Crowds give Winefest a vintage year

Kristie Janes of Whitewater Hill Vineyards pours a taste of wine for festival-goers Saturday at the 22nd annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade. Organizers expect to log more than 6,000 ticket sales this year.

Matt Collins of Northglenn and Brooke Lucas of Palisade enjoy stomping grapes together Saturday at Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

Wayne Smith and Jon St. Peter demonstrate a dish at the culinary tent at the winefest. Both chefs teach at the culinary arts program at Western Colorado Community College in Grand Junction.

They all may not have made it over the hills to attend this year’s Colorado Mountain Winefest, but the yearly event did sell more tickets than ever, according to event organizers.

The 22nd annual festival expects to log more than 6,000 ticket sales, said Cassidee Shull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology.

Shull attributes the boost in sales to a new “pre-sale” system, something the event plans to do very year, starting right after Thanksgiving.

“We got about a 40 percent boost in pre-sales because of that,” Shull said. “We have a lot of people now who are planning to attend more than a year out, because they know they have to get hotel rooms, and they fill up pretty quickly.”

Though it’s difficult to know for sure, Shull believes that at least some of the people who had planned to attend couldn’t because they were still dealing with damage from the floods that hit the Front Range last week.

What else could it be, because the weather was great, the music was awesome and the wine and food were even better, she said.

“We even had a couple here from Poland,” Shull said. “Apparently, they’re in the country on vacation, which they planned around all wine festivals in the nation. And we were one of them.”

As always, the event featured about 50 wineries, most of which are from the region.

It also hosted 11 food-tasting booths, eight food carts in the culinary court and 30 artisan/craft booths.

Shull said the event is selective when it comes to those non-wine booths. The event doesn’t allow mass-produced products to be sold there. Instead, it would rather see a variety of items that must be hand-crafted.

“We have a jury that meets in April and decides who gets to be a vendor,” she said, adding that about 25 vendors who requested booths were turned down because they didn’t meet those qualifications.

She said some of the vendors came from as far away as Tennessee and California.

“They’re on the circuit, and they know we’re a festival worth attending,” Shull said.


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