Saturday’s 2nd annual Uncork Urbana Wine Festival was undoubtedly successful. Hosted by the Urbana Business Association, the event — which took place from 1 to 9 p.m. — definitely saw more attendees than last year. Lines twisted around the block for entry. And despite some serious rain in the mid-afternoon, wine enthusiast persevered and made good use of their complimentary wine glasses.
The $10 entry fee afforded attendees a small tasting glass and five tasting tickets. Additional tickets were $1 each, making the five “complimentary” tickets a pretty good deal. Wine samples were one ticket each. There were nine Illinois wineries participating: Alto Vineyards, Berryville Vineyards, Hopewell Winery, Illinois River Winery, Kite Hill Vineyards, Niemerg Family Winery, Pheasant Hollow Winery, Sleepy Creek Vineyards, and Wyldewood Cellars.
I arrived around 2 p.m. on my first visit. The lines to enter were pretty long, but also moving fairly quickly. The Urbana Business Association folks and Uncork volunteers were well organized and had the check IDs-take money-give change-give glass with tickets process down.
The festival was expanded from the Busey Bank parking lot to include Race Street between Main and Elm. This added space allowed for the addition of three food trucks (Dragon Fire Pizza, ROKs Tacos, and Piato to Go), as well as additional seating.
Even by 2 p.m., the lines in front of the various wineries’ tents were pretty lengthy.
the line for Sleepy Creek
The first few raindrops fell just before 2:30 p.m. as Katie Flynn was finishing up her set. She and her crew quickly packed up their instruments and equipment and vacated the stage. Thinking that the rain would blow over quickly, I took cover under a tree, since the tented seating area was full of festival attendees. The tree seemed to be sufficient cover until the skies opened and started unloading buckets. Some people were trapped under the tiny vendor tents and others bravely walked in the rain, slurping down their wine.
A quick check of the radar indicated that there was more heavy rain on the way, so I took my soaking body back to my car and went home before even sampling any wine.
When I returned around 5 p.m., the line to enter was even longer than at 2 p.m., and the festival grounds were even more crowded. The bright, beaming hot sun made for some steamy asphalt.
the weather made me feel like Winey Mary
Most folks didn’t seem to mind. I saw more than a few people walking around, bottle of wine in hand, giving generous pours to themselves and those in their parties as they waited in line for more samples.
I, too, finally managed to get some wine.
A couple of places were offering wine slushies, and as unsophisticated they may be for such a sophisticated event, they were damn refreshing.
The entertainment area, previously uninhabited, was also busier. People had pulled up chairs (and more bottles of wine) to watch and listen to Ryan Groff.
People snacked on tacos and pizza. One guy (pictured below) used the cardboard under his pizza as a tray, which was an ingenious way to hold your wine and your pizza while still having a free hand to shovel either into your mouth.
Although the rain was gross, and the hot, sticky weather of the early evening grosser, people didn’t seem to mind. Everyone was there to drink some Illinois wine and they were all determined to enjoy it. Looks like they did.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.