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Posted May 14, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Front Royal prepares for wine, craft festival

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By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Patrons with a strong craving for everything from Vidal Blanc to Chardonnay will have more than a few beverages to choose from during the Virginia Wine and Craft Festival along downtown Main Street on Saturday.

The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce will host the 23rd annual festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event, which is sponsored by Jack Evans Chevrolet & Cadillac, is traditionally a one-stop hub for residents from Virginia and surrounding states to come and sample offerings from several wineries. Family and children-oriented events are also melded with the festivities.

"I think events like this kind of allow people to get out and enjoy themselves. It's a nice, fun-filled day and a beautiful atmosphere," Chamber of Commerce President Niki Findley said. "It's just a good way to get out and relax because we hear so much bad stuff that every now and again, it's good to get out and unwind."

About 26 wineries are on tap to participate in this year's festival, Findley said. Among them will be James River Cellars, Blue Ridge Vineyard, Gadino Cellars and Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery.

"That's a pretty big deal because we've averaged right around 20 [wineries] every year. So, we've got quite a few additions," Findley said.

Virginia has more than 130 wineries and roughly 3,000 acres of vineyards, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state ranked eighth nationwide in both commercial grape production and bearing acreage in 2007. The state's reputation for producing quality wine not only draws local residents to Front Royal's annual festival, but also people from other states, Findley said.

"Well, I think it's a combination of a few things. I think first of all, of course, the biggest draw is the Virginia wines. Virginia has become very popular for wine, and we're able to have so many wonderful wineries in one location. It's a big draw for folks," Findley said. "But, I think also the charm of Front Royal, especially downtown Front Royal and the historic nature."

Tickets for the wine tasting are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. General admission to the festival is $2, and children under 6 years of age will be admitted for free. In addition to the wineries, there will be displays of handmade jewelry, musical instruments, pottery and ceramic items. Face-painting, a moon bounce and joust will be among activities for children. Additionally, cars will be put on display courtesy of Shenandoah Corvettes.

The wine tasting festivities, meanwhile, will start a little earlier than usual this year. The Chamber of Commerce will host a Wine and Nine Golf Tournament beginning at 5:30 p.m. today at the Bowling Green Country Club at 838 Bowling Green Road. Participants in the nine-hole tournament will be able to sample wine from nine different winery stations, Findley said.

For information on the festival and golf tournament, call 635-3185 or e-mail priffle@ frontroyalchamber.com.

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