slogan of peace, love and wine fitting the mood of some souvenir vendors with the traditional screen-printed emblem Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, Elkin NC making their way into patrons’ bags all day long and were popular in especially the colors pink and blue. Other items included local made candles, pottery and a large array of hats that proved popular among many who stopped to try them.
Kim Swaim said early in the day, her favorite remains the sweet wine from the Weathervane called Tropical Breeze because it tastes good and reminds her of the beach. She added it also would be tough for her to get a better red than the one she found at Herrera last year. “It makes me want to eat a steak,” said Swaim smiling.
Garey Maxey, the annual Yadkin Valley Wine Festival Bacchus, said it was great to see the festival reaching full potential in the number of visitors and wineries. He said the variety of wine is real and change takes time for maturity. He said the local winemakers in continuing to experiment since its founding now have world-class wine from the Yadkin Valley region and the clientele is buying and appreciating it.
“If you cannot find 10 or 12 wines here that you absolutely do not love, then you do not like wine,” said Bacchus of the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival.
Wine labels apparently are important to patrons in addition to taste. Rebecca Rolfsmeyer attending her second festival with her husband, Jason, said Native Vines have the most beautiful labels and she called Blackberry Vine her favorite.
Patron after patron declared a favorite bottle from each winery throughout the festival and often enjoyed it with chairs or makeshift picnic set-ups on the lawn in front of the music stage. Some enjoyed cigars and donned Mardi Gras beads while Blues DeVille and Carolina Soul belted out blues, rock, beach and soul with wine favorites in hand.
Adult and youth dancers packed the stage as a warm breeze blew through the Yadkin Valley on a beautiful sunny day in the park. Food like Polish kielbasa, hot dogs, hamburgers, kettle corn, ribs, Caribbean and jerk spiced chicken on a stick, and large blue crab cake sandwiches were but a few of the food items for satisfied customers.
Festival goers left saying what a great day they had experienced and that they’d be back next year.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.