Wine festival uncorks success

By JIMMY McCARTHY

OBSERVER Correspondent

Wine of all sorts filled the glasses of the many people who attended the 2013 America’s Grape Country Wine Festival Saturday afternoon. Wineries from around the state came to the Chautauqua County fairgrounds to showcase a variety of wines.

As many as 29 wineries attended the festival. According to Event and Marketing Director Mike Ferguson, that is the best the festival has seen to date.

Merritt Estate Winery, 21 Brix Winery, Liberty Vineyards and Winery were some of the local wineries displaying products. Wineries from outside Chautauqua County included Three Brothers Winery and Thousand Island Winery, amongst numerous others. People went from one table to another, tasting wines and foods. The Grape Discovery Center and the Seneca Lake wine trail and other vendors besides wineries were in attendance, displaying cheeses, sauces and spice rubs, chocolates and crafts.

“There are 84 vendors all together, between wineries and vendors. We have New York state wines coming from just the tip of New York near Montreal, all the way down to New York City, the Finger Lakes, the Seneca Lake wine trail and Allegheny. We have got a lot of folks in town this weekend and it’s going to be a great time,” Ferguson explained.

“The wine industry, as big as it is, there are 300 wineries in New York state alone, they all know where the good wine festivals are. This has been the sixth year of this festival, and this is the first year that the number has doubled. They want to go where they want to sell wine. Not only can people sample wine, but they can also buy it and take it home as well,” he added.

The wine festival began in 2007 with Bill Merritt, of Merritt Estate Winery, when he was president of the Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine trail. He suggested having a wine festival in the region. From there, the first wine festival was held in 2008 and it took off.

Guests also had the opportunity to make culinary pairings to go with the wine they samples and purchased.

Chef Paul Mach of the Pennsylvania College of Technology attended for a second straight year, putting on seminars throughout the day. Chef Mach has put on demonstrations at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Watkins Glen wine festivals. He also has his own TV show on public television called ‘You’re the Chef.’

“The television show, “You’re The Chef” is the show I did for 10 years. Two years we were live on cable access and seven years we were on public television. The theme of the show was practical recipes made with readily available ingredients,” Mach explained.

Dishes he prepared for participants included pastrami, cured salmon and hush puppies with local corn, herbs and Yancey’s Fancy cheese.

Mach’s demonstrations engaged the crowd by having them come up and make the dishes themselves.

“I never do these demos myself,” Mach said. “I always get the people from the audience to come up and help.”

Chef Mach went on to say that he did the very first set of cooking demonstrations last year, which was so well received, that they brought him back this year.

“I like to go out and do these things,” Mach said. “I do what I teach because I love it. I am at different festivals and different events, putting on cooking classes all year.”

Events at the wine festival continued throughout the day with demonstrations by Chef Mach and Ed Draves of the Premier Group.

“This is my first time at this event, and there is a nice selection of wineries here,” Draves said. “Taking a walk around, I am very impressed. Of course any place where you find Chef Paul is great.”

Live music was performed by Sean Patrick McGraw followed by Emerson Drive Saturday evening.

The festival continues today with more wine tasting and music by US and The Untouchables.

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