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Chteau lan hosts festival offering unique wines, standout fare
Vineyard Fest served up sips of white, red and muscadine wines
Chef Todd Oldeen stirs shrimp Sunday for plates of shrimp and grits during the annual Vineyard Fest at Château Élan in Braselton. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Stomping grapes, sipping national, international and Georgia wines and brewskies, and sampling harvest barbecue delicacies kept visitors entertained at the 15th annual Vineyard Fest at Château Élan on Sunday afternoon.

Cheers. It was music for your ears under the huge white tent where a spread of culinary standouts included Georgia shrimp paired with stone ground grits, brown sugar-bourbon baked beans and sweet treats including strawberry short cake. You could even cool off with a scoop of High Roads Ice Cream & Sorbet.

Vineyard Fest attracted repeat visitors as well as first-timers including Chemika and Jerome Howard, who made their way to Braselton on Sunday as Chemika's birthday celebration. It was the Howards' first outing to Château Élan.

"Thursday was my birthday and we were looking for something to do in the area," said Chemika, who was enjoying the wine sampling experience. For Jerome, it was the dry reds, which were his favorite.

There was a buzz of shared commentary about the best wines and beers available from the 25 wineries and breweries participating in this year's Vineyard Fest.

From whites to reds to muscadine wines - from Chile, Australia, Argentina and Spain - and many more from closer to home were poured to tantalize the tastebuds.

Among those represented at Vineyard Fest was Duplin Winery, located in Rose Hill, N.C. Lauren O'Bryan, who was manning the table, gave assurances that the vineyards and winery were undamaged as Hurricane Irene made her way up the eastern coast.

Duplin's Hatteras Red was a popular wine with Clifford "The Big Red Dog" Smith who was enjoying the afternoon with
wife Sylvia.

Learning that Duplin wine is available at Publix for under $10 had one wine sipper saying that was her speed.

The Georgia wines were served up at tables in the cool cask room and vat room where visitors could escape from the summer heat and fill their Château Élan glasses with tastes of Boutier Winery's Diva ‘Licious peach wine or Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company's Reb Ale or Indian Summer.

Andrea and Ed Perry had traveled from Horse Creek Winery in Nashville to share the tastes of their reserve Ponderosa Gold, the Jockey, Finish Line and Blackjack.

The Georgia wines provided plenty of sweet tastes and inspired names. The Georgia Winery had Georgia on My Mind and Bulldog Red as well as Tailgate Red.

Ticia Purcell teamed up with Amanda Williams to pour samples of the offerings of The Georgia Winery in Ringgold.

Statesboro's Meinhardt Winery was Georgia's 11th winery, according to Scott Welcker, sales manager, who said he is proud there are now as many as 52 Georgia wineries. Nine of them were represented at this year's Vineyard Fest.

Meinhardt Winery pays tribute to the town's post-secondary educational institution with Southern Eagle.

It is the winery's most popular selection although Pesca-Forsyth is the sweet peach variety. Tybee is the watermelon wine while Waving Girl is a blueberry variety. Savannah Harbor is another of the Meinhardt wines that evokes Georgia places.

National and international wines were found in the pavilion where representatives from Sassy Bitch Wines were pouring samples of the Chilean wines which are distributed from Warner Robins.

One of the crew ringing up a sale of several bottles of wine dared not guess the number of corks that would be popped during Vineyard Fest.

In addition to wine and beer tasting and the taste of southern flavors of the barbecue, cooking demonstrations and seminars with winemakers and a brewmaster were also provided. Château Élan executive chief Marc Suennemann packed them into the culinary studio for his 4 p.m. demonstration.

Guests were invited to assist Tracy Kofke with Tipsy Canvas, the featured artist for the Vineyard Fest work of art, which will be a commemorative of this year's memorable taste of the vine experience.