By SHELBY MERTENS
Daily News-Record 2/6/19
HARRISONBURG — Hotel Madison is offering a immersive weekend experience for wine aficionados and connoisseurs that includes educational workshops, tastings and food pairings.
The inaugural Winter Wine Weekend, taking place Feb. 22-24 in the hotel’s conference center, will showcase over 20 wineries based in the Shenandoah Valley region, in partnership with Bluestone Vineyard and the James Madison University Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management.
Officials with Hotel Madison, 710 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, wanted to partner with the two entities “to work together to put on an event that was more than just a drinking festival, but more of an educational experiential type of weekend,” said Jennifer Sodikoff, Hotel Madison’s marketing and revenue manager.
Nine workshops, two wine dinners, a sparkling wine brunch and the Grand Tasting will be held over the course of the three-day event.
“We live in a region of Virginia with outstanding vineyards and wines,” said Eddie Bumbaugh, a Hotel Madison spokesman. “We view this weekend for novices as well as experienced.”
On the opening night, the hotel culinary team will serve a three-course dinner paired with wines from Spain following the welcome reception at 5 p.m. Afterward, a documentary about Virginia’s growing wine industry, “Vintage: The Winemaker’s Year,” will be screened at 7:45 p.m.
The following morning, participants can choose to attend a Tasting 101workshop led by Hart School professor Tassie Pippert,
who will go over the basics of wine tasting, or On “Being Bacchus: An Oenophile’s Take on Art and Wine,” a talk by JMU art professor Bill Wightman, who will speak about the connection between art and wine. Both workshops start at 9 a.m.
Bluestone Vineyard winemaker Lee Hartman will lead a blending seminar at 10: 30 a. m. in which participants will leave with their own personal wine blend to take home.
“That one is a more hands-on experience,” Sodikoff said.
Guests can sample vintages from eight Shenandoah Valley- based wineries at the Grand Tasting event from 1 to 5 p.m., which features Bluestone, Cave Ridge, Cross Keys, Brix and Columns, Muse, Rockbridge, Ox Eye and Barren Ridge vineyards.
Four additional workshops will take place in the afternoon on Feb. 23, including a lecture and tasting from Jim Konnicke of Breaux Vineyards at 1:30 p.m. about the growing popularity of rosé wine, as well as a session led by Stephen Bernard of Keswick Vineyards, who will compare wines from South Africa and Central Virginia.
Guests can choose to attend From Terroir to Table, where Brad Roof, a certified wine professional, French wine scholar and certified specialist of wine, will give an overview of the history of wine and the winemaking process, “from planting the grapes to on your table and what happens in between,” Sodikoff said.
Happening simultaneously at 3 p.m. will be Randy Phillips of Cave Ridge’s seminar on Vertical Tasting, which informs guests about vintage variations and ageing wines.
The day will wrap up with a Winemaker’s Dinner at 7 p.m. provided by the hotel and culinary students from JMU’s Hart School. The team will create a five course dinner with wine pairings.
“It gives students a real-life experience versus the academic experience they’re getting in the classroom,” Bumbaugh said.
The Winemaker’s Dinner of Virginia-based wine and cuisine includes an appetizer and paired wine reception, two small plate courses, an entree and dessert.
On the last day of the event, Claude Thibaut, a sparkling winemaker based in Charlottesville, will share his “methode champenoise” at the sparkling wine brunch starting at 10:30 a. m. Representatives from wine glass company Riedel will follow with a tasting seminar at 1 p.m., which includes a set of four Riedel wine glasses to take home. Participants will see how glassware plays into wine tasting.
“The shape of the glass and the quality of their product influences the drinking experience,” Bumbaugh said.
Because the event is aimed at both beginners and connoisseurs, Hotel Madison is offering different ticket packages to attend the event. Oenophiles can buy an all- inclusive ticket for all of the weekend events for $395, or certain events can be purchased a la cart.
“It can be customized according to the preferences of the person,” Sodikoff said.
A Wine Weekend Pass includes the Feb. 22 welcome reception and film screening, as well as all of the activities and lunch on Feb. 23 for $150.
The Spanish Wine Pairing Dinner can be purchased separately for $60, the Winemaker’s Dinner is $99 by itself, the Champagne brunch is $49 and the Riedel Tasting Seminar is $65. Those events are the only four that can be bought separately.
Hotel Madison is also offering special $99 room rates for those who want to stay at the hotel, which Bumbaugh suggested may be the safe option instead of driving home.
The hotel decided to host the event close to Valentine’s Day, giving the opportunity to gift the experience.
The Winter Wine Weekend will become an annual event for the hotel, with the goal to highlight different wines and wine regions each year.
“We definitely think that it will be something that can grow some legs,” Sodikoff said.