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Festival offers wine, music and arts

May 28, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE/Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jerry Deal said he and his wife, Susan, knew nothing about making wine back in 1990 when they started their Forks of Cheat Winery near Morgantown, W.Va.

That first year, the couple, in Jerry Deal's words, "made the worst wine you ever tasted. Then we got smart and hired a winemaker."

The Deals' booth was a popular stop Saturday, along with six other West Virginia vintners, at the annual two-day West Virginia Wine and Arts Festival on the tree-shaded lawns of the Boydville Inn, an elegant mansion on South Queen Street in Martinsburg.

Jones Cabin Run Vineyards in Tanner, W.Va., in Gilmer County was started in 1999 by Alan Wolfe, the vintner who helped the Deals turn their vineyards into one of the state's leading wineries.


The Deals, who have been coming to the Martinsburg festival since it opened 10 years ago, praised Wolfe for his winemaking expertise, and Wolfe, in turn, thanked the Deals for giving him a chance to get his start in the industry.

Wolfe was a retired Navy submariner when he decided to go into the business, but didn't have the money to enroll in schools that taught the craft.

Instead, Wolfe said, he checked some of the country's leading universities where it was taught - the University of California at Davis, Cornell University and Virginia Tech, among others. He bought the textbooks the schools used and taught himself, he said.

For $15 on Saturday, adults (children under 12 get in free; those 13 to 20 pay $10) were handed an empty wine glass and a program that led them to booths where they could sample dozens of varieties of West Virginia-made wines - from reds, whites and pink to mead, the wine made from honey at Kenco Farms Meadery in Sutton, W.Va., in Braxton County.

"It's something different," said John Kennen, owner of Kenco Farms Meadery, of his wine.

Other Mountain State vineyards at the festival were Lambert's Vintage Wines of Weston, Potomac Highland Winery of Keyser, West-Whitehall Winery of Moorefield and Wolf Creek Winery of Wolfcreek.

Wine tasting isn't the only activity for festival patrons, with music being the second order of the day. It seemed as if half of the people Saturday were content to sit in the shade of Boydville's towering maples before a small stage.

They were entertained by the acoustic sounds of David Reid LaFleur; foot-stomping renditions by the South Mountain String Band and the Rock Candy Cloggers; Singin' the Bones, a trio specializing in the music of Appalachia and Medieval Europe; and bluesmen Don Oehser and the Vibrators.

Today's entertainment will be provided by Ed and Eldred, two area musicians; the Outpatients and their newgrass and rhythm-and-blues style; and Treehouse, a quintet that blends rock, folk and pop.

Proceeds from the festival will help fund The Arts Centre's Young Artists' Summer Workshop program, among other Arts Centre-sponsored events.

Topper Sherwood, the Arts Centre's executive director, said the workshop, which is self-supporting through donations and tuition, is expected to draw about 140 young students to the weeklong art classes. The Arts Centre also is raising money to restore the former post office and federal office building on the corner of West King and Maple streets in downtown Martinsburg.

Sherwood said he anticipates that about 2,000 people will visit the festival over the two days.

If you go

What: West Virginia Wine & Arts Festival

When: Today, 1 to 6 p.m.

Where: Lawns of the Boydville Inn, 601 S. Queen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Admission is $15; $10 for those 13 to 20; and free for those 12 and younger. Tickets will be available at the gate.

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