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What do you get when you combine award-winning North Carolina wines, sumptuous Southern food, Iron Chef-like cooking competitions, gorgeous springtime mountain weather, and the charm of Blowing Rock, NC? A perfect weekend at the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival.

Kicking off the weekend was a taste of Rio at the Uncork the Festival event at Chetola Resort. With Brazilian-inspired foods, Latin salsa music and dance lessons, and a live art auction featuring dozens of local artists, we knew we were in for a spectacular weekend.

Friday featured cooking classes and wine seminars at various locales throughout town. From wine and food pairings to blind tastings to lessons in grape varietals, the classes were a festival favorite. And sold-out winemaker dinners closed out the day with multi-course feasts at several premier restaurants (including The Manor House Restaurant at Chetola Resort, Glidewell’s, The Table at Crestwood, and Crippen’s Restaurant, to name a few) paired with wines from local wineries including Childress Vineyards, Hanover Park Vineyards, and White Hall Winery.

Saturday featured the Fire on the Rock Chef’s Challenge--area chef’s pitted against one another in a battle of the culinary arts. Sam Beasley of Gamekeeper Restaurant won in the final showdown on Sunday.

Saturday’s Grand Tasting served as the pinnacle of the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival with hundreds of wines available for tasting and many local restaurants serving up samples of Southern fare.

Sunday closed out the foodie weekend with champagne brunch being held at several area restaurants and the Fire on the Rock finale.

Be sure to put the next helping of the Blue Ridge Wine + Food Festival on your calendar for April 14-17, 2011.