South’s Only Human-Powered Wine Barrel Race Benefits East TN Charities at Nine Lakes Wine Festival

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South’s only human-powered wine barrel race benefits as many as 24 East Tennessee charities at third annual Nine Lakes Wine Festival on June 1, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Two people rolling a wine barrel.

The South's only human-powered wine barrel race is a staple of Nine Lakes Wine Festival, raising money for 24 East Tennessee charities.

“We’re bringing a glimpse of Italy to East Tennessee, in this unique barrel racing competition,” said James R. Riddle, president of the Appalachian Region Wine Producers.

Featuring the South’s only human-powered wine barrel race, the third annual Grand Tasting of Nine Lakes Wine Festival will benefit up to 24 charities in East Tennessee on June 1, 2019, at beautiful Melton Lake Park, Oak Ridge. “We’re bringing a glimpse of Italy to East Tennessee, in this unique barrel racing competition,” said James R. Riddle, president of the Appalachian Region Wine Producers, which organizes the festival to promote Tennessee wines.

“Here in the Southeast we have horse-barrel racing, of course, but as far as we know, this is the only human-powered barrel race in the region,” said Riddle. “This is a race for charity, and since Tennessee wines by and large are a rural product, we wanted to choose charities that are also working to improve the quality of life in rural Appalachia.”

Participating charities at Nine Lakes Wine Festival include United Way of Anderson County, Girls Inc., CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, Foothills Land Conservancy, ADFAC, several animal shelters and more.

Anyone 21 or older can sign up to roll on a team the day of the Grand Tasting, June 1, starting at 3 p.m. at the race tent. Each team of 1-2 people picks a charity from the festival list, and that charity will automatically receive a $50 cash donation from the charity. Winning teams each hour earn extra cash for their chosen charities, and a bottle of wine for themselves.

The barrel race is only one part of the festival. The Grand Tasting also features 17 wineries sampling 100+ Tennessee wines and ciders. Festival goers will receive a complimentary tasting glass and a 6-compartment wine tote. They may purchase bottles or cases of wine directly from the winemakers, and enjoy shopping with local artisans at the festival as well.

Live music will be featured in the park’s pavilion throughout the day by Wild Blue Yonder, Josh Cottrell and Carolina Story.

Food vendors Penne For Your Thoughts, Brick Oven Bus, Cruisin’ Cuisin and Burchfield’s Restaurant will be on hand to serve dinner. Shaded seating is available, but you may bring lawn chairs as well and enjoy the evening beside Melton Lake.

A commemorative t-shirt has been designed by Knoxville artist Mark Gilleran of the The Depot Printhouse. He will be printing them on site with water-based inks.

The festival also offers VIP Taste of Gold event on Friday, May 31, featuring only gold medal and reserve wines, paired with a gourmet small plate dinner, included. The David Slack Trio will provide light jazz entertainment for the event.

Tickets for both events are sale now at

Complete rules for the barrel race are also on the website.

Nine Lakes Wine Festival is just 30 minutes from downtown Knoxville, and its name reflects the nine TVA-made lakes in the greater Knoxville region. The Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association emphasizes wine quality and cooperative tourism, and promotes three wine trails in the region: Great Valley Wine Trail, Foothills Wine & Cider Trail, and Rocky Top Wine Trail.

Free parking is available at Nine Lakes Wine Festival. For more information visit

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Rebecca Williams
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