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Wine tasting another top-notch event

-- Tina Bryan photo

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to get jolly than a festive evening of wine and beer tasting, accompanied by a limitless assortment of delectable savories and sweets. Over 200 people gathered Nov. 21 at gallery 2 to partake in the 23rd Annual Wine Tasting, an annual gala fundraising event for the Grand Forks Art Gallery Society.

Both floors of the Gallery were decked out for the holiday season, with glistening silver stars illuminating the elegantly-dressed crowd as they mixed and mingled with holiday cheer.

"I thought it was a huge success," said Visitor Centre Manager and event coordinator Dawsha Hunt,  "We all did!" She said they are just winding up the post-event cleanup when the Sentinel talked to her last week. 

Hunt said she has been getting great feedback from both community and the participating vendors. "The wineries are randomly phoning me back or emailing saying it was a great event. People that attended really enjoyed themselves—they didn't want it to end."

"It is the biggest fundraiser of the art gallery," said Hunt. They sold 200 tickets this year, which is about the same as last year. "You know...we can sell more tickets; but, we made a decision this year to hold it back a little just so that it wouldn't be as crowded." Hunt said that, "Basically it was a democratic vote," with some supporting the idea of selling as many tickets as possible. "But there were other people...amongst the board and staff that said no, we want to keep it a quality event."

Tickets for raffle basket draws were sold at the event for $10 each. Winners were Roger Soviskov, James Wilson, Heather Moen, Roly Russell and Daniel Casey. Hunt did not have the figures for how much was raised.

Sarah Orlowski won the Sonoran Estate Winery/Summerland Golf and Country Club prize package.

When asked if she knew how the wineries did for sales, Hunt said, "You know, they never really 'fess up...I think, let's put it this way—they wouldn't come if it wasn't beneficial to them, in some way."

She recalled that five to six years ago, "We had to beg—practically beg—wineries to come. Now, we had a full slate last spring with a waiting list of six, so our event...is starting to speak for itself." Hunt says she gets calls from wineries who hear about the event from their neighbours and want to get in on it. "So whether they sold wine or whether they just got...exposure."

The event program provided contact information and the website address for each participating winery and brewery, followed by a list of selections available for tasting. Beside each selection were notes about any awards won and symbols to indicate which local liquor store/s carried the product. Representatives from all three liquor stores were at the event.

"And if you noticed what a young crowd was there, because it never used to be that way,” said Hunt, who has been on board for the last 5 to 6 years. “You would walk into a wine tasting and it would definitely be the middle-aged to the grey-haired crowd, but now we're seeing such a turnaround; and I mean, that's got to be good for the industry, right? Because they're serving their future."

In addition to the local fooderies that gave of their time and culinary delights, the Gallery 2 in-house catering group, the Court Jesters, provided exceptional food as well. "There's kind of a core group of three and then there's about three or more add-ons...depending if they are available, they help," said Hunt. "They do an awesome job!" Overwaitea Foods generously donated the food products used by the group.

Gallery 2 would also like to extend their appreciation to Doodle Bug Chocolates, From the Hearth Bakery, Jerseyland Organics, Kocomos—Hardy Moutain Coffee Roasters, and The Wooden Spoon.

Hunt said they were particularly thankful to Ravenous and Cerelia Winery. “We had a couple of last minute cancellations and they came with less than 24 hours notice. It was amazing!"

Harpist Jenn Fenn comes every year to provide background music for the first part of the night. "We call her our 'walk-in' music because it's only quiet enough for maybe the first half hour for her to be heard, so she is just playing nicely until the din gets louder and louder."

Hunt said they had a trio playing by the Christmas tree last year; however, "We decided to go against it this year because, again, it gets so loud," she explained. "There's really no room to put anybody,” she said. “Nobody really stood there and appreciated them. They were just kind of background. You know, when they're going to the trouble of practicing and showing up and setting up, I just think they need a little more recognition."

Last year the event also brought in a classical guitarist said Hunt, "who just kind of wandered through the crowd wherever he could find a path and I thought that was nice, so some years we do, some years we don't."

Wrapping up her comments about the fundraiser, Hunt said, "I can't even count how many volunteers it takes to get this place all decorated...it always amazes me the people that show up day after day after day for, like, two weeks before that to, you know, hook up the lights, put up the tree...cut out all those damn stars!" She laughed. "It just amazes me the support we get from volunteers...it's not just us few little people at Gallery 2; it's a whole village."

Hunt also expressed her appreciation for the donors who contributed to the raffle baskets. "There was over $2000 worth of...merchandise and gift certificates and wine, and I mean that's from a town and region that is sort of feeling the pinch these days. Yet, when we go around or we give a call, they [local businesses and individuals] just give what they can. It's awesome!"

Bronze Sponsers this year included Jogas Espresso Café and Legacy Acres Vineyard. Liquor Store n’ More was a Gold sponsor.

Hunt said they would set the date for the 2015 event sometime in February or March. Invitations to vendors are sent out in early spring and then things are "kind of on the back burner over the summer months," with event preparations picking up again in the fall

To see feedback from the event and additional photos, check out the Gallery 2 Art & Heritage Centre Facebook page here.