Spirits Trail hosts beer, wine and spirits garden in D.C.

STRASBURG – The Shenandoah Spirits Trail sponsored the DC MetroCooking Show’s beer, wine and spirits garden in early December, and the Shenandoah County Tourism Council said Tuesday it was a success.

“There was a line to get into the pavilion to taste all of the beer, wine and spirits that were in the little pavilion that we were in,” said Kary Haun, a local artisan who helped run the pavilion.

Fourteen venues from the Spirits Trail set up at tables on the pavilion, offering samples from Shenandoah Valley breweries, wineries and distilleries.

“Several people said that, ‘Oh my gosh, I never realized there was so much in the Shenandoah Valley,'” said Jenna French, director of tourism and business development. “We heard a lot from people being familiar with Loudoun County’s LoCo Ale Trail or their Wine Trail, but not knowing that we had such a concentration, so that was really encouraging: the exposure, that now people would realize that we do have this much to offer in the Shenandoah Valley.”

French said that Cave Ridge Vineyard, from Mount Jackson, struck a distributor deal with a local restaurant on the second day of the cooking show.

In the upcoming fiscal year, French said, the Tourism Council will be requesting increased funding from the county to help with strategic planning and an increased marketing campaign.

“We need more funding to really be functioning at the level that we’d like to be,” French said. In the past 2-3 years, French said, the county has agreed to the council’s budget without any cuts.

“I feel confident that they see that we are conservative, we’re not just asking for the moon and stars just because,” French said.

At the meeting Tuesday, French reported that the bulk of the tourism website’s traffic came from Virginia, followed by D.C., North Carolina and Maryland, with some hits internationally.

“The ones like Germany and the U.K., I’m watching those a lot, and a lot of the European countries and China,” French said. “As a trend in general, international travel to the U.S. has dropped off pretty significantly as a result of some changes in our political environment nationally.”

The National Travel and Tourism Office, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, reported a 6.7 percent drop in international tourism to the U.S. in June 2017, compared to June 2016.

French also reported that the Tourism Council is creating a series four videos in January based on the four pillars identified by the organization’s branding: outdoor recreation, farm-to-table cuisine, family travels, and small towns and cities.