The region’s premier wine festival is turning 21. Daniel Vineyards will celebrate the 21st Annual West Virginia Spring Wine Festival on June 15 with vendors offering food, art and other fun, reported winery manager and event coordinator Chad Fox of Daniel Vineyards.

Of course, there will be plenty of wine.

“That’s our big festival of the year,” said Fox. “We turn 21 this year.

“We’re legal,” he quipped.

Celebrated on the scenic, 192-acre vineyard in Crab Orchard, the festival will offer tastings from seven winery vendors, including Daniel Vineyards. Visiting wineries are Forks of Cheat Winery in Morgantown, West Whitehill in Moorefield, Lambert’s Vintage Wine in Weston, Stone Road Vineyard in Elizabeth, Sweeter Side of the Feud in Spencer and Chestnut Ridge Winery in Spencer.

The festival usually draws a crowd of 800 to 1,000, Fox said.

He added that the crowd is big enough to be a crowd, but not so large that tasters must wait in long lines to sample the wine. 

“It’s kind of a smaller wine festival in the state, but people I think kind of enjoy it,” he noted. “They get one-on-one contact with not only the vineyards but the winemakers.

“The lines are not as long as they are at some festivals. This one kind of gets a little more intimate.”

The familiar ambience is part of the food and craft vendors’ space, too.

“A lot of my vendors are returning vendors,” Fox said. “They get to meet a lot of people, and people support our local people (vendors).

“That’s something nice about the festival. Our local folks are good to support.”

Calacino’s Pizzeria, Twisted Sisterz BBQ, Dobra Zupas, Mountain Mommas, and Appalachian Kettle Corn will offer food during the festival.

Craft vendors include The Studio, Unique Silks & Dried with Cathy Smith, Artist Debbie Lester, Rica’s Best Dip Mixes, Angela Stafford with Scentsy, Mystic River Lavender, Ramblin Rose, So-Lux Candles with Ray Shackleford, Artist Frank Salzano, Color Street Nails with Ann Kootnz, Artist Zeke Applegate, LA Rustic Designs, Wines, Vines & Corks with Linda Ozminkowski, and more, Fox said.

Lady D, Krista Hughes Band and Untrained Professionals with Chris Huddle will perform.

This year will be the first festival following the September 2018 death of Daniel Vineyards founder Dr. C. Richard Daniel. 

Dr. Daniel was the first vintner to introduce a multitude of different grape varieties to the climate conditions of West Virginia, and 11 of those original varieties are still being grown on site as part of the vineyard’s Cold Climate Cultivars. The vineyard produces several award-winning wines. 

Fox said Daniel, who was 87 at the time of his death, had loved the grounds and was passionate about the vineyard and wine-making.

“He went to the Presbyterian church, and he always gave me the whole verse of ‘I am the Vine, you are the branches,’” Fox quoted the words of Christ from the Gospel of John. “He felt a spiritual connection with it.

“We’re celebrating (this year) in loving memory of Dr. C. Richard Daniel. This is the first festival he’s missed out on, all these years.”

Dr. Daniel passed his passion for wine-making and caring for the vines to his fraternal twin grandsons, Chad and Rich, said Fox. 

Chad, who graduated from culinary school, and Rich, who recently graduated from the West Virginia University psychology program, now operate Daniel Vineyards.

Fox said that Dr. Daniel had tried for many years to start an “end-of-the-season” festival in the fall. The weather was usually dreary, and the crowds were sparse. Dr. Daniel eventually gave up on the idea of a fall festival, said Fox.

About a month before Dr. Daniel’s death, Chad and Rich hosted the first craft beer festival at Daniel Vineyards. The August fair drew a crowd of around 500, and Fox took Dr. Daniel down to see it, he said.

“That was the very first end-of-the-season festival that we got to do out here,” said Fox. “He got to be a part of it.

“So Doc got to come out there and actually see that. He was thrilled to see it.”

Rich and Chad have begun complementing the wine-making operations with culinary offerings, including the popular Tapas and Wine Pairing each month.

