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Tasters toast first mountain wine festival

Beth Engel tests 'the nose' of a glass of wine at the first Mountain Wine & Music Festival. Beth Engel tests 'the nose' of a glass of wine at the first Mountain Wine & Music Festival.

Several hundred tasters sampled wine from the area's new wineries and enjoyed music under beautiful fall weather at the first Mountain Wine & Music Festival on Saturday.

"I wasn't sure what to expect with this being the first one, but for a first annual event, this is a hell of a turnout," said Joel McLead of Mills River. "I wasn't familiar with this area when I first came up and when they said it was at a hotel or motel, I didn't get it. I didn't know that there was this giant grass field in front of it. This is perfect. There is even room to expand."
The outdoor event, on the large front lawn of the Mountain Inn & Suites on Upward Road, attracted both local people and visitors to come out and support a new farm-based industry that is in its second year of retail wine at tasting rooms.

"We want people to know that we grow some of the top vinifera here because of our unique climate," said Alan Ward, owner Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards. "Not many people know that this area has a larger diversity of plant life than the rainforest. The weather and cool nights allow us to grow some great vinifera. People are enjoying that today."

Though the overall most favored wine varied, each booth seemed to have a crowd-pleaser. McLead said Saint Paul Mountain vineyards had an "absolutely delicious" chocolate wine.
Jeff Black of Biltmore Estates Winery said tasters enjoyed a little fizz.

"Our sparkling wine has been the most popular, which is actually a surprise," said Black. "We didn't actually intend on bringing it, but I had some left over from another event and I thought it would be fun. So, I brought it over."

The festival also featured a showcase of mountain arts.

Teresa Jordan of Appalachian Baskets has been making crafts by hand for the past seven years. She set up a stand after she got an invitation from a store in downtown Hendersonville that displays her work.

"It ended up being a wonderful venue with a good turnout for the first time doing this," she said. "The layout is really good and hopefully it draws some people off of the interstate to buy from the vendors and vineyards."

Musicians were also offered a chance to shine during the day, drawing singers and guitarists such as Hendersonville resident Ellen Trenka. Originally from the New York City area, Trenka has been performing professionally for more than 30 years.

"It's lovely because I know all of the musicians. They are local and they make me cry. So, of course it is all a great thing," she said.

The participating wineries — Saint Paul, Burntshirt Vineyards, Mountain Brook Vineyards, Green Creek Vineyards, Falderal Winery, Biltmore Winery and Noble Hard Cider — organized the event as a way to expose more people to the N.C. mountain wine.

"I go to Saint Paul vineyard all the time and they advertised this event to me. I got my girlfriends and we came up. I am just having a great time and the wine is excellent," said Carolyn McKean of Greenville, S.C.
After months of planning and preparing for the day, many hope to see the Mountain Wine & Music Festival return next year.

"I think it is great for this area to increase credibility as a viable wine region," said Black, of Biltmore. "The camaraderie among the wineries has been a lot of fun as well. I would love to see it become a tradition."