Wine time had by all at Red River Wine Fest

Wine time had by all at Red River Wine Fest


WICHITA FALLS, Texas – It was wine, Senior Junior Forum women and song at the J.S. Bridwell Agricultural Center on Saturday night as the Red River Wine Festival turned one enchanted evening into a joyfully fermented one that included participation from its frothy cousin: beer.

Beyond the merlots and Chardonnays, the festival, in its 11th year, brewed up an expanded beer area supplied by Falls Distributing and Fisher Beverage. They touted such beers as Shiner鈥檚 Seasonal Prickly Pear and Redd鈥檚 Wicked Mango.

Wichita Home-brew Supply also was there malting up the place.

Owner Ken Thornton and his beer-brewing buddy, Doug Hawkins, kept vigil over a stainless steel brew kettle in which they doubled, doubled, toiled and troubled over a hefeweizen, or German-style wheat beer.

They displayed various beer grains and the like: malted barley, chocolate malted barley, yeast and hops. And they had 鈥淵our First Brew鈥 instructional sheets at the ready.

鈥淚 brewed my first batch in 鈥95 but had read about it (making your own beer) years before. Then I bought the store in 鈥98. I鈥檝e run it part time for 17 years,鈥 Thornton said of the home-brew supply business.

At one time, a home-brew club was associated with the business, but the club membership since slowly fizzled and now includes Thornton and just a few friends.

鈥淏ut we鈥檙e looking for a resurgence,鈥 he said.

Thornton, whose day job is working as a mechanical designer at Sealed Air, not only demonstrated his beer brewing techniques at the wine festival, he鈥檚 also gearing up for the Wichita Falls Rotary North Club鈥檚 Brew Fest on May 2.

The onetime brew club, he said, used to be made up of members who were associated with the military鈥 and so there were home-brewers from Germany and other European countries.

鈥淥ur club (membership) has always been 80 percent military,鈥 he said, but since the art of craft beer has become a juggernaut in popularity over the past few years, 鈥渘ow I鈥檓 80 percent Wichitans.鈥

Wichita Home-brew gives brewing lessons once a month, Thornton said.

Grapevine-based Sloan & Williams Winery was one of several new vineyards at the festival, which featured only Texas selections from 23 wineries.

鈥淚 was an amateur winemaker for several years,鈥 owner Alan William Kunst Jr. said. 鈥 … I would just buy grapes and buy the juice … then I hoped to God it worked.鈥

Kunst opened the winery with his business partner, Ralph Mattison. They both served in the Army. Kunst was an air cavalry pilot and Mattison an armored officer.

Sloan & Williams won several medals at the recent TexSom wine competition.

鈥淲e brought everything; we brought our whole arsenal,鈥 Kunst said of the 13 wines the business brought to the event, though they showcased their Sangiovese and Symphony for the festival鈥檚 wine tastings.

鈥淲e鈥檙e just very pleased we got this incredible invitation (to the Red River Wine Festival),鈥 he said. 鈥淲e鈥檙e very Texas proud and excited to be here.鈥

A line of wine aficionados 25 deep waited to try the offerings from Braman Winery, which features a tasting room in Hallettsville and one in Richmond.

鈥淲e鈥檝e been open since 2010 and started in Refugio on the (Braman) ranch,鈥 said Sandy Vallely, Texas brand manager. 鈥淲e have a lot of different wines. We鈥檙e actually going to be opening a winery and brewery in Richmond. It will be the first in the state to have both under one roof.鈥

Braman鈥檚 Sparkles Flamingo sold out in 30 minutes, Vallely said, though she touted other labels, such as a pecan-flavored sparkling wine.

Besides the beers and wines, the festival put the spotlight on some unique merchants, such as Keeno鈥檚 Beef Jerky, the Gypsy Kit, Kenny鈥檚 Seasoning, Stone Oven Gourmet Pizza, Henrietta-based Dear Heart Designs by Nichole Kirk, and Kathy鈥檚 Bakery and Deli, to name a few.

Shara Humpert of Hip Klips was there, too. The Hip Klips are small purses worn on the waist to carry small items such as cellphones or keys.

She competes in dog agility and wanted a small purse in which to carry dog treats.

Brenna Pohlod started her business, Clinkers, when she couldn鈥檛 find a cute, personalized wineglass for herself.

Now she paints wineglasses and throws glass painting parties, too.

Once she personalized a wineglass for herself, she started painting them for other people who asked her.

鈥淭hat (first) Christmas, I took 60 orders,鈥 Pohlod said.

Her glasses are painted with Day of the Dead designs, Texas designs and even blinged-out glasses for weddings.

In 2014, about 1,900 wine lovers attended the Red River Wine Festival. Proceeds will go to helping the Senior Junior Forum in its work in the community for a number of worthy organizations.

Follow senior multimedia journalist Lana Sweeten-Shults on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.

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