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Unexpected Summer Wine Festivals

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wine grape“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”
-Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

When you think of wine festivals, you probably think of fall harvest season. But in some unexpected locations, you can tipple to your heart’s content at a summer wine festival.

From California to Maine, you don’t have to travel far to reap the benefits of the harvest. A wine festival means outdoorsy fun in the sun and offers an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with a region’s local wines and cuisine.

So sit back, sip on a cool chardonnay, and let the sun shine on your summer wine.

Kirkland Uncorked – A Festival of Style and Taste – Kirkland, Washington

Did you know that Washington is the number two producer of wine grapes in the U.S.? The state is on the same latitude of the Bordeaux and Burgundy, and Washington’s wine industry has become the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the state, and the number of wineries has increased 400 percent (!) in the last decade.

At Kirkland Uncorked, bring the kids along for the fun. Just pay your $20 fee ($25 at the gate) and they’ll let you loose to sample the wares from 17 Washington vineyards and 10 local restaurants. There are vintner educational classes from wineries in the Tasting Garden and you can get your appetite going with grilling demonstrations and tastings. Once you’ve stuffed yourselves silly, stay for the live music, and send the kids off to The All-Ages Stage where youths take to the stage at the Kirkland Teen Union Building.
206-633-0422, www.KirklandUncorked.com.

30th Annual Twain Harte Summer Arts & Wine Festival – Twain Harte, California

Skip the crowds in Napa and head to California’s Gold Country in the Central Sierra Valley instead. The town of Twain Harte (about 60 miles from Modesto) hosts its annual Summer Arts & Wine Festival. A select few wineries participate in this homegrown festival: Stop by Retzlaff Winery to sample its wines that are made exclusively from organically grown grapes; Stevenot Winery is a boutique winery in the Sierra foothills where you can find unexpected wines like Orange Muscat and red Tempranillo. At family-owned Gerber Vineyards, you can try out “mountain fruit” wines, from grapes that thrive on rocky soil. Free admission. 209-533-3473, www.FireontheMountain.com/th.html.

Great Grapes! Wine, Arts & Food Festival – Annapolis, Maryland

Great wine in … Maryland? Well, sort of. While Maryland has been producing wine for generations across the state, the Great Grapes! festival focuses on collections of wine from Italy, Spain, Australia, and California. Besides honing your palate on wines from around the world, the festival also abounds with goods from local farms, artisan food producers and regional restaurants. Don’t miss an appearance from Bravo’s Top Chef season 2 winner Ilan Hall, discussing his experiences on the show and cooking in New York. And best of all, watch local personalities get their toes wet at the Great Grapes! Stomp-Off contest. $18 advance purchase/ $20 at gate (designated drivers pay only $10 and kids are free)
800-830-3976, www.UncorktheFun.com.

Steamboat Springs Wine Festival 2007 – Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The Festival, now in its fourth season, offers guests a great occasion to taste nearly 700 wines from more than 100 wineries around the globe and food samples from the area’s top restaurants. Don’t miss the anticipated Viking Steel Chef Competition—Steamboat’s version of Iron Chef where dueling chefs go knife-to-knife in a cookoff. Also, check out the “Cheap and Cheesy Wine Party” and learn how to make your own signature cocktail from a Top Chef finalist. Prices start at $25. 21 and over only. www.Steamboat-Springs.com.

The 5th Annual Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic – Nantucket, Maine

Visitors to the island of Nantucket know all about lazy days on the beach followed by top-notch dining. So indulge in a day of fantastic food from eight of the world-class restaurants in the area, all accompanied with a selection of wines from more than 100 vintners. Specialty foods range from artisan breads to smoked meats — be sure to stop by the two Viking sponsored food stages to quiz area chefs on their cooking tips and see live demonstrations. You can also hobknob with island society folks at a “meet the winemaker” reception and a gala auction and dinner. Admission starts at $95. http://www.tanglewoodwineandfoodclassic.com.

Taste of the Nation – Various U.S. cities
Various dates from July – September
Celebrate summer and support a worthy nationwide cause, by participating in Taste of the Nation Culinary and Wine events this year. Taste of the Nation is a supporter in the Effort to End Childhood Hunger in America. Bringing together more than 4000 of the nation’s top restaurants in more than 70 cities to present original dishes and complemented by the wines and spirits from around the world.

Each host city brings its own unique flair, including regional cuisine and samples from local wineries.

Some contributing cities include:

New Orleans, Louisiana – July 15
Seattle, Washington – July 19
Baton Rouge, Louisiana – August 16
Austin, Texas – August 22
Prices vary from event to event, ranging from $75 – $100 on average. For a complete list of host cities and more details visit http://taste.strength.org.

And lastly, the U.S. isn’t the only place where you can enjoy summer wine festivals. If you’re in Europe, make time to stop by some of many small-scale wine areas dotting the countryside. You can get a sampling of numerous countries such as Austria, Spain, Slovenia and more where you can find wine festivals this summer and experience local area flavor and culture first hand. Sound interesting?

Check out http://vinest.net to learn more about small European wine regions and their upcoming festivals.

By Loretta Copeland for PeterGreenberg.com. Article published in July 2007.

For more unexpected excursions, check out Unusual Fall Foliage Tours and Adventures.

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