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The Great Grapes! Wine, Art & Food Festival was last Saturday, April 16th.  I had been checking the weather the week before and it was looking like rain would hit.  The day of, it looked like it would be raining on and off until about 4pm, when the thunderstorms would really hit, so we stopped by at about 12:30pm.  We brought umbrellas and raincoats just in case. The format was typical for a Koka Booth wine/food event, except this one had free parking!  We were on the will-call list because I ordered tickets ahead of time, and all the lines were really short because of the threat of rain.  We picked up our glasses, and entered the festival.

Live music was playing about every other hour, so when we got there it was 30 minutes before the next act would start.  My husband hadn’t had anything to eat yet, but the “Food” part of the festival looked a bit scarce.  There were some typical concession-type stands selling gyros, cheese steaks, hot dogs and the like, and a pizza stand, and some kettle corn.  I didn’t really see much else.  I ended up getting a chicken gyro, and my husband got a lamb gyro.  Not great, but edible.  I was disappointed there wasn’t a better food selection there.

My son went down near the lake to play in the bouncy inflatable slide thing.  He loves these sorts of things at Monkey Joe’s.  It was a bit wet when he started from the rain, but with the high winds and the sun peeking out now and then, it dried off soon.  I would go to the booths trying out a few different wines, and bring back the sweetest dessert ones for my husband to try.

The flyer we got wasn’t very helpful.  I liked some of the booklets I’ve gotten at other events that list each wine that each vendor has.  This one only had a list of vendors.  The total was 25, and I think I tried at least one wine at nearly all of them.  For NC wines, I try to just stick to the sweeter muscadine wines.  I figure if I’m going to try a chardonnay, I’ll get a Napa one.  If I want a Riesling, I’ll get a German one.  If I wanted a Shiraz, I would look for something Australian.  But it’s been my experience that North Carolina doesn’t have the right type of grapes or climates for those types of wines.

The Cypress Bend Vineyards had some nice wines.  I tried the Daniel, To-morrow, and McNeil, and they were all pleasant.  The Allison Oaks Allie’s Choice was a fairly sweet dessert wine, but my husband didn’t like it very much.  The Carolina Heritage Traminette was a surprisingly good take on a gewurztraminer that would go excellent with a good dinner.  The Chatham Hill Winery (that oddly prides itself as being the Triangle’s only urban winery) had some pretty odd-tasting Blackberry wine, but I actually found the Peach to be quite tasty.  I think it’s something my mom would enjoy, she likes the girly, wine-cooler type wines.  Seriously though, I really liked the peach.

The Southern Charm Winery had quite a few excellent sweet wines.  My favorite was the Summer Mist, which is probably the best strawberry wine I’ve ever had.  I really should have picked up a bottle.  I also liked their Hummingbird, Carolina Sunset and Edisto Black.  The Edisto Black had a very good take on the blackberry wine, but it wasn’t quite as good as the strawberry.

The “Art” part of the festival really wasn’t there.  I saw some small booths with crafts for sale, but I was really expecting more.  I think there were more booths for businesses and charities outnumbered the art booths by about 4:1.

We left the festival by about 2:30pm, as it was sprinkling on and off and I didn’t know how much longer the weather would hold.  By about 3:30pm the storms came down hard, and soon after there were tornado warnings and hail, and things like insulation and plywood flying around the neighborhood.  I imagine the festival didn’t last long after that.  Such a pity that the worst storm in years happened to coincide with the Great Grapes! festival.

For next year they could make a few improvements.  More food booths, more art booths, and live music throughout the 11am-7pm festival would have made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.  As it was though, it was a good time at a fairly cheap price.  At only $20 per ticket though, I really can’t have too many complaints.  I look forward to attending next year.

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