Organizers are preparing for the largest local wine festival of its kind.
On Saturday, the first-ever Nine Lakes Wine Festival will feature more than 100 wines and ciders from across East Tennessee.
The festival is set to feature live music, food, and tastings of several award-winning wines from 20 wineries at Melton Lake Park in Oak Ridge from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
It comes as East Tennessee's wine industry continues to expand.
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"When you look at the growth over the last five to seven years, you actually see a 20 percent growth in employment,” said Rick Riddle, president of the Appalachian Region Wine Producer's Association.
Riddle added, “I've just talked to three people here recently who are looking to open up wineries in our 9 lakes region."
Many of the wines will be among the best in the region, including the Hiwassee -- a dry Muscadine wine from Monroe County that is now the most-awarded wine in the state of Tennessee.
As organizers work to set up the inaugural event, they are hoping to establish a reputation.
“Once you’re able to specifically identify those grapes and wines with a regional location, you’re able to build that reputational capital,” Riddle said. “We are really working hard to make East Tennessee a wine destination.”
As of Friday, organizers said 800 presale tickets had been sold. They are expecting to sell another 800 at the gate.
Presale tickets are now sold out. Tickets at the gate cost $50 dollars for complimentary access to as many wines as festival goers want.
The five trails featured are on the eastern side of the state, including the Great Valley Wine Trail, Rocky Top Wine Trail, Upper Cumberland Wine Trail, and two newer ones: Foothills Wine & Cider Trail and the Appalachian High County Wine Trail.
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