Belle Grove changes wine fest

Posted: September 5, 2013

The Winchester Star

The historic Belle Grove Plantation near Middletown will host its annual Wine Festival on Saturday. The event will feature tastings, food, music and living-history activities.

Middletown — Belle Grove Plantation’s Wine Festival will experience an upgrade for its third edition.

The outdoor event, paired for the last two years with the annual Antiques Appraisal and Traditional Crafts Fair, will now be a stand-alone festival, said Kristen Laise, executive director of the historic house.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Belle Grove (336 Belle Grove Road).

The change signals not only a shift in the wine festival’s programming, but also a move to potentially more hospitable weather, Laise said. The antiques appraisal event is held in November and will continue this year.

“The great thing about early September is the weather is usually fantastic,” she said.

This year’s Wine Fest will feature tastings presented by Virginia wineries, food for purchase, music, food demonstrations and living-history activities, said Rich Coyle, program assistant at Belle Grove. The house also will be open for tours.

Organizers hope the new date and increased programming will help the event so that some day it is on par with Belle Grove’s “Of Ale and History” Beer Festival, held in May, he said.

“Our Beer Fest is our mature event after 18 years and we want to grow this to be a great event for the Valley,” he said.

The big draw for the event will be the wine-tasting, in which visitors may sample wines from two wineries new to the event and six who are returning, Laise said. The new vineyards are Valerie Hill Vineyard and Winery and Tomahawk Mills Vineyard and Winery.

The returning regional wineries are North Mountain Vineyard, Mountain View Vineyard, Cedar Creek Winery, Cave Ridge Vineyard, Bluestone Vineyard and Naked Mountain Vineyard.

“You could spend the day driving around to different wineries, and that’s great, but you could also come to one place and sample them all,” she said. “It would be a busy day to get to eight wineries.”

A major difference between this festival and the beer festival is the promise of “unlimited wine-tastings” with the price of admission, Laise said. The Beer Fest limits the number of tastings per admission ticket. It also includes a commemorative glass.

As the proprietors of the only winery in Frederick County, the owners of Valerie Hill Winery in Stephens City were pleased to join the festival this year, co-owner Shawn Steffey said.

The business will bring at least four or five wines to offer by the glass and by the bottle. He said he is certain they will bring a 2012 Seyval Blanc, a French hybrid that is crisp and acidic.

“Our 2012 Cabernet Franc was just released Aug. 30. It is 100 percent Cabernet Franc aged for 10 months in French oak,” he said. “It is medium-bodied with ripe dark berries on the palate and a touch of cinnamon on the finish.”

New to the event this year will be demonstrations by the Piedmont Driving Club, which brings period horse-drawn carriages and wagons, showing how they were used, Coyle said.

“They will do driving across the property for people to see not only on our property but along U.S. 11,” he said. “It is a good fit with our 18th century manor house.”

Also new with this particular event is the lineup of music, which will feature the Rhonda Sager Trio playing a mixture of American songbook classics and Danni Leigh, a country band.

In the house’s winter kitchen, chefs from the Hotel Strasburg, Cristina’s Cafe and Nibblins will demonstrate food and wine pairings, featuring some of the wines served at the festival, Laise said.

Outside, people may make their own pairings with the food available for purchase from Patsy’s Pastry Pizzas, the Ladies of Belle Grove and Battlefield Market.

Other vendors will include Bowls by Brian, Charming Finds, Stones by Toni, Lone Ridge Cigars and The Studio.

The wine festival is Laise’s first major event since taking over as executive director on July 29, and it has been a great way to start the job, she said.

Since starting, Laise has been amazed by the commitment of the staff, volunteers and board members, she said. “It is overwhelming in terms of learning everyone’s name, but on the other hand, it is a great problem to have.”

The wine festival begins a busy season for Belle Grove. It will be followed by the National Finals Sheepdog Trials and the Cedar Creek Battlefield re-enactment in October, the antiques appraisal in November and holiday tours in December.

After Christmas, Laise said, she will focus on the status of items in the three-year plan adopted for Belle Grove before she came on board and make more specific plans for the future.

Information

The third annual Belle Grove Wine Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the historic house on 336 Belle Grove Road near Middletown. Wine-tasting tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the gate and cover all activities. Non-drinking admission costs $10 and children 5 and under are admitted free. Visitors should bring chairs or blankets. No coolers or outside food or drink are allowed. For more details, call 540-869-2028 or visit bellegrove.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com