Thirsty visitors filled Heritage Park in downtown Denison Saturday night to celebrate the annual Denison Wine Festival by sampling a variety of spirits, food, artwork and entertainment. The festival was organized and hosted by the Denison Chamber of Commerce and welcomed an estimated 25o guests.

“This is a rebirth of the Wine Festival,” Denison Chamber Director of Events Shelly Kisel said of this year’s event. “It’s not as big as the ones that have happened before, but on our smaller scale, we still have food, six wineries which are showcasing their different wines and a really great jazz band. We’re really excited about it this year.”

Kisel explained the Wine Festival grew out of the Denison Arts and Renaissance Festival, which she said was first hosted some 15 to 20 years ago. The chamber director said the standalone wine festival has found success in Denison because it pairs well with the community’s appetite for art and culture and its wine-making history. Horticulturist Thomas Volney Munson conducted extensive research of native American grape species in the Denison area during the late 1800s. His experiments in root grafting are widely credited in the recovery of European grape growers, whose crops were devastated by disease at the close of the 19th Century.

“We’ve had a lot of people approach the Chamber throughout the years who have asked for some kind of a wine-centered event in Denison,” Kisel said “And since we are the hometown of the Munsons — who essentially saved the wine industry years ago — it was a natural fit for us to host this festival.”

The six featured wineries included names from across North Texas — Homestead Winery in Denison and Cooley Bay Winery of Van Alstyne among them. Cooley Bay owner Tom Busch said with his winery only in its first eight months of operations, Saturday’s festival was a good opportunity to share his wines with would-be drinkers. Busch said he was proud to offer his different fruit wines at the festival, as grapes grown close to home always seem to resonate best with consumers.

“People really do identify when we tell them the grapes are from Texas,” Busch said. “We have a tempranillo and that one is made with the No. 1 red grape in Texas. Often times, many people come in and they’ve never had it before. We serve it to them and they find out pretty quick that it makes really good wine.”

No matter what variety of vino drinkers prefer, Kisel said socializing over a glass of wine, as the festival afforded, was a great way to unwind and get to know friends, neighbors and new acquaintances.

“When you have a drink together, when you break bread together, its a new chance to form a friendship or just solidify one that already exists,” Kisel said. “Wine just lends its hand to a nice evening of kicking back and having some fun.”