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posted: 9/9/2012 11:07 AM

Geneva serves a tasty Festival of the Vine

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It's Festival of the Vine. Not Festival of the Wine, or Festival of the Whine.

The annual Geneva soiree could not have asked for better weather Saturday for people to eat, drink and shop in the downtown business district. Who could complain, with temperatures in the low 70s and sunny blue skies?

The festival is known for wine, with tastings at stores and at the Flavor Fare food area. There were long lines at the tasting tent on the lawn of the Little Traveler store where the owner of Schlink Haus winery visits every fall from Germany.

At Preservation Bread and Wine restaurant, the mood was a little mellower. For the third year in a row, owner Lawrence Colburn offered three wine-and-cheese pairings, focusing on Italian, Spanish and French goodies.

The Italian combination, which included a full-bodied red Nerello Mascalese paired with Valle d'Aosta fontina, was the most popular choice, as of early Saturday afternoon, he said.

Colburn's favorite was the Spanish -- a 2011 picpoul/malvasia white wine he was serving with garrotxa, a "semifirm, sharp, very, very flavorful" goat's milk cheese.

The festival also features an arts and crafts bazaar. There you could find Wes and Jill Nelson of Marengo, selling decorative gourds. The couple uses a variety of gourds for their art, including cannonball, maranta and kettle.

"It is hard to make things out of (maranka) gourds, because it so unusually shaped," Wes Nelson said.

The gourds used are dried for about six months, then hollowed out. Some become birdhouses, jewelry, or mobiles.

A visit wouldn't be complete without a meal at the Flavor Fare, where 22 Geneva restaurants and caterers sell samples of their wares.

New this year was Tavolino, which is due to open Monday, Sept. 17, at 305 W. State St. One of their offerings was arancini in tomato sauce, which consists of a ball of risotto, wrapped around bits of pork braised in a simple tomato sauce. The ball, coated with a mixture of bread crumbs and pecorino and Romano cheeses, then fried, isn't on the menu of other Geneva restaurants, according to owner Ken Robertson.

Diners have a choice of 18 wines, from a $4 glass of Penfolds Koonunga shiraz to a $10 glass of Chateau St. Jean "Belle Terre" chardonnay.

The festival continues Sunday. The Flavor Fare is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with wine sold from noon to 5 p.m. There will be demonstrations in mirrors at 1 p.m., and making herbal tea infusions at 3 p.m., at the Harvest Stage.

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