Wednesday, February 26, 2014 —
It may be small but it packs a punch.
Winemakers said Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation’s Winter Wine Festival remains one of their favorite events of the year.
“I’ve been to all the big wine festivals in the state and honestly, we do just as well at this festival as we do at other festivals,” Phillip Nordan of Treehouse Vineyards said at Saturday’s event.
“We’re selective about what we go to,” Frank Hannah of Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery said.
“This is a good festival. It’s well organized.”
Hannah said the ADDC volunteers provide them with free ice and water, not a guarantee at other festivals, and regularly come by to check on them.
“Plus they picked a great time of year,” he said.
“Nothing else is going on. We’re not working in the vineyards yet. There aren’t any other festivals happening.”
The festival’s hours, from 12-5 p.m., also allow them to pack up while it’s still daylight.
“Everything’s been thought out,” he said.
“It’s a very welcoming atmosphere.”
The guests are a big part of that, too, Nordan added.
“The people here purchase,” he said.
“Everybody’s here to buy wine and enjoy it. They’re not here to get drunk. That’s why I like coming here.”
More than 800 guests showed up for the annual event at Market Street Station, many of them buying their tickets at the door.
By 3 p.m. there were so many guests that many of the vendors had begun to sell out of their most popular wines.
“We’re just 15 minutes away,” Rick Moody of Uwharrie Vineyards in Albemarle said to guests looking for more of Frost Velvet Magnolia.
“Come see us there and we’ll have plenty for you.”
Weathervane Vineyards had to tell guests the same about its Rooster Black.
Treehouse was close to running out of its popular Date Night wine.
“There are so many wineries I like here, I can’t pick just one,” Jill Viniconis of Charlotte said.
“It’s a spectacuar variety.”
With more than 10 wine vendors, guests could find everything from Merlot to Moscato to Louisiana pepper wine.
“We like to stick to the traditional European [grapes],” said Hannah, pulling out a dry red blend.
“I make wine out of just about anything,” Mark Crowder, of Fiddler’s Vineyard, said while pouring strawberry wine mixed with chocolate.
But whether they are using time-honored recipes, making up something totally new or blending a bit of both, all of the wineries at the festival had their roots in North Carolina soil.
Both Uwharrie Vineyards and Dennis Vineyards hail from Albemarle.
Hannah, an optometrist by day, founded Owl’s Eye not far from his practice in Shelby.
Nordan’s family began Treehouse Vineyards near a giant treehouse his dad built for his mom in Monroe.
Others come from Cherryville, Lincolnton and Lexington.
“Really, anyone who’s growing grapes in North Carolina is doing a good job,” Hannah said.
The state’s hot and humid summers make it difficult to get a vineyard up and running, he said.
“Grapes like hot days and cool evenings,” he said.
“You don’t always see that here.”
Hannah originally set out to make European wines such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but the summer heat made it nearly impossible to grow the grapes.
“We do a lof of hybrid wines now, like Traminette,” Hannah said.
“They do a lot better in this state’s climate.”
Native grapes such as the scuppernong and other muscadines also do well, he added.
“We don’t grow any, but I know many wineries, several of them at this festival, have had a lot of success with those,” he said.
“You just have to find what works for the weather and for you.”
Guests said they were happy so many local wineries have found their niche.
“They’re all great and they’re all local,” Trish Teal said.
“I’m glad we have this chance to support them.”
Hannah said they will definitely be back next year.
“I hope this is something they continue for years to come,” he said.
To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynews press.com.