By John Blankenship
A large crowd gathered Saturday at Daniel Vineyards in Crab Orchard to enjoy sunshine and a variety of wines at the 15th annual Spring Wine Festival.
“Every year it gets bigger and better,” explained vineyard owner Dr. Richard Daniel. “It’s heartening every year to see these folks come back — they love to come back.”
Daniel added, “We’ve got a lot of good wineries and vendors, a lot of good food and music; it’s just a good place to come and relax and bring the children, with everyone having a good time.”
Daniel said the festival boasts the six best wineries in West Virginia — West-Whitehill Winery from Moorefield; Forks of Cheat Winery, Morgantown; Watt’s Roost, Lewisburg; Lamberts Vintage Wine, Weston; Heston Farm Winery and Daniel Vineyards.
“We are getting a lot of out-of-state people coming to the festival now,” Daniel said. “We hear a lot of positive comments from people who say they are surprised at how good the wines are from our wineries. We are all very excited to continue this tradition.”
While several tasters were trying out some of the fruity flavors for the first time, others were coming back to the festival with favorites already chosen. Wine tasting ran from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the vineyard complex in the laid-back country setting in a relaxed hilltop atmosphere replete with live entertainment and lush June backdrop.
“The festival offers some beautiful scenery and delicious wines,” explained Melissa Hunt of Beckley. “It’s my first visit to the festival but I definitely will be coming back.”
This same view was shared by Mary Sounder, also of Beckley. “This is a great event. We need more occasions like these where you can taste great wines and see some of the handiwork that the festival showcases from local artists.”
The festival also gives people a chance to get together with one another. Betsy Childress and her husband Les of Shady Spring heard about the wine-tasting event from their friends.
“This is our first time here,” explained Betsy, a retired Spanish teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School. “I’ve already run into some of my fellow teachers and former students, giving me a chance to reconnect with them. I would say this definitely is a cultural attraction for our area. A lot of people think mainly of mining and industry when they think of southern West Virginia, but there’s a lot more to do here than people realize.”
Daniel Vineyards is a family-owned estate winery that was created in 1990 at the former location of the 192-acre Twin Oaks Golf Course by Daniel, a retired radiologist. About 20 acres are used for the vineyards, which include some 10,000 vines.
Of the more than 21,400 farms in West Virginia, Daniel Vineyards in 2008 was judged the third best conservation farm in the state.
The vineyard has gained state, national and international recognition for its award-winning wines, which have consistently won medals and honors. Best sellers include Blackberry, Port and Cayuga.
The winery buildings and the vineyards are available for picnic lunches if the property is not being used by other vendors.
“We’re all about helping to educate the public about the history of wine making and the development of West Virginia wineries,” Daniel explained. “There is a history behind the unique grape varieties that we grow here. All of the grapes used in our wine making are grown right here at the vineyard, and we are always looking for new ways to introduce the public to the process of wine making.”