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Wine enthusiasts brave rain for Vineyard Fest
Chateau Elan Sous Chef Juan Turner shows a crowd the final product during his cooking seminar Sunday. The seminar was part of Chateau Elan’s annual Vineyard Fest, which also featured wine-tasting and grape-stomping. - photo by Claire Miller

BRASELTON — People huddled under umbrellas, held raincoats over each other and even took shuttles from the Inn at Château Élan to the winery across the street — anything it would take to avoid the pouring rain and get to the main event.

Sunday marked Château Élan’s fourth annual Vineyard Fest, an event filled with wine-tasting, cooking demonstrations, grape-stomping and other activities for visitors to enjoy.

A massive white tent kept the band, tables and food from six of the resort’s seven restaurants dry for people to enjoy samples of chicken salad on croissants, traditional Irish bangers and mash and mini peach bread pudding.

But the winery itself housed the main attractions — long tables covered with bottles of wines from more than 20 different wineries in the U.S. and other countries were on display, and employees from those wineries were on hand to pour samples and explain the nuances of how they were made.

New to the festivities this year was one lone brewery, New Century Brewing Co. based in Pennsylvania, that held its own despite being surrounded by wine.

“We wanted to expose as many people as we could who are used to the typical, mass-produced beer,” said David Almeida, a local representative from the brewing company, about coming to the event. “Our beer ... has a hell of a lot more flavor than the familiar light beers.”

Almeida said he had plenty of people stopping by his table to see how the light beers measured up to traditional beers.

“People were bringing their friends back,” he said. “One guy said, ‘I don’t like light beer,’ and I told him not to be afraid of it. He tried it and really liked it, so I got at least one convert.”

Though some people came to Château Élan from neighboring cities and counties to enjoy the festivities, Curtis and Priscilla Haga came all the way from Orlando, Fla., to partake.

“We were here two years ago and we’ve been to this before,” Curtis Haga said.

Though the couple had to miss Vineyard Fest last year, they decided to make the trek this year and even wore outfits with wine bottles and barrels printed on them.

“We love coming to this,” Priscilla Haga said.