MOUNT SNOW, VT. - In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused officials to cancel the annual Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival, in one of Vermont’s most lush resorts. Next to the storm’s devastation, which received national attention, a wine event being scratched seemed like an afterthought.
Not so this year. From Wilmington all along points north on Vt. Rt. 100, a spirit of renascence has gripped Vermont’s hardest-hit area by Irene. The wine festival has now become a symbol to the comeback that no one thought possible just 12-months earlier.
Adam Grinold, executive director to the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the resilience of locals made the near-miraculous comeback possible.
"The people of this valley have really stepped up to address the critical needs raised by Irene’s devastation," Grinold said. "The wine festival is emblematic of how far we have come as a group of communities and a state. Visitors come to Vermont to celebrate the beauty and richness of fall. We welcome them and are ready to celebrate with them."
The festival had become a southern Vermont mainstay in the five years preceding Tropical Storm Irene. This year, it will take place on the Mount Snow resort, whose management has provided the space to help make the event easily accessible.
The festival, Grinold added, has earned a number of honors and recognition.
"The recognition and accolades that the Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival has already received is exciting," Grinold said. "Being listed as a ‘Top 10 Event’ brings so much attention to the fact that the Festival is a significant draw for out-of-state visitors as well as a quality, community-organized event with a long-standing commitment to continue it for years to come."
Grinold said the national recognition as a ‘U.S. Top 100’ event is important because it’s something that will attract American and Canadian motor coach tour operators to the Mount Snow Valley.
A fall tradition
Attracting winemakers, distillers and brewers from all of Vermont, the 2012 Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival is continuing where it left off two years ago. This year’s celebration of Vermont wine producers is projected to draw some 3,000 visitors to Wilmington and Dover for a long weekend of tastings, dinners, culinary demonstrations, shopping, and entertainment.
Organizers have planned a full schedule in the festival’s return edition. On Friday, the preview tasting of Vermont wines and cheeses will be held in conjunction with the Wine Festival Village Stroll, featuring live entertainment and the Great Vermont Soup Tasting Contest in the center of Wilmington.
On Saturday and Sunday, the festival events - many more wine tastings, exhibitors and all-day live entertainment - shift to nearby West Dover, where a vast tented area will be next to the landmark clock-tower building, an easy landmark for visitors to find.
Wine festival dinners will take place in two of West Dover’s most popular restaurants, Dover Forge Restaurant and Matterhorn Inn, and Haystack Golf Club is hosting the Wine and Cheese Pairings.
Cheryl LaFlamme, president of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce expressed excitement and optimism that the event’s planning will complement the surrounding autumn aura.
"Our festival is totally under tents at Mount Snow resort and people have the pleasure of being able to go from tasting excellent local wines and regional cuisines to enjoying the Vermont fall foliage right here," she said.
The event will host 17 Vermont wineries in addition to several other spirits producers and at least one brewer. Also space under the festival tents is reserved for many of Vermont’s specialty food producers, as well as fine artisans and artists, so visitors will have a wide variety of offerings from which to choose.
On Friday evening, the wine tastings in Wilmington Village are $7 per person. The Wine Festival Village Stroll on Friday evening, which features the Vermont Soup Contest, is free. On Saturday and Sunday at Mount Snow resort in West Dover, admission is $12 per person, or $20 for a two-day pass.
Tickets include the official festival wine glass and a specified number of tastings. Most of the events require no advance purchase of tickets or reservations. The Wine Pairings Dinner and Wine and Cheese Party require reservations.
Steve Cook, Vermont’s deputy commissioner of tourism and marketing, summed up the the festival’s venue as unique, and worth the drive to Mount Snow for the weekend.
"Wine tasting events are usually held in beautiful locations." Cook said. "But at Mount Snow, there’s not only the festival, but easy access to outdoor recreation, historic sites, the arts, and beautiful Vermont villages right in the same place."
The Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, Sep. 21-23, in Wilmington and West Dover. Info: call 802-464-8092; www.TheVermontFestival.com.