Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival – Bringing Neighbors Together

Event attendees enjoyed 80 wines from around the world, paired with food samples and great music, at the Turner Pavilion. Photo by Brandy Somers, courtesy of

The Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival was not phased by the rain or wind. People nestled under the Turner Pavilion, guarding their stemless wine glasses so the only thing inside was a perfectly poured one-ounce tasting of the wine of their choosing. With ten booths showcasing over 80 wines, it wasn’t hard to find something that could spark your interest.

Sommelier and Small Vineyards representative Jody Allen describes different wine options to event attendees. Photo by Brandy Somers, courtesy of

In particular, I took to two main tables, the World Premier Wine table that featured South African wines and, of course, the Small Vineyards table that featured Italian wines. The South African wines surprised me with their crisp tones in the whites and the depth of flavor hidden in the reds. The label of their wines read “the hands that work the soil feed the soul,” which connected for me the importance of wine in so many different cultures and what it can mean to different people.

Other guests of the festival were enjoying the wines and atmosphere for many other reasons. As I stood at a round table in the middle of the festival, I spoke with two local business owners. Dennis and Janice Fitzgerald are the owners of By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast. They not only have an appreciation for fine wines but they were also enticed by the great opportunity to buy a variety of wines all in one place. The couple is dedicated to Virginia wines, but intrigued by the vast selection of international wines which they have found also appeal to their guests at the B&B.

“People are discovering how much a small town like Harrisonburg has to offer,” Janice told me. She had been promoting the event to her guests and was thrilled at the opportunities it provided her as a business owner. They particularly loved the selections of sparkling wines. When a guest arrives at By the Side of the Road, they are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine. Dennis and Janice are happy to have found Tre Donne “La Perlina” Moscato D’Asti 2010 and Bluestone Vineyard’s Estate-Grown Moscato 2011, which was released at the festival. “It is so awesome to be able to find out what your neighbors are doing at a festival like this one,” Janice shared as she sipped her glass of wine.

Samuel Mclaughlin, a senior at James Madison University and a volunteer for the Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival, had an enriching experience pouring wine for guests. Sam studied abroad in Florence, Italy in Fall 2010. He was not always a wine drinker but he started having wine with dinner at his Italian family’s home. While in Italy, he too had the fortunate opportunity to study in the wine culture class under Diletta Frescobaldi (though during a different semester than I). It was this class that acclimated him to wine in Italy. As he recently turned 21, Sam says, “The wine festival was a great way to get back into the wine scene.”

Event attendees had a wide selection of wines to sip and savor. Photo by Brandy Somers, courtesy of

Sam wishes that every student could have the opportunity to experience this particular class because of how much it exposed him to the world of wines. He is now realizing how accessible Italian wines are becoming in the U.S. Even though Sam wishes more of his friends would appreciate wine, he says that, “When I get a bottle of wine, I know no one else is going to take it; they can drink their Natural Light and I will drink my wine.”

The Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival was an intimate environment that gave event attendees an opportunity to learn, question, and let their taste buds be tantalized! We look forward to more festivals to come in the future!

And please check out the following posts on for more coverage of the event and additional photos:
free spirits: rocktown wine and dine festival.
uncorked: rocktown wine and dine festival.
intertWINEd: rocktown wine and dine festival.
barreling along: rocktown wine and dine festival.
glass half full: rocktown wine and dine festival.

Kari Owens is the HDR Promotions Intern for Summer and Fall 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major and Creative Writing minor at James Madison University.



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