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Epicurience Virginia finds its groove in year two

Attendance was up more than 70 percent at the second Epicurience wine and food festival in Loudoun County over Labor Day weekend. The LOVE sculpture at the Grand Tasting in Morven Park was a favorite photo spot. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser
In the words of one Loudoun County official, “What a difference a year makes.”

The second installment of the Epicurience food and wine festival Labor Day weekend was “all thumbs up, all around,” recapped Beth Erickson, president of Visit Loudoun, the county's tourism agency that organized the event.

“From Friday night's kick-off at the George Marshall house in Leesburg to the Grand Tasting to Sunday night's Catoctin Creek Distillery dinner at Magnolias in Purcellville, it was just an incredible time,” Erickson said.

In addition to the aforementioned celebrations, the festival's slate included a Fabulous 1940s theme party at historic Oatlands, a Sunday brunch at Salamander Resort, a picnic at Greenhill Winery, a wine dinner at North Gate Vineyards and a tour and picnic at Goodstone Inn.

Attendance for year two of Epicurience – a combination of the terms epicurean and experience – grew by more than 70 percent over the first year, Erickson reported. Nearly 2,100 people indulged in the three-day culinary fete, and VIP tickets and corporate sponsorships were also significantly up, she said. More than 40 vendors – Virginia wineries, restaurants, farms, chefs – signed on with Visit Loudoun to showcase their product during Saturday's Grand Tasting, the maximum capacity.

Yet beyond the hard numbers, this year's event just felt more vibrant. The smiles seemed to come easier, as did new friendships that crossed state lines and generations. Food and wine lovers traveled from states away to the Grand Tasting at the historic home of former Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis.

A favorite photo op came at the “Virginia is for Lovers” LOVE sculpture, which rested on the vivid green grass in front of the 19th century mansion.

Wine flowed. Fresh, local food filled.

Carl DiManno, the winemaker at 868 Vineyards in Purcellville, was one of nearly a dozen local winemakers who participated in the Loudoun County Wine Blending Competition. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser

Attendee Kaitlin Ohlinger, who trekked from South Carolina, where she manages a wine bar and restaurant, partook in the Loudoun County Wine Blending Competition, a first-year event, and came away impressed with Loudoun's juice.

“There was a great sense of community and passion, from both the winemakers and the residents,” Ohlinger said. “And a general commitment to furthering the Virginia industry as a whole and taking quality very seriously.”

Ohlinger said she was surprised with the wide array of grape varietals that can thrive across the commonwealth.

“Some of the most consistent across-the-board varietals, in my opinion, were viognier and chardonnay,” she said. “Pleasant surprises of the day were fer servadou and tannat.”

Erickson listed the wine-blending competition, organized by Bob Rupy, Doug Fabbioli and Jordan Harris on behalf of the Loudoun Winemakers Association; a demonstration by French-trained master butcher Marc Pauvert; and the Virginia Wine's information tent as offerings that gripped the crowd's attention.

“I could not be more pleased,” Erickson said. “There's not one thing I would've done different.”

Yet there seems little time to rejoice; Erickson, who's in her first year with Visit Loudoun, said her team held an Epicurience 2015 planning meeting first thing Tuesday.

Click here to read Times-Mirror coverage of the Epicurience Fabulous 1940s Party at Oatlands.

Attendees at Epicurience's Grand Tasting sampled Virginia food and wine from more than 40 vendors, including Early Mountain Vineyards, pictured here. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser

The signature Epicurience cork bottle rested on the bright green grass in front of the grand mansion at Morven Park, former home of Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser

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Where do we go to get the actual numbers on what taxpayers contributed to this and what we got in return?  Real, actual numbers…not just happy talk

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