Vicky Kuharski, Staff Writer~
The Peaks of Otter Winery is hosting its 21st birthday party on Saturday, Sept. 23, and the public is invited. The event will begin at 5 p.m., and the party will last until 11 a.m. the following morning for those that are interested.
To celebrate their 21st anniversary, the winery has enlisted the help of local band Long Strange Night. They are a Grateful Dead and Beatles cover band that has gained popularity in the area for the last several years. They will be playing all night and may be seen at the post-party camping option that is available to attendees.
“Weather permitting, we’re going to sit around and play afterwards,” said Doug White, singer and rhythm guitar player of Long Strange Night.
Nestled between the city of Bedford and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards is a family-owned business that has been growing apples for decades. They specialize in sweet fruity wines, butters and jams made from the various fruits grown in the orchards.
Visitors of the winery will find themselves in a small rustic building with close-up views of the surrounding mountains. The building was initially where the family-owned orchard conducted its business, mostly selling apples to the local grocery stores.
Wine steward Johnnye Phillips will tell wine tasters how over the years corporations took over the selling of fruit to Bedford’s local grocery stores, and it became financially implausible to compete.
“That’s when they decided to start making wine,” Phillips said.
Twenty-one years later, the winery is still a point of interest for tourists and locals alike. Though their specialty tends to be sweeter wines, they also offer visitors a chance to “Kiss the Devil” by sampling their wine that is made with over 30 different types of peppers. The winery also offers visitors a chance to walk down to see the farm animals that call the orchards home.
Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards is a six-generation family farm. According to their website, the first Johnsons settled on the mountain in the 1800s. Though land has been sold and bought a multitude of times, the family always remained local. Elmo Johnson and his father bought the farm that the winery currently sits on in 1918 and planted their first apple tree the following year. Several varieties of the original apples planted can still be found within the acres of orchards. His legacy lives on at the farm at a getaway farmhouse christened “Elmo’s Roost,” where families can stay to “Rest for a week—and enjoy a lifetime!” as their brochure states.
Elmo Johnson’s son Danny Johnson is in charge of the business now, and he spends his time walking around the orchards or talking with guests.
Tickets for the winery’s 21st birthday party cost $10 for general admission, but for the same cost, attendees can rent a “primitive” camping space and pitch a tent by Sheep Creek. For $30, attendees can rent out a space for RVs and campers. This event is both kid-friendly and animal-friendly, and children under 10 will be admitted free of charge. Games and vendors will also be available at the event.
For those interested, more information can be found on the Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchard website or on Long Strange Night’s Facebook event page.