Leader photo/ALY GIBSON Guests and vendors moved under the cover of Don Blackmond’s pole barn Saturday evening for the Lee Memorial Foundation Beer and Wine Tasting Event. Though the storm raged on outside, patrons still enjoyed wine and beer choices from local wineries and breweries.

Archived Story

Storm fails to damper first foundation tasting

Published 6:13pm Sunday, August 5, 2012

There was more than just beer brewing Saturday as severe thunderstorms swept through most of Cass County, forcing the first annual Lee Memorial Foundation Beer and Wine Tasting Event inside.

Event organizers, which began welcoming guests, wineries and breweries around 6 p.m., made the last-minute decision to move the party under the cover of Don Blackmond’s pole barn on his sprawling farm on Indian Lake. In a flurry, many guests grabbed chairs, tables and wine glasses and set up in the barn.  Vendors also made the move inside, still serving guests for the evening. Guests were offered fine wines from Round Barn Winery, Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant, Lemon Creek Winery, Fenn Valley and Contessa Wine Cellars. New Holland Brewing, Round Barn Brewery and Saugatuck Brewing Co. provided samplings of beer. Beth Cripe, interim foundation director, said while organizers couldn’t plan for Mother Nature, the event still went off without a hitch.

“Everyone arriving and getting settled went smoothly,” Cripe said Saturday as the last tables were moved inside. “With lightning, you have to get inside; we don’t want to endanger anyone.”

According to Cripe, the rest of the event played out “wonderfully.” Don Blackmond, a member of the foundation, offered his property for the evening, which featured the eight wineries and breweries from throughout southwest Michigan.

“People stayed up until the end, around quarter to 9,” Cripe said Sunday. “The wineries said they were really pleased with the event, despite the weather, and many have asked to come back again next year.”

While the tables and chairs remained inside, guests eventually ventured back outside to take part in the raffle and more tasting once the storm had passed.

“We see where we can improve for next year, and we’re really happy with how things went for its first year,” Cripe said. “I think it couldn’t have gone better.”

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