Small Bites: **UPDATE: CONFERENCE CANCELED** 2015 Grape Growers Conference

GROWING SUSTAINABILITY: Chuck Blethen, owner of Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard, is a founding member and the executive director of the Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute. Blethen helped organize and plan the upcoming annual Grape Growers Conference in Madison County. Photo courtesy of Blethen

Grape Growers Conference celebrates its fifth year

Winemaking and viticulture are growing in popularity in Western North Carolina by leaps and bounds — as both a business and a hobby. On Thursday, Feb. 26, the fifth annual Grape Growers Conference in Marshall will offer an opportunity for commercial and home winemakers and vineyard owners to network, learn about and discuss their craft.

“We are courting the craft winemaker, or home winemaker, in addition to the commercial folks,” says event organizer Peter Fland of local winemaking education and support group the French Broad Vignerons. “We really would like to see some significant growth on the craft side, and we wish to support them as part of the French Broad Vignerons mission.”

Hosted by the Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute, Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard and the French Broad Vignerons, the conference will focus on recent developments in cold-hardy grapevines that thrive in mountainous terrain and wine-blending techniques. This year’s event will also feature two new forums aimed at laying the groundwork for an annual, regional meeting of winemakers and vineyard managers.

The Winemakers Roundtable will be an open discussion and Q&A session with WNC vintners Josh Fowler of Lake James Cellars
, Sharon Fenchak of Biltmore Winery, 
Justin Taylor of Burnt Shirt Vineyards, 
Karen Parker-Binns of Parker-Binns Vineyard & Winery and 
Alan Staton of Cabin Creek Vineyard. A Vineyard Managers Roundtable will address issues specific to WNC.

The Grape Growers Conference will be held 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in the auditorium of the Madison County Cooperative Extension, 258 Carolina Lane, Marshall. Advanced registration is $45 through noon Tuesday, Feb. 24. Lunch, coffee and refreshments are included. Late and walk-in registration is $55, with no guarantee of lunch. Parking is free.

Register at grapesavi.org.

Old Landmarks dinner, music event

A “Southern Grace” dinner menu and an evening of iconic music will honor Black History Month on Wednesday, Feb. 25, during Old Landmarks: Celebrating Songs that Mark a Path to Freedom at First Baptist Church of Asheville. The community dinner at 5 p.m. will feature fried chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed kale, biscuits and gravy or apple butter and banana pudding. The cost is $7 for adults and $6 for seniors ages 60 and older. A small portion for ages 12 and younger is available for $5. A free concert will follow at 6:30 p.m. featuring inspirational readings and musical performances by Kat Williams, Lyric, Lizz Wright, Rhoda Weaver, Chris Rosser, River Guerguerian and the Old Landmarks Mass Choir along with a percussion ensemble and congregational singing with jazz pianist Kenny Banks and drummer Terreon Gully.

Dinner at 5 p.m., concert at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 25, First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St. Reservations are required for the dinner. Details: 252-4781. Tickets: fbcasheville.wufoo.com/forms/old-landmarks-dinner-reservation-form/

Asheville Wing War

Asheville Food Fights is set to hold the fourth annual Asheville Wing War on Sunday, March 1, at New Mountain Asheville. A panel of local celebrity judges (including Xpress food contributor Jonathan Ammons) will choose from the offerings of more than a dozen Asheville chefs to pick winners in the categories of specialty and traditional Buffalo-style wings. Event attendees will also have a chance to taste the competition and vote for their favorites for the People’s Choice Awards. The Wing War is currently sold out, but organizers may release more tickets at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, to people on the event’s mailing list. A portion of proceeds will benefit MANNA FoodBank.

4 p.m. Sunday, March 1, New Mountain Asheville, 38 N. French Broad Ave. To sign up for the mailing list to be in line for tickets, visit ashevillewingwar.com.

Asheville Small Plate Crawl

More than 20 of Asheville’s independent and chef-owned restaurants are gearing up for the 2015 Asheville Small Plate Crawl Tuesday-Thursday, Feb. 24-26. An affordable way to take a culinary tour of the city, the crawl will feature menu items at participating eateries in the range of $3-$8 per plate. Crawlers will be entered – either automatically by QR Code scans on mobile devices or manually online – into prize drawings that will include an overnight package at the Grand Bohemian Hotel and restaurant gift cards.

Tuesday-Thursday, Feb. 24-26. Details are available at ashevillesmallplatecrawl.com.

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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