Wineries Make Bigger Impression on Smaller Crowd
Although more people attended the first two wine festivals cosponsored by Black Walnut American Legion Post 510, those who took part in the revamped June 18 event, which was sponsored solely by the Legionnaires, had many positive things to say about the event, most notably that their interactions with winery representatives and other vendors felt more intimate.
“They’re all very friendly. They make it fun,” said Carly Dibble of Meshoppen. She and co-taster Amanda Miner of Meshoppen agreed that the selections that were available for sampling and purchasing at last Saturday’s Winefest were “excellent.” Like several of the other returning patrons who were interviewed, Dibble and Miner came to a realization that standing-room only wine festivals may serve as memorable social events, but being able to have longer conversations with winery personnel enhanced their experience and helped them to make more informed decisions about wine purchases.
Legion member and Winefest coordinator Larry Overfield suggested that the coincidence of later-than-normal graduation parties and other June events might have affected the attendance level, as compared to last year’s event, which was held in July. Nonetheless, he was happy with the number of vendors and related that they, in turn, were reporting steady sales to him throughout the day.
Nathan Hicks of Antler Ridge Winery of Rome noted that the company’s mainstay, Red Vixen, was selling well, while the winery’s version of Niagara—a semi-sweet white wine—was running a close second.
Ruthie Leichliter, co-owner of Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery of Laceyville, could be heard explaining some of the techniques used in the distilling of the fruit-flavored wines they offered at the festival, which included the essence of honeydew melon and pomegranates, among other unique fruits. She was reticent, however, to give away any “blender’s secrets.” She described Hidden Creek’s fare as “summer party wines” and agreed that she too enjoyed the relaxed pace of the event.
“Our customers look for us because we’re local, and we enjoy connecting with them,” Leichliter stated.
Overfield explained that Post 510 members decided to conduct the event without a professional winery association with whom they had worked for the two previous years and also moved the date in hopes that it might be a bit cooler than the previous year’s high of 96 degrees, which it was. While the service organization would like to increase the number of patrons next year and may opt to return the event to July, Overfield was satisfied with the way in which Winefest was conducted.
Nobody should have gone hungry, as a wide variety of food was available for purchase. And, in addition to wineries, vendors of additional items as diverse as cheese, antiques, and chain-sawed woodcarvings caught the attention of patrons, as did live performances by Bob Strunk and Mike Lambert of the guitar duo High Falls, who played a mix of southern and folk rock classics.
“It was great music for a wine festival,” Overfield said of the rockers’ repertoire. Lambert noted that the duo’s next wine festival gig will be in Hamlin in July.