Algoma wine festival has guests dressed for success
ALGOMA – If you think Wet Whistle Wine Fest is pretty much the same as any other wine festival, wait until you see the people attending Wet Whistle.
Or, see what they’re wearing, at least.
Taking place for the 17th straight year next weekend at von Stiehl Winery, Wet Whistle is one of the longest-running wine festivals in the area, if not the state.
It’s also one of the most popular, drawing 2,000 or more people each year to sample von Stiehl’s wines, dine on specialty foods, take tours of the winery to see how the wines are produced, hear live music and watch or take part in Saturday’s grape stomp that includes local and media celebrities.
The festival also is a fundraiser for Community Improvement of Algoma, which works to promote the growth and historic preservation of the city, and Algoma Fire and Rescue, which works the food stand.
But one of the facets of Wet Whistle that makes it stand out from others is the look of some of those 2,000 people.
“One really cool thing (about Wet Whistle) is people dress up in costumes,” said Rayanne Racine, director of events at von Stiehl. “They’ll come in matching T-shirts, dress like a bottle of wine.”
In case one wonders why, besides the chance to have some goofy fun, Racine said a number of the costumed guests take part in the grape stomp, whose winners are determined not just by the amount of grapes stomped but also by the amount of noise made by spectators.
“I believe they think if they dress up and get up the for the stomp, the crowd will cheer even louder for them,” Racine said.
That illustrates one of the attractions of Wet Whistle, Racine said – that it has something for everyone from the serious wine buff to those who just wanna have fun.
“The fest is for two different people,” Racine said. “Those who want to party, that’s the events on the festival grounds; and those who love wines, that’s the tours (of the winery) and vintage tastings.”
The vintage wine tastings mentioned by Racine will be one of the main attractions to the connoisseurs. Held from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the production building, separately from the regular festival tastings and with a separate fee, it offers guests the chance to sample some of von Stiehl’s higher-end wines and the once-a-year opportunity to buy them.
“Those are wines we hold back. They’re not for sale year-round,” Racine said. “Some, we only have 10 cases left. And once we run out, they’re gone.”
Even those who aren’t connoisseurs can learn a little about wines and wine making by taking tours throughout the day Saturday of the oldest licensed winery in Wisconsin – the state granted the license in 1967, 51 years ago.
“It’s a great way to get introduced to wine,” Racine said. “It’s a whole new experience because you get to do the tours.”
The 17th annual Wet Whistle Wine Fest runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at von Stiehl Winery, 115 Navarino St., Algoma. Admission is free Friday (canned food donations for the Kewaunee County Food Pantry will be accepted); $10 for ages 13 and older, free for ages 12 and younger Saturday; ages 20 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Dogs are not allowed at the festival, except service dogs.
Winery tours and tastings are available throughout the day Saturday. The Celebrity Grape Stomp takes place at 11 and 11:20 a.m. Saturday, with heats for public stomp participants at 12:20, 1:30 and 3 p.m., followed by the Grand Grape Stomp Off for top finishers at 4:30.
The vintage wine tasting runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the production building; admission is $15 for a wine glass and five tasting tickets.
For more information, call 920-487-5208 or go to vonstiehl.com.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma wine festival has guests dressed for success