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Lift a glass, Celebrate the Grape 

Annual tasting and noshing event in Argenta is June 6.

click to enlarge JUST LIKE NAPA, BUT IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK: A view of Duckhead Vineyards image
  • JUST LIKE NAPA, BUT IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK: A view of Duckhead Vineyards.

The homage to fermented grapes that is the Celebrate the Grape event coming to Argenta Friday, June 6, will this year feature a clink of the crystal to both old and new labels from established and new wineries, wines high-brow, low-brow and just in the middle of the brow, more than 300 in all. They'll include wine from California vineyards, both high dollar and affordable French vin, Argentine Malbecs, Italian Proseccos, South African, German and Portuguese tipple. And more.

The wine, food and jazz festival starts at 6 p.m. in the Farmers Market lot at 419 Main St. Tickets are $40, the equivalent of four or five glasses of wine at a restaurant, but at the festival including lots of wine, music by Lagniappe, and cheese and other nibbles from seven Little Rock restaurants. Proceeds benefit the Argenta Arts District.

We asked the participating wine distributors to highlight a few of the standout wines they'll be pouring:

"Pinot Gris, cousin to Pinot Grigio from Italy, is becoming quite popular," said David Cone, director of fine wines at Glazers. He'll bring a selection from J Vineyards Winery, run by second-generation vintner Judy Jordan, whose family operates the popular Jordan Vineyard &Winery. J produces the largest selling premium Pinot Gris from California, Cone said. La Crema winery, known for its Pinot Noir, has recently produced a Pinot Gris and it will also be at the tasting. Other wines to look out for: Duckhorn's new Decoy line of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir; Avant, an un-oaked Chardonnay from Kendall-Jackson, and Luc Belaire Rose from France, which Cone says has "taken the market by storm."

Even if you've never tried them, you've probably noticed Charles Smith Wines at your favorite wine shop. They've got names like Kung Fu Reisling and Boom Boom! Syrah and big block-print-y black-and-white labels. They're also among the most popular wines Custom Beverage distributes, according to co-owner James Cripps. At the festival, there'll be a wide selection of Charles Smith wines, including selections from Smith's Charles and Charles and The Modernist Project. But wine lovers should especially pay attention to Smith's limited line of K Vinters Syrahs. "I literally get two cases of some of these a year," Cripps said, but he's getting some special for the event.

A few more of the vineyards whose barrels of fun will be tapped for the event: Sean Minor, Point North Oregon, The Seeker, Gundlach Bundschu, Furst, Roskam, Risata, Pascual and Piper Sonoma (Moon Distributing). And, as the advertisement says, That's Not All! There will also be wines from French vineyards Chateau Minuty, Oliver LeFlaive, Chateau Le Moulin and Chateau Bibian, Italy's Cacciata and Zaccagnini and Japan's Hana Awaka and Sawa Sawa (Central Distributors).

What goes better with wine than cheese? Kent Walker, Little Rock's artisan cheesemaker, is bringing samples of his year-round cheeses, including garlic Montasio (drink with light white wine), goat feta (sweet white wines), Gouda (light reds), habanero cheddar (spicy pinot noir), Leicester (full-bodied reds) and Ophelia (light reds). You'll need more than cheese to be able to sample all the wines: Bravo! Cucina Italian will be serving its Italian-style meatballs topped in marinara sauce. Little Greek will offer a mini-Greek salad with the option of topping it with gyro meat. Arkansas Fresh Bakery will have an assortment of baker/owner Ashton Woodward's masterful baked goods. Lulav's menu includes Mediterranean pork medallions with cranberry bourbon cream sauce on yeast rolls, with artichoke beignets. Two Sisters Cafe, in Sherwood, will serve beef brisket, crawfish bisque, grits and greens, a strawberry romaine salad and a chocolate cake; plus, they'll bring a chocolate fountain for strawberry-dipping. Crush Wine Bar will offer stuffed grape leaves, kalamata olive tapenade, roasted red pepper pesto and bruschetta.

To get an idea of the variety of wines to be served, go here.

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