Raising a glass

Starting today, the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk will be the place to be for the second time in less that three weeks.

This weekend the grounds play host to the sixth annual “America’s Grape Country Wine Festival.” The event kicks off at 11 a.m. with a special Industry VIP Party, then opens to the general public from noon to 7 p.m. Once the sun goes down the fun doesn’t stop. Sean Patrick McGraw brings his country hits to the Grandstand Stage around 7:30 p.m. followed by country stars “Emerson Drive.”

The festival continues Sunday, opening its gates at noon and concluding at 5 p.m. The event has more than doubled in size from last year’s fifth anniversary edition. Vendors will hold court in both the Floral Hall and Commercial buildings and some will have an outdoor presence. Event and Marketing Director Mike Ferguson says a lot of work has gone into this year’s offering.

“This year is definitely one of the largest festivals in our brief six-year history,” Ferguson said. “We have expanded to one quarter the size of the entire Fairgrounds with plans to expand upon that in the very near future.”

Twenty-nine of the finest New York state wineries will be joined by over 40 additional Craft and Specialty vendors for the two-day festival. The Lakeshore Street Rod Association will hold a two day Classic Car Show as part of the weekend-long activities.

Celebrity Chef Paul Mach returns with free seminars and tastings. Printed copies of all the Chef’s recipes are also provided. Mach has served as an official chef of the Kentucky Derby, Breeder’s Cup, Ryder Cup, Harvest Festival and Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Mach also co-hosts the popular public television cooking series, “You’re The Chef!” Along with the free food seminars, Wine Expert, Ed Draves of The Premier Gourmet Group will host a number of wine seminars as well.

What started out as a showcase of Chautauqua County wines has quickly developed into one of the fastest growing wine festivals in the state. Where does it go from here? “We still have lots of room to grow here at the fairgrounds.” stated Mike Ferguson. “We hope to add more food offerings and even more New York State wines. There are over 300 wineries in New York state. We’ve only scratched the surface of how big this can be.”