GRAPEVINE — With GrapeFest entering its 27th year, the annual festival has wine growers juiced about showing off the fruits of their labors.GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest, returns Thursday-Sunday to historic downtown Grapevine with new experiences such as a scavenger hunt and old favorites such as the GrapeStomp competition.This year’s theme is “discoveries.” At a recent City Council meeting, GrapeFest co-chairs Ed and Julie Stone said the discoveries could either be old favorites “that have made a change or something new.”Texas ranks fifth among wine-producing states in the United States. Named for the wild Mustang grapes that blanketed the land when settlers first arrived in 1844, Grapevine is the headquarters of the Texas wine industry.The four-day annual festival offers the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, GrapeStomp, the Vintners’ Auction Classic, the Champagne Terrace presented by Gaylord Texan Resort, KidsWorld presented by Baylor Regional Medical Center of Grapevine and the Culinary Pavilion.The People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic is the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the United States. It will feature about 145 wines from more than 39 Texas wineries in 10 categories. Guests receive a booklet detailing the available wines along with a ballot to select their favorites. Sessions are held throughout the four-day festival. Tickets are $20 and advance purchase is recommended. “Hopefully, people won’t sample every one of the 145 wines,” Ed Stone told the City Council, eliciting a laugh. The Vintners’ Auction Classic benefiting the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is slated for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Grand Gallery, 636 S. Main St. Bids can me made on vacation packages, wine dinners and vineyard tours. Guests can sample Texas wines and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. A family favorite is GrapeStomp. Two-person teams take turns stomping approximately 18 pounds of grapes for two minutes. Stone said teams that stomp the most juice are eligible to participate in the Grand Champion StompOff, with the winners awarded the coveted “purple foot” award and a glass foot from Grapevine’s Vetro Glassblowing Studio. Entry fee is $5 per person. Special GrapeStomp events include the Senior GrapeStomp on Friday and the Mayoral GrapeStomp on Saturday. A special stomping area is available for kids 13 and under. Other highlights are the Champagne Cork Shoot-Off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday; stages featuring more than 90 opportunities to see live entertainment; and wine pavilions.The festival kicked off Sept. 7 with the Texas Wine Tribute. Each year, the black-tie gala celebrates specially selected Texas wines paired with a dinner. Stone said festival volunteers, many making their first appearance, are hard at work. “They put in a lot of hours and help present Grapevine in a good way,” he said.New this year at the tribute was the first “Tall in Texas” award, given to a winery that has been instrumental in promoting Texas wines and the Texas wine industry. Messina Hof Winery & Resort in Bryan and Messina Hof Hill Country Winery in Fredericksburg was the inaugural winner.A panel of industry professionals was established to select the recipient, noting that when Messina Hof began in 1977, there were only four wineries in Texas. Today, there are nearly 300.In the 1970s, Paul V, and Merrill Bonarrigo were part of a group of agricultural pioneers that believed quality wine grapes could be grown in Texas. Founded in 1977 and bonded in 1983, Messina Hof Winery and the Bonarrigo family have played a crucial role in the development of the Texas wine industry. Winery founder Paul V. Bonarrigo has served as the chairman of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and is a recipient of the John Crosby Lifetime Achievement Award, and Merrill Bonarrigo, Paul’s wife and co-founder is a recipient of the Qualia Award for her contribution to the Texas Wine Industry.Messina Hof wines have won more than 1,500 awards, including 70 at GrapeFest’s People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic. And this year, Messina Hof was honored by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition as Top All-Around Winery, besting 947 wineries from 22 countries.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367