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A fest for the senses

West Virginia Wine & Arts Festival

West Virginia Wine & Arts Festival

May 23, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

Meritage is a medium-bodied dry wine made from a blend of Bordeaux grapes. The wine will be among the Potomac Highland Winery red wines at this weekend's West Virginia's Wine and Arts Festival in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Wine from a blend of West-Virginia-grown grapes is appropriate for a festival that also will feature a blend of music - blues, jazz, alternative folk and bluegrass - and art from metal design to stained glass, pottery and watercolor.

"It's a lovely festival," says Becky Whitehill, who along with her husband, Charles, has been making wine professionally at their winery on Fried Meat Ridge Road between Keyser and Burlington, W.Va, for about 10 years.

Whitehill describes their enterprise - picking six tons of grapes, annually producing 10,000 bottles of wine - as "a hobby that got out of hand."


The couple participates in several wine festivals every year, and if they had to cut back, the Martinsburg event would stay on their list. Becky Whitehill loves the setting on the lawn of the historical Boydville Inn and appreciates the sophisticated wine tastes of people in the Eastern Panhandle. Potomac Highland and other West Virginia wineries will have many different wines available for tasting as well as for purchase.

Festival-goers also can sample a variety of musical flavors.

The Lisa Lafferty Quintet, together for about a year, will open each day's music with a mix of jazz and blues. Lafferty, who plays enough piano and guitar to be able to write music, "just likes to sing." She will be joined by Sam Jannotta on piano, guitarist Donald Oehser, Cam Miller on trombone and Dave Heinz on congas.

"It's just really pleasant," Lafferty says of the festival. The setting is beautiful, and she likes that the event is one to which she can take her son, Lydian.

The quintet will be followed by The Bob Thompson Unit - Thompson on keyboards, Doug Payne on saxophone, drummer Tim Courts and bassist Chris Allen.

The Bob Thompson Unit has been the house band on West Virginia Public Radio's "Mountain Stage," a two-hour weekly radio show broadcast internationally for 10 years. The band does a lot of original music, a lot of contemporary music, as well as some standards.

Thompson, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., came to West Virginia State College as a music major in trumpet and stayed in the state. Because he wanted to play in a student jazz band that already had a trumpet, Thompson took up piano.

Thompson and his band play for "all kinds of audiences." He enjoys the ambiance of the Martinsburg festival - music, wine and art. He says jazz is alive in West Virginia - and it will be live on the lawn at Boydville this weekend.

Scooter Scudieri will do his alternative folk rock in the festival's 4 p.m. slot Saturday and Sunday. The gig is a bit closer to his Shepherdstown, W.Va., home than his performance at the 41st Songwriters Hall of Fame Showcase in New York City in March.

There will be a taste of bluegrass at the festival, provided by Patent Pending. The band's mandolin player, Eldred Hill, recently attended the Gettysburg (Pa.) Bluegrass festival and says he can testify to the health and well-being of the genre to which he became attracted as a teenager when he watched Reno and Smiley's afterschool television show and wondered, "How can they possibly play that fast?"

He learned. He started playing bluegrass while in college at American University in Washington, D.C., then hooked up with Jim Steptoe, Rusty Williams and bass player Leigh Taylor in 1979.

Patent Pending played regular gigs in the D.C. area, and Hill joined his band mates in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle in 1983. He settled here mostly because of the band, he says. But he also "found that it was pretty."

Taylor left at the end of the '80s, and bass player Teri Chism came aboard in 1992. Her husband, Wayne Lanham, "an exceptional musician," always sort of came along, Hill says. He suggested that Lanham take up the fiddle, and four or five months later he had it mastered. "Now he's terrific," Hill says.

Martinsburg native Ed Barney on lead guitar is Patent Pending's most recent addition.

The band has five albums, including 1998's all gospel recording.

Appropriate to the festival, the band will perform a blend of its music this weekend, most likely including "I am a Man of Constant Sorrow," a song for which they lately receive a lot of requests. Hill says it's great for bluegrass that the soundtrack of "O Brother Where Art Thou," which includes that traditional song, won the Grammy award for Album of the Year.

"It's the real stuff, for sure," he says.

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