Wine and Arts Fest a Hit

MARTINSBURG – The 16th annual West Virginia Wine and Arts Festival drew large crowds to Martinsburg this Memorial Day weekend, as wine connoisseurs and art lovers gathered to enjoy some of the state’s finest wines and the holiday weekend festivities.

The two-day festival, which wrapped up Sunday, was first held in 1996 and is the largest fundraiser of the year for the The Arts Centre, a nonprofit organization that has sponsored the event for 13 years.

Held on the lawn of the historic Boydville estate in Martinsburg, the festival offers the best in West Virginia wines, artists from around the region and a variety of musicians.

“Our mission is to promote educational opportunities in the arts for our community,” said Mary Lewis, board president of the Arts Centre. “This is our largest fundraiser of the year, and we appreciate all the people that come out.”

Thanks to a larger advertising budget this year, Lewis said the festival drew a number of new visitors from the Washington, D.C., area and the quad-state region. The festival drew such a big crowd that the festival ran out of complimentary wine tasting glasses Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve been quite pleased, and to boot we ran out of glasses,” Lewis said of the turnout. “The proof is in the pudding. We were just slammed.”

The festival featured eight of the state’s most well-known wineries and there was plenty of wine to sample and purchase. A number of musical acts also performed all weekend, including the Martinsburg High School Jazz Ensemble.

“The festival is all about bringing all different kinds of people together, and we get a nice mix. We have people of all ages come to the festival,” Lewis said. “If you talk to any of the vendors, this is one of their favorite festivals.”

Among the several guest vintners featured at this year’s festival was Craig Bandy, who owns WineTree Vineyards with his wife in Vienna.

“I think the folks here are terrific. They understand wines. We’ve had a very successful festival. I’m starting to sell out of nearly every variety that I brought with me, and we’re very pleased with that,” Bandy said.

Another winery that was featured at the festival this year was Potomac Highland Winery. Founded in 1992 by Charles Whitehill, the winery’s 3-acre vineyard is located in Keyser.

“I love this site. This is a great venue. There’s lots of shade, and there’s a beautiful pre-Civil War home. It’s just a nice place to come to. We love coming here,” Whitehill said of the festival.

Another of the award-winning wine makers who made the trip back to Martinsburg for the annual festival was Lambert’s Vintage Wines. Located in Weston, the winery is family owned and operated and produces about 100,000 bottles of wine a year.

“We’re having a pretty good time. There’s a good turnout even with the hot temperatures, people are enjoying themselves down on the lawn listening to music and they’re purchasing. That’s what we’re here for,” owner J.B. Lambert said.

Festivalgoers spent time sampling the wines featured at the event as well as relaxing on Boydville’s lawn while they listened to the various musical performers throughout the weekend.

“It’s a local event that we like to participate in and support,” said Martinsburg resident Lori Ettinger, who visited the festival with her husband and friends. “We do enjoy the West Virginia wines. We have some excellent wineries in our state, and we like to purchase them and share them with friends.”

Nick Vandawater and Samantha Wyatt were lounging Sunday afternoon, enjoying a glass of wine while listening to music.

“It’s a whole lot of fun. … You see these people once a year. It’s almost like a friendship that blooms, almost like a reunion,” Wyatt said. “We don’t know a whole lot about wine, but the ones we drink, we really like.”

Vandawater said it was a nice event for the local community.

“I think it’s good to bring people together. I think it’s just very relaxing. It’s nice to get out,” he said.

Others like Danielle and Ronnie Brezler traveled from Hagerstown, Md., to the festival to spend the day.

“I like how the wineries are kind of spread out. You have a choice of where you want to try a different taste of things. It’s not all about just one winery,” said Danielle Brezler, who celebrated her birthday Sunday.

“It’s a beautiful weekend and we just wanted to come check it out and see what it’s all about. The setting is really nice, too,” Ronnie Brezler added. “I’m surprised actually. I didn’t know West Virginia was big into wine.”

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