From Shine to Wine
For decades, Western North Carolina had a well-deserved reputation as the moonshine capital of the world.
These days, those copper stills have been replaced with wooden casks, as the region is gaining a new reputation as one of the premiere wine producing regions of North America.
The Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival will celebrate all things red, white and blush in Blowing Rock Wednesday through Sunday, April 13-17.
Wednesday, April 13
Uncork the Festival
The Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival begins a day earlier this year! Organizers found that there was just too much fun to pack into four day, so they added a fifth.
The festivities begin with Uncork the Festival, a get-together dinner at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. This year's theme is all things Down Under, so get ready for some shrimp on the barbie and Australian wine. The event includes dinner, a souvenir wine glass filled with wine and entertainment. Tickets are $35 per person, and the fun lasts from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (828) 295-5500.
The mixologists' companion to the Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge, the Bartenders Brawl will match several of the area's best bartenders in an anything-goes competition. The event takes place at Canyons and begins at 10 p.m. You must be 21 or older to attend this event. For more information, call (828) 295-7661. This event will also take place on Friday.
Thursday, April 14
Join Blowing Rock merchants for the "Barrels of Fun Hunt" through downtown. Enter your game form for a chance to win a great prize.
Wine Seminars & Cooking Classes
To learn more about why you enjoy a fine glass of wine and a delicious meal, the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival is offering a number of wine seminars and cooking classes.
Thursday's cooking class will be offered at Crippen's Restaurant and will feature Chef Sam Beasley teaching folks how to prepare panko-crusted sheepshead fish with shrimp, goat cheese and herb ravioli. Beasley, the chef at The Gamekeeper, is the defending Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge champion. The event takes place at 1 p.m., and admission is $35 per person. For more information, call Crippen's at (828) 295-3487.
Later on Thursday, Crippen's executive chef, Stan Chamberlain, will teach sauce lovers how to prepare the best demi-glace, reductions, butter sauces and more. Then, try the sauces with complementary foods.
For more information or to reserve a seat, call Crippen's at (828) 295-3487.
Thursday's wine seminars include "Wine and Cheese Pairing" at Christopher's Wine and Cheese Shop at 3 and 5 p.m. ($20), "Wine and Chocolate" at the Green Park Inn at 3 p.m. ($20), and "Wine, Food and Spice Pairings" at the Maple Lodge at 4 p.m.
Friday, April 15
Wine Seminars & Cooking Classes
Friday's first cooking class features cookbook author, PR diva and former national magazine foods editor Susan Dosier.
She makes tasty weeknight meals a snap with her humor, wit and helpful demonstration. "Weeknight cooking needs to be easy, and with these recipes, I guarantee the flavor and appeal," she said.
A longtime advocate of regional wines, she'll also pair the tastings with the perfect North Carolina wine. Dosier has appeared on Fox National News morning food segments live from New York City and in television markets across the country.
The event takes place at Crippen's at 10 a.m., and admission is $25 per person. For more information, call Crippen's at (828) 295-3487.
Then at noon, class participants will assist Chef Chuck Nelson of the Table at Crestwood in preparation for the High Country Wine Club Wine Dinner from start to finish (minus plating and last minute cooking). Once the prep work is finished, participants will join their friends and family to enjoy the dinner. The class is limited to 15 participants. The event takes place at the Inn at Crestwood on Shulls Mill Road, and admission is $75 per person. For more information, call (855) 234-3487.
At 1 p.m., join Dosier for her simple, yet stylish demonstration class, in which she'll take participants from start to finish through an appetizer spread, complete with North Carolina cheeses and paired with North Carolina wine.
The menu can be adapted for baby showers, cocktail receptions and gatherings with friends, or scaled up to serve large crowds, too.
Dosier will share her entertaining tips and literally assemble the whole party. The event takes place at Crippen's, and admission is $25. For more information, call Crippen's at (828) 295-3487.
Friday's wine seminars include "Sake & Sushi" at the Meadowbrook Inn at noon ($25), "The Best Wines You Never Heard Of" at the Inn at the Ragged Gardens at 1 p.m. ($20), "Wine, Food and Spice Pairings" at the Maple Lodge at 1 and 3 p.m. ($25), "Best Wine Values from Around the World" at Hillwinds Inn at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. ($15), "Wine and Chocolate" at the Green Park Inn at 2 and 4 p.m. ($20), "Hosting a Wine and Cheese Party" at Restaurant G at noon ($30), "Wine and Cheese Pairings" at Christopher's Wine and Cheese at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ($20), and "Wine Made Simple" at the Holiday Inn Express at noon and 3 p.m. ($15).
One of the favorite events at the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival is the "wine dinner."
That's where a winery or wine distributor participating in the festival teams up with one of the High Country's finest restaurants to produce a one-of-a-kind multi-course meal.
This year, the wine dinners are selling like hot cakes! If you see a pairing of vintner and restaurant that looks appealing, you should waste little time securing your seats.
Here are the times and pairings for this year's wine dinners:
Restaurant G will pair with Coturri Wines on Thursday and Saturday, April 14 & 16, and with Robert Temmler Winery on Friday, April 15.
Crippen's Country Inn will pair with Montinore Estates on Friday, April 15.
Manor House at Chetola will pair with Childress Winery on Friday, April 15.