Recently, Daniel Vineyards debuted a light lunch menu and hired Lisa Spears, an Academy of Careers and Technology instructor, as a part-time chef, said Fox.

“They absolutely love working with the vines and the property,” Fox said of the twins, who are 26 years old. “Dr. Daniel pretty much groomed them the last three years to take over the business, so here they are.”

The 21st West Virginia Spring Wine Festival will continue the tradition of celebrating good wine in southern West Virginia, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, rain or shine. 

Gate admission is $15 per person with a valid ID. The cost covers all wine tastings from the seven wineries, a commemorative wine glass and entertainment.

Pets and coolers must stay at home, but lawn chairs and blankets are encouraged, Fox said.

More information on the festival or upcoming culinary offerings is available at danielvineyards.com and a “Daniel Vineyards” Facebook page is also active.

Daniel Vineyards is at 200 Twin Oaks Road in Crab Orchard.

• • •

SIDEBAR

Daniel Vineyards will debut two new wines at the 21st Annual West Virginia Spring Wine Festival on June 15 — a white wine that celebrates the estate history and the vineyard’s second fruit wine, winery manager Chad Fox announced Wednesday.

Twin Oaks White is a sweet white with melon undertones.

“It’s a real, smooth, drinkable, sweeter white wine,” explained Fox. “This wine is closer to the line of, we’re thinking, moscato.

“So you’re looking at a little bit lower alcohol content.”

Like all of Daniel Vineyards wines, Twin Oaks is an estate wine. From grape to bottle, it is produced at the vineyard.

The name reflects the history of the 192-acre vineyard and the Daniel family. Owners Chad and Rich Daniel, 26-year-old fraternal twins and the grandsons of the late Daniel Vineyards founder Dr. Charles “Richard” Daniel, named the new wine “Twin Oaks White.”

Dr. Daniel, 87, died in September.

“They chose the name because the property and history here used to be the Twin Oaks Golf Course,” said Fox. “The Daniel family had owned it.

“The fellow that ran the lease kind of gave up the lease,” Fox said. “Doc inherited the golf course.

“Doc was never a big golfer and didn’t want to operate a golf course,” he explained. “He thought it would be a beautiful place for a vineyard.”

In 1989 and 1990, Fox said, Dr. Daniel turned Twin Oaks Golf Course into an estate winery, working with 114 variety of cultivars before honing in on the perfect matches for the Crab Orchard climate and soil.

“Doc always wanted to be known for an estate winery,” Fox said. “That’s really a rarity, when you look at wineries across the country and world.

“You get a lot of wineries, but they may source their grapes from some other place, which is fine.

“But there are very few wineries where they grow their own grapes, 100 percent, and they bottle everything on-site.

“Doc always wanted to do everything, from point A to point B to point C, start to finish, and have an estate-owned vineyard,” he said. “That makes it unique for the southern West Virginia area.

“The history of the property, and also because Chad and Rich are twins, so all that kind of tied together and they added their own twist,” Fox added. “Instead of making some crazy, crazy fanciful names — you see a lot of wines out there, and they’ve got some wild names on them — they really wanted to incorporate the property history and the family history, and that’s what they chose to go with their new release of the sweeter, white wine.”

Fox said a new red raspberry wine has also been created. Daniel Vineyards offers blackberry wine, and the twins wanted to offer a new fruit wine that would be easily recognizable, said Fox.

The sweet wine pairs well with dessert and is 10 percent red raspberries, from estate-grown fruit. Fox has served it with the Tapas and Wine Pairing series that Daniel Vineyards hosts.

He said the red raspberry wine has been popular with winery visitors but has not been for sale until now. He said the labels were recently approved by the federal government and arrived at the estate on Tuesday.

As soon as the bottles are labeled, wine lovers are welcome to purchase them.

“We’ve been doing barrel tastings with it since January,” he added. “We’ve had so many people wanting to buy it, and we have these naked bottles and nothing to legally sell it with.”

He said the red raspberry wine and Twin Oaks white wine will both be for sale and available for tasting at the festival on June 15.

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