100 Tennessee wines featured at Nine Lakes Wine Festival May 20, 2017

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New Tennessee wine festival highlights awards, wine trails.

Bottles of award-winning wines from Tsali Notch Vineyard.

Hiwassee, third from the left, is the most decorated wine in Tennessee. It is made by Tsali Notch Vineyard, one of 20 wineries attending Nine Lakes Wine Festival, May 20 in Oak Ridge, TN.

“Nine Lakes Wine Festival seeks to be the premier wine event in Tennessee, and offers the public a chance to taste award-winning wines and experience East Tennessee’s wine trails,” said James R. Riddle, founder of the Appalachian Region Wine Producers.

More than 100 Tennessee wines and hard ciders will be featured at the first annual Nine Lakes Wine Festival, Saturday, May 20, 1 to 6 p.m., on the waterfront Melton Lake Park in Oak Ridge.

“Nine Lakes Wine Festival seeks to be the premier wine event in Tennessee, and offers the public a chance to taste award-winning wines and experience East Tennessee’s wine trails,” said James R. Riddle, founder of the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association, which is presenting the festival.

The festival brings together 20 Tennessee wineries. Tickets also include food, chef demonstrations by The Cutting Edge Classroom, and wine seminars by local wine judges and educators. The wineries will be arranged in “trails” for a seamless tasting experience.

Festival goers are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and enjoy the lakeside. Live music will provide a perfect backdrop for the wine tasting experience, with bands like Knox Vegas Ramblers, Stock Creek Band, Barefoot Sanctuary and more!

A “Barrels of Fun Charity Race,” typically seen in Italian wine festivals, will offer 12 East Tennessee charities a chance to nab a coveted wine barrel trophy. All charities will receive a portion of the gate proceeds as well.

Festival tickets are on sale at https://NineLakesWineFestival.com through May 17. After that, they are available at the gate. General admission to the Grand Tasting is $40 per person ($50 at the gate), and a Non-Tasting ticket is offered for $20. It includes food, non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainment. An exclusive VIP Experience is available for $80 in a limited quantity, online only.

Emphasizing that quality matters, a certificate to receive a “Winemakers Case” will be offered as a door prize at 5 p.m. on May 20 at the festival. This case of 12 gold- and silver-award winning wines were chosen for the festival’s Winemakers’ Dinner, which has sold out.

The festival is part of a larger effort to grow the wine industry in Tennessee by the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association.

“This region offers a unique environment for growing grapes, and Tennessee wines are like no other,” said Riddle. “We expect to see tremendous growth in the Tennessee wine and grape industry in the coming years. Our wines are as good as any others, and have won awards in major wine competitions. If you’ve never tried wines made with Muscadine, Catawba or Chambourcin grapes, you’re missing a delightful taste experience.”

Riddle’s organization received a $250K grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Oct. 2016 and is initiating a number of efforts to increase the quality and quantity of Tennessee wine.

“Nine Lakes Wine Festival is just one of our initiatives,” said Riddle. “We are working to establish the Nine Lakes region as an ‘American Viticultural Area,’ which is a federally designated growing region for grapes. This would help us establish an identity for our wines, which is crucial in the industry. Think of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Those are American Viticultural Areas.”

The term ‘Nine Lakes’ refers to the nine lakes made by Tennessee Valley Authority dams, within an hour’s drive of Knoxville, Tennessee. The region is bordered by two mountain ranges, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains.

“Combined with the lake effect, our gentle hillsides are perfect for growing many varietals of grapes,” said Riddle. “This region of Tennessee already has more wineries and vineyards than any other part of the state.”

Major sponsors of the festival include The Cutting Edge Classroom, Freight Management Systems, Campbell Party Rentals, Slamdot, Lone Mountain Travel Dream Vacations, and Centrus Energy.

For more information about the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association, visit http://www.NineLakesWineCountry.com.

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Rebecca Williams

James R. Riddle
Nine Lakes Wine Festival
since: 11/2016
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