May 25, 2011 09:10

Tale of Two Wine Festivals

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(illustration by Jordan Grace Owens)

The summer wine festival season approaches as the 11th Annual North Carolina Wine Festival at Tanglewood Park and Salute! The North Carolina Wine Festival prepare to take over Winston-Salem over conescutive weekends.

Even though the two festivals have coexisted for the last six years, the history that led to the formation of Salute! has yet to be forgotten.

“They wanted to take over the festival….

They wanted the profit,” says Tom Hamilton, general manager of WSJS 600 AM and festival director for the NC Wine Festival.

According to Hamilton, a group of winery owners and representatives from Yadkin Valley, one of three federally granted American Viticultural Areas in the state, that wanted to take over the NC Wine Festival. When the proposition was dismissed, Salute! The North Carolina Wine Celebration was birthed.

It should come at no surprise that comparisons have been drawn between the two festivals since Salute’s! inception Director of Marketing & Operations for the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership and Event Director for Salute! Justin Gomez made another distinction: “It’s apples and oranges….

We focus a lot on the education of NC wine.”

“Our event is a different event,” says Julie McMinn Shoaf, promotions and marketing director for WSJS and WZTK (101.1 FM) and the NC Wine Festival’s operations manager. “[It’s] a more summertime feel.”

Regardless of the dispute that may have sparked the competition between these two festivals, there’s no doubt that both are committed to providing Winston-Salem and guests from all over with the best wines NC has to offer.

The NC Wine Festival goes first in the lineup and will be held on May 28. This single-day festival, known as the largest in the state, will have 39 NC wineries and vineyards represented to talk about, serve and sell wine to festival goers. Of those 39, four new wineries are joining the festivities: Slightly Askew Winery in Elkin, Starrlight Mead of Pittsboro, Daveste’ Vineyards in Troutman and Salisbury’s Cauble Creek Vineyard.

“It’s the kickoff of the summer… one nice outdoor party,” Hamilton says.

Hamilton remarks on ironing out details of the first few years of festival operation.

“We used to change a handful of things,” Hamilton says,“[until] we found a formula that worked.”

That formula has allowed the festival to provide guests with a large wine selection, a variety of foods, and “music to get the wine aficionados up,” Hamilton says.

Musical entertainment will include the Band of Oz, the Plaids and Chairmen of the Board, a Carolina beach music band, who will perform a special tribute to their late member General Norman Johnsonm who passed away in October of last year.

In addition to the newly participating wineries and vineyards, the North Carolina Wine Festival will introduce VIP tickets for the first time. Although already sold out, the VIP tickets will give ticket holders preferential treatment ranging from early admittance to the park, a VIP tasting glass, discounted parking and a chance to speak to winery representatives before the rush of regular ticket holders.

The 6 th annual Salute! The North Carolina Wine Celebration will take place on 4 th Street in downtown Winston-Salem, between Marshal and Spring streets, June 2-4. Newcomers to the festival include Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery of Elkin, Charlie Locklear Winery & Vineyard in Maxton, Albemarle’s Dennis Vineyards Winery, the Triad’s own Grove Winery, Little River Vineyard & Winery in Mount Gilead, and Slightly Askew and Waldesian Style Wines from Connelly Springs.

Salute! will begin June 2-3 with winemaker dinners, a dining experience taking place at five different restaurants in Winston-Salem where attendees will have a chance to choose food and wine pairings from special menus.

The main wine celebration will overtake 4 th Street on June 4 with more than 30 wineries and vineyards, music from Kill-Basa Bill & Blues Extract with Dell Guthrie and North Carolina Food & Wine University, an event that is billed to “forever put aside those feelings of wine incompetence with an entertaining and educational opportunity perfect for all levels of wine-lovers. De-mystifying the wonderful world of wine, and clarifying the art of food and wine pairings….”

“[It’s] kind of like a Food Network TV show right in front of you,” Gomez says.

Executive Chef of Lowes Foods Billy Parisi will be featured in this event and will also participate in an “Iron Chef”-styled cooking competition with local chefs.

The festivities will conclude with a Salute! after party at Foothills Brewing featuring a live performance by Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons.

For ticket prices or more information, visit ncwinefestival.com or salutencwine.com.

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