Teams compete in the GrapeStomp every year at GrapeFest. Joyce Marshall Star-Telegram archives
Teams compete in the GrapeStomp every year at GrapeFest. Joyce Marshall Star-Telegram archives

Northeast Tarrant

30 years later, GrapeFest’s thirst for wine goes way beyond Texas

September 14, 2016 2:05 PM

GRAPEVINE

The first GrapeFest was a one-day event held on one block. About 900 people attended.

This year, for the 30th annual GrapeFest — A Texas Wine Experience, more than 250,000 wine enthusiasts are expected to converge on downtown Grapevine over four days, beginning Thursday.

“GrapeFest began as a one-day event and took place along Main Street between Texas and Worth streets,” said Paul W. McCallum, executive director of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Today, the festival has grown to a multi-week event, including everything from sports tournaments, international wines and the now-famous People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic.”

While GrapeFest will feature wines from California’s Central Coast and Australia’s Barossa Valley, there will also be plenty of Texas wine. The Lone Star State is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the United States, Lyons said. Grapevine is home to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and Texas’ premier Urban Wine Trail.

“When the festival began, there were about 30 wineries in Texas,” said Leigh Lyons, city spokeswoman. “Now, more than 300 wineries and 4,400 acres of producing vineyard farmland yields nearly three million gallons of Texas wine each year.”

Here are five things to know about GrapeFest.

GrapeFest, held in Historic Downtown Grapevine on Main Street, is the largest wine festival in the Southwest.

Fine wine times

“A favorite is the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the nation,” Lyons said.

Held at the Tasting Experience at Liberty Park across from City Hall, participants can savor more than 140 Texas varietals from 38 Texas wineries during 11 sessions throughout the weekend.

Guests vote for their favorites, and the winners of the competition will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25. Guests must be 21 and over to enter.

California drinkin’

Check out wines from California’s Central Coast, home to historic ranch lands, country roads, stay-a-while towns and grapes galore.

“Top vintners have transformed the Central Coast into one of the state’s premier wine regions, with hundreds of wineries to visit in the rolling hills and sunny valleys,” Lyons said. “… The grapes are among the oldest in the state, planted by Franciscan monks in the late 1700s.”

Vineyards from California participating in GrapeFest include Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards, Cottonwood Canyon Wine, Cowgirl Winery, Derby Wine Estates, Firestone Vineyards, Tantara Vineyards and Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard.

Australian offerings

Also at the Tasting Experience, sample wines from Australia’s Barossa Valley, home to more than 500 grape-growing families, many with the sixth generation still working the same plot of land of their ancestors, supplying quality grapes to more than 170 wine companies.

“Barossa incorporates both Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, making it one of the only areas in Australia to have neighboring warm and cool climate growing conditions,” Lyons said. “It has a diversity of growing conditions and soil types across both valleys, and vineyards that have been tended by hand for many generations.”

Vineyards from Australia include Cirillo Estate, Elderton Wines, Hentley Farm, Izway Wines and Smallfry Wines.

Purple feet reign

Lyons said another favorite event is returning: the GrapeStomp competition. Teams of two take turns to stomp approximately 18 pounds of grapes for two minutes.

“Stomping the most juice qualifies to stomp at the Grand Champion StompOff” at 4 p.m. Sunday, featuring “the coveted Purple Foot award,’ ” Lyons said.

Special GrapeStomp events include the Senior GrapeStomp at 10:30 a.m. Friday and the Mayoral GrapeStomp at 11 a.m. Saturday. A free special stomping area is available for kids 12 and under.

“For the mayoral stomp, we have representatives from 18 cities this year, including from our sister cities of Parras de la Fuente, Mexico, and West Lothian, Scotland,” Lyons said. “There are usually some really cool costumes.”

Bring on the craft beer

GrapeFest is no longer just about wine.

There’s plenty of beer available as well.

Just like the wine, the craft beers come from across Texas and the U.S.

For those less adventurous there are domestic beers available for purchase as well.

Marty Sabota: 817-390-7367, @martysabota

If you go

GrapeFest opens at 10 a.m. Thursday. Free admission all day Thursday and until 5 p.m. Friday. Hours are 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m Thursday; 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $8 for adults; $5 for seniors (62+) and children 6-12. Admission is free for children 5 and under.

Weekend passes are $18 and souvenir weekend passes are $23.

Complimentary shuttles are available at 980 Turner Road north of Northwest Highway, the Grapevine Public Library at 1201 Municipal Way and Grapevine Mills mall at 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway. Civic and other groups offer parking for a fee closer to the event.

For information, call the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-457-6338 or 817-410-3185 or visit www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/GrapeFest.

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