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Annual wine festival features 16 vineyards

(Sept. 26, 2014) Eric Deal, of West Virginia, has been coming to Ocean City every autumn for the past 19 years.

Visitors attending the 18th annual Wine Festival on the Beach last year in the inlet parking lot sample blends from nearly two dozen wineries and vineyards.

It’s not an off-season vacation he’s after, but the crowds that gather in the resort’s southern end in search of their favorite East Coast wines at Wine on the Beach, a two-day festival celebrating the fruit of the vine.

“It’s always been a great festival. It’s one of our favorite festivals to do,” said Deal, the owner of Forks of Cheat Winery in Morgantown, WV. “It’s a beautiful venue there, being at the beach.”

Wine on the Beach returns to the resort today, Sept. 26, bringing 16 East Coast vineyards as well as craft beer, arts and crafts vendors, live music and a slew of food to the Ocean City inlet. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Saturday.

From full-bodied reds to pleasant peaches, the wines themselves are what make the festival, and vineyard owners are careful to bring the bottles that best fit the crowd, Deal said.

As he deliberated over which to bring Monday morning, he landed on sweeter wines, something “a little outside of the box,” he said.

“There are so many really good dry wines coming out… we figured we’d bring out some of the nicer fruit wines that we specialize in,” Deal said. “They’ve been very popular in the past. They’re some of my favorite wines.”

Visitors will find samples of Niagara, a sweet white, Airmail Jones, a semi-sweet table wine, and Forks of Cheat’s special peach fruit wine, a 100 percent peach recipe made with West Virginia fruit, at his booth.

Richard Sebert, owner of Clear Spring’s Knob Hall Winery, agreed: “Most of the wine that we sell is sweet,” but as a winery specializing in dry wines, Knob Hall will bring a mix to the table, he said.

Visitors should keep an eye out for Knob Hall’s Chambourcin, a full-bodied red that took home the gold medal in the 2010 Maryland Governor’s Cup Competition, and Le Reve Rouge, a lighter, fruity red.

For those after something sweet, Knob Hall will pour its Gold Digger, a fresh white, and Sweet Revenge, a refreshing red.

A three-year Wine on the Beach veteran, Sebert sold 40 cases last year, he said.

The festival drew a crowd of about 7,000, organizer Christina Nokes said.

An Annapolis resident, Nokes started Wine on the Beach 19 years ago “to help a lot of the small wineries get attention and get sales” and accepts any East Cost vineyards, she said.

In addition to samples of wine, four microbrews from Devil’s Backbone, Fat Tire, 3rd Wave and OC Brewing Company will be available on-site. There will be 26 arts and crafts vendors and food from gourmet wraps and pulled pork to soft shell crabs, fried shrimp and hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza for sale, she said.

Bird Dog and The Road Kings, the Pat O’Brennan Trio and 3 Penny Opera will provide live music.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Sebert said. “The people are nice. This is a fun festival to come to.”

Tickets cost $30 at the gate and include one-day admission to the festival, a commemorative wine glass and 10 coupons for wine samples. Designated driver tickets cost the same and come with a special wristband, unlimited soft drinks and a commemorative wine glass. Bring a valid photo ID.

Wines will be on sale at the event. No pets, picnic baskets, coolers or outside drinks are allowed at the festival. Events take place rain or shine.

For a full list of wineries and craft vendors, the entertainment schedule, and more information, visit www.winefest.com/index-beach.html.

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