It was a day for culture and craziness, with the behavior both refined and raw as an estimated 10,000 people sweltered in the 90-degree heat to get a taste of the best stock of 18 Virginia wineries here today.
For highbrows at the 1985 Virginia Wineries Festival, the $9 admission fee bought a bottomless wine glass and the privilege of being considered a true connoisseur -- at least for the day.
For lowbrows, there was a grape-stomping competition -- an event as unpretentious as it was sloppy.
The festival's big winners were the Archie M. Smith family of Middleburg, Va., and Lisa Gee of Richmond.
The Smiths, owners of Meredyth Vineyards, edged out 17 other vineyards to win the Governor's Cup for the festival's best wine with their 1983 Chardonnay.
Gee crushed more grapes in 30 seconds than more than a dozen of her stomping competitors to win a case of wine from Burnley Vineyards of Barboursville, Va.
"It was well balanced. It had a pleasant aftertaste with a lingering finish," competition coordinator Bob Perna, director of the l'Ecole de Vin winetasting school in Philadelphia, said of the Smiths' dry white wine.
For Gee, the afternoon's activities were not so aristocratic. "You just get in there and stomp like crazy," said Gee, explaining the technique that produced several ounces of pale green grape juice from the nozzle of a large wooden vat.
"It was very sensual . . . . After winning, all pain disappears," said Gee, describing the sensation of having crushed grapes squirm through her toes and around her feet.
Gee was drinking water after the competition because of a failure to pace her wine consumption early in the day, she said.
No one seemed uncomfortable with the contradictions at the fourth annual event sponsored by the Virginia Winery Association.
"There is a lot of snobbery with wine. But that snobbery will help us because throughout history wine has always been synonymous with civilization and culture," said Jacques Recht, winemaster at the Ingleside Plantation Winery near Fredericksburg, Virginia's largest wine producer.
A major theme of the festival was a celebration of Virginia's emergent wine industry, which is struggling to gain recognition in the competitive -- and some might say snooty -- world of wine.
"Our wines already stack up very well, but it's going to require heavy promotion" for Virginia's many new wineries to prosper, said S. Mason Carbaugh, commissioner of the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In 1979, Carbaugh said, there were only six wineries in Virginia, while today there are 29, and more are scheduled to open soon.
Of course, the biggest Virginia wine boosters were at the festival and were crowing loudly.
"It's just a matter of time and we're going to be all over California . . . . Virginia winemakers are still experimenting to get the best wine," said Charlotte Ragsdale of Dinwiddie County.
Perna, with no claim of provincial bias, agreed. Citing Virginia's excellent weather and soil conditions, he said, "In a few years Virginia will be a wine region to reckon with."
"We are going to produce great wines," said Recht.