Nebraska Wine & Jazz Festival Draws Thousands

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Thousands of wine enthusiasts quenched their thirst at the Nebraska Wine and Jazz Festival in Kearney, this past Friday and Saturday. There were 60 wines to taste and local bands to hear. No matter your preference, organizers said there is a wine you'll like. Wineries from all over the state, from as far as four hours away made it out to the Buffalo County Fairgrounds for the 8th Annual Wine and Jazz Festival.

"Waiting for harvest to come, can't come soon enough," said Superior Estate Winery Owner, Kelly Meyer. As the grapes on their vineyards grow, fifteen different Nebraska wineries each brought four different wines to let others try. "We are the owner but not professional wine makers,” Meyer added. “We actually go out and seek the best in the world to come in and make the wines."

Superior Estate Winery like many others, shares how they got in the business as they pour up a glass. "The family starts with MacFarlane or something like that and then they have a creek that runs through they're vineyard and that's how they got their name," said Lori Weskamp who came to celebrate her 25th Wedding Anniversary.

The wineries all have their own flare and style, "My label here people make fun of me,” explained Richard Hanson, Owner of Rockin' Rooster Winery out of Scotia, NE. “They say why doesn't the chicken have any legs, my wife is a triple amputee so that's why I done that." This vineyard has an orchard of 10 acres of berries and started twenty years ago when a hobby turned into a career. All of their wines are fruit based. "I've got a farm that has a mile and half of river front and we were down there doing something and we found three bushels of wild grapes,” Hanson said. “The week before that there was a box (from an auction) and at the bottom there was a paperback book about how to make wine at home and that's how it started then."

No matter how they got their start, wine makers say it can be difficult to do with the state's ever–changing weather. "The vineyards have the same challenges like the rest of the farmers do."

This festival isn't just about the wine, "the atmosphere is important when you are drinking wine to enjoy the atmosphere also,” Weskamp said. “To not only have a good wine, but also a good atmosphere to make it relaxing."

The two–day festival is a benefit, helping fund the Kearney Area Community Foundation. On Friday May 8, there were close to 1,000 people who attended. This is the second year to have the event at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
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