Rowlands at Westglow Resort and Spa will pair with St. Francis Winery on Friday, April 15.
The Gamekeeper will pair with Coturri Winery on Friday, April 15.
Blowing Rock Grille will pair with McCrorie Family Winery on Friday, April 15 (This event is sold out).
Crestwood will pair with White Oak Winery on Friday, April 15.
Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub will pair with Southern Charm on Thursday, April 14.
For more information, or to make reservations, call the individual restaurants.
The various art and photography galleries of downtown Blowing Rock invite art lovers to join them on a gallery stroll on Sunset and Main Streets on Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. (see accompanying story).
Meet and Greet
Join festival VIPs in the Grand Tasting tent downtown. Meet winemakers, cookbook authors and food critics, and talk one-on-one about the world of wine and food. The event takes place at the giant tent on Maple Street from 3 to 5 p.m.
In late March, local college hoops fans had to endure the loss of both the UNC Tarheels and the Duke Blue Devils, as neither of the two North Carolina teams made it into the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 2007.
Don't expect any sympathy from the cast of "Chuckleball."
"When we go someplace like North Carolina, we like to alter our show to add more comedy about college basketball and NASCAR," performer Chris Wren said.
Wren and the rest of the cast of "Chuckleball" will present their sports-themed stage show at the Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock on Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. The show coincides with the annual Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival in Blowing Rock, and tickets are on sale now.
The cast of "Chuckleball" includes Wren, Christiana Little, Christopher Colberson and John Disciascio. During the show, the quartet performs individually, in duos and in groups as a number of famous sports figures.
"Chuckleball" celebrates the craziness and scandals in the sporting world from the headlines to the sidelines. The 90-minute show takes on the world's favorite sports stars and their favorite product endorsements, the latest sports buzz and the fallen heroes of the game.
"I like to do comedy that is smart and more sophisticated," said Chuckleball producer and co-creator Jason Goldstein. "You must have material that does not offend people. These are celebrities, high-profile people. We don't get into the really personal. 'Chuckleball' is purely a fun show.
"And we want the material to be broad enough in scope that even the casual sports fan, or even someone that just happens to flip on the news, can get all the jokes."
According to Wren, "Chuckleball" has recently had long runs at the Athens Theatre in Philadelphia and in New York City.
Tickets for Chuckleball are $40, $30 and $25 for individual tickets, depending on seating; $40 tickets also include an invitation to a meet-and-greet reception (one drink included) with the Chuckleball cast in the second-floor Ebert Reception Hall after the show.
To reserve your tickets, or for further information, call the Hayes Center box office at (828) 295-9627.
Saturday, April 16
The Grand Tasting
A wine tasting event that has to be experienced to be believed! The Grand Tasting takes place from noon to 4 p.m. at the giant tent on Maple Street and features a variety of wines from Banner Elk Winery, Southern Charm, Native Vines, Chateau Larinda, Thistle Meadow, Little River, Hinnant Family, Slightly Askew, Junius Lindsay, Grassy Creek, Childress Vineyards, Hanover Park, Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyards, Ginger Creek Vineyards, Waldesian Heritage Wines, Vineyards on the Scuppernong, Woodmill Winery, Westbend, Raintree Cellars, Locklear Vineyards and Winery and Morgan Ridge Vineyards.
There will also be a number of restaurant and catering companies with tasting booths. Admission is $35 in advance, $45 at the door. This event is for attendees 21 and older. No children, no infants, no animals, no exceptions. For advance tickets, call (828) 295-7851.
Fire on the Rock
And then there were four! The semifinals of the 2011 Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge will be held at the Hayes Center on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Admission is $15 per person. Celebrity judges and a for-charity guest table (tickets were at an online auction) will decide whose cuisine reigns supreme.
The finalists include Chef Michael Barbato of the Manor House at Chetola (Blowing Rock), Chef Nicole Pilazzo of Sorrento's (Banner Elk), Chef James Welch of the Green Park Inn (Blowing Rock) and Chef Michael Foreman of Bistro Roca (Blowing Rock). Tickets are available at the Hayes Center Box Office or by calling (828) 295-9627.
Shaken Not Stirred
The beverage seminar for Saturday is "Shaken Not Stirred" at Antlers Bar at Bistro Roca, beginning at 4 p.m. Learn how to make the best martinis, Manhattans and other shaken cocktails. Admission is $30. For more information, call Bistro Roca at (828) 295-4008.
Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre
Ensemble Stage Company will present the interactive murder mystery dinner theatre, "Murderous Vineyard," at Crippen's on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. This whodunit includes dessert and a wine tasting. Tickets sold out last year. Admission is $35 per person. For more information, or to reserve tickets, call (828) 919-6196.
Sunday, April 17
Nothing helps wind down the festival like a hearty Sunday brunch. Participating brunch locales include Canyons of the Blue Ridge, Blowing Rock Grille, Bistro Roca and Glidewells.
Fire on the Rock Finals
Finally, a champion will be crowned. After more than 20 preliminary and semifinal matches, the 2011 Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge champion will be decided at the Hayes Performing Arts Center, beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets to watch the furious cooking action are $18 per person. For tickets or more information, call the Hayes Center at (828) 295-9627.
For more informaiton on the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival, visit http://www.blueridgewinefestival.com.