KILLINGTON — The Killington Grand Hotel is fishing out its finest ice buckets this week as they prepare for an overflow of decadent wine and spirits this year at the 18th annual Killington Wine Festival.

“This (originally) started as a smaller event,” said event co-director Sarah Newell about the festival. “But there wasn’t much going on in the summer ... (so) one year, a couple of business owners got together and said they were going to start with wine dinners.”

Friday afternoon, everyone from Caledonia Spirits to Shelburne Vineyards will haul their cases and bottles boasting various grape and fruit wines and distillations from across the country for the Grand Tasting, the all-Saturday event broadening flavor horizons and quenching every palate.

For the first time, the Killington-Pico Area Association had to cap the number of tickets it sold to prepare for the heat wave expected to hit Vermont this weekend, which combined with the construction in the K1 lodge, relocated the festival to the Killington Grand Hotel, which has a limited capacity.

This made tickets all the more desirable, and Newell said they sold out of Saturday Grand Tasting tickets, but still had several available for Friday evening.

“We sold between four and 500 tickets (for Saturday),” Newell said.

The three-day event begins Friday evening with the Wine Trail, with no prior reservation required, where wine enthusiasts can meander down the Killington access road and stop at 10 local restaurants to taste food and wine pairings prepared by the chefs according to a specially priced menu.

Preston’s Restaurant will serve small plates paired with Michael David wines, while the Lookout Tavern is chilling rose wine to complement a crab-cake appetizer, and the Birch Ridge Inn will have butter-poached lobster, filet of beef and duck pancetta risotto, according to the festival brochure.

Those who prefer surf to turf can also hit up Sushi Yoshi for a full flight of maki and sake rice wine for just $15, the brochure said.

After their initial wine crawl, those with reserved tickets for the Friday Killington Peak tasting will enjoy premier and estate wines from 6-8 p.m.

“We were able to invite two new merchants on Friday: Shelburne Vineyards for the first time this year, and Millbrant Winery from California,” Newell said.

Come Saturday, 16 tables will be decked with multiple bottles apiece, where wine drinkers will learn how to taste, how to relish and how to enjoy various white, red, rose and dessert wines made by Francis Ford Coppola, Vino Del Sol and Santa Margherita, among many others.

And those who purchased the slightly more expensive VIP tickets won’t be disappointed this year.

“We wanted to increase the experience for people,” Newell said. “There’s now valet parking, a special lounge area and special giveaways.”

VIP ticket holders get to whet their palates an hour earlier as gates open at noon for VIPs, and 1 p.m. for everyone else, Newell said.

But once in, tasters need only offer their signature wine glass and partake in the Dionysian display of locally made specialty snacks, syrups and sips while gazing at works of art on display by local artists.

Saturday evening will feature a wine-pairing dinner designed by Chef Greg Lang of Preston’s Restaurant and the Killington Grand Hotel and featuring a unique and specially orchestrated tasting menu, according to a news release.

Sunday has been designed as a gentle one. After a weekend of indulgence, more can be found at the Green Mountain National Golf Course during the annual Wine and Nine, and for those non-golfers at the festival, there’s always room at the tasting afterward.

“We’re really excited for our 18th year partnering with the resort,” Newell said. “It’s going to be really fun — people bring a lot of great energy to the event every year, and we love putting it on.”

katelyn.barcellos

@rutlandherald.com

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