North Carolina Wineries History

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Going back in time

      North Carolina has a rich history. To get you caught up to this point, here is a short rundown of what happened up to this point. Before Europeans even considered visiting this large continent, the residents of this region were quite busy building large complex cities. The peoples in this area included quite a few different Native American Tribes, but Mississippian culture was quite alive. This culture consisted of mound-building peoples who built up villages and urban settlements and linked to one another through a series of trading networks.

 

      The Spanish arrived in the late 1560’s and attempted to colonize. Needless to say, it was only an attempt. Another attempt came in the 1580’s when Sir Walter Raleigh began two small colonies. These failed as well, and are now known as the “Lost Colony”. By the mid 1600’s some colonization had begun by colonists who had made their way down from Virginia.

 

      By the 18th century North Carolina gained a little bit more structure among the colonized. This included a series of representatives and local government. It was a Patriot base during the American Revolution because, surprise, the locals were not keen on paying taxes without representation.

 

      During the 19th century North Carolina remained mostly rural. Cities, or even villages did not exist yet. Most colonists operated small farms, and in the eastern part of the state a growing population of planters, mainly producing cotton, emerged. North Carolina seceded and joined the Confederacy during the Civil War.

 

      The 20th century was full of changes, not only for the state, but the entire country. The Great Depression, the world wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. Although it was originally a mostly democratic state, with the election of Nixon in 1968 also came a shift towards the right. The state has voted Republican for the most part since then.

 

      The last couple decades have included a growth in the economy, although the entire country took a hit with the recent recession. With the growth came an influx of population, attracting people from both the North and the Midwest. Knowledge based industries have grown, as well as finance. The areas of the largest growth are the metropolitan areas which include: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Greensboro.

 

The Grape History

 

      In 1524 the nation’s first cultivated grape was discovered. This varietal was the Scuppernong and it was found in the Cape Fear River Valley.

 

      North Carolina’s first commercial winery was founded in 1835. Sidney Weller was the founder, and the winery could be found in the small community of Brinkleyville. By 1840 Weller’s Vineyards, later renamed Medoc Vineyards, was leading the country in wine production.

      By the 1850’s North Carolina’s wine industry was beginning to boom. There were at least 25 vineyards and wineries at this point. The down point came the next decade when the state was devastated by the Civil War, leading to the demise of many of the vineyards and wineries.

 

      It took a little while, but the by 1890’s North Carolina was in the forefront of the nation’s wine industry. Farmer’s had been encouraged to grow grapes in an effort to stimulate the economy.

 

      The Paris Exposition was certainly a place to take wine seriously, and in the year 1900 North Carolina wines strut their stuff and won medals for their fabulous wines.

 

      North Carolina wineries continued to flourish in the beginning of the 20th century, and by 1904 Virginia Dare wines, both red and white, were the top sellers in the US. They brought home a couple well-earned medals from the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition that year as well.

 

      1909: This was not good at all. North Carolina put in place a statewide prohibition. Yet again North Carolina wine took an undeserved hit. This lasted for over two decades, and in 1933 prohibition was repealed. 13 wineries existed in the state in 1947, when counties all vote dry. The wonderful start of the century proved to be a dissolution.

 

      Out of state demand for grapes had met up with North Carolina by the 1950’s, and the vineyard planting began again. By the following decade the law was again on the wineries side, and Senator Carl Vitners introduced a bill to help fund grape and wine research as well as grower education.

 

      The 1970’s proved to be on the grower’s side still, as the state legislature reduced the annual winery fee and cut the state tax on native table wine. This was all in an attempt to help stimulate the growth and development of new wineries and stimulate it did! Many new wineries opened soon after this.

 

      Does a $6.5 million dollar state of the art winery interest you? In 1985 that’s how much the Biltmore Company spent to open an incredible winery on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. According to an inflation character that is the equivalent of spending $14,311,840 today!

 

      In 1986 the North Carolina Wine & Grape Council is established. Again, as usual, this was done to encourage the growth of the North Carolina’s grape and wine industry. Then in 1999 the Golden Leaf Foundation was created to inspire farmers to transition from tobacco growing to grape growing, there was monetary compensation involved.

 

      In 2002, there was the North Carolina Wine Festival and it was a smash hit! There was a total of 11,000 people in attendance.

 

      At this point AVA’s, American Viticultural Area’s, began to be established. Yadkin Valley was the first. By 2005 North Carolina had almost 50 wine producers across the state. Swan creek was designated the state’s second AVA in 2008. The year after Haw Rive Valley was designated the third AVA in the state.

 

      The five years leading up to 2010 were busy ones for North Carolina’s wine producers. The number of wineries doubled, from 48 to more than 90 and ranked 7th for wine production in the US.

 

Most Visited Winery, Asheville, NC

 

The Biltmore

 

      Notably called “The Biltmore Experience” on visitnc.com , this estate will keep you wanting more. The original estate was built in Asheville in 1895 and currently encompasses 8,000 acres. There are gardens, the largest private home in the US, the winery that was established in 1985, a shopping village and more. If this sounds excessive, perhaps the mention that it was George Vanderbilt’s residence might explain a little bit.

 

The House

 

      House may be an understatement. Can a single building that covers over 4 acres really be considered a home? This may be up for discussion. Anyhow, here are the nitty gritty details:

 

  • 175,000 square feet
  • 250 rooms
  • 65 fireplaces
  • Indoor pool
  • Bowling alley
  • Antiques galore
  • Famous works of art (Renoir included)
  • 16th century tapestries
  • Library with over 10,000 volumes
  • Napoleon’s Chess set

The Gardens

 

  • The gardens themselves are to be taken in as individual displays as they vary in theme. There is an Italian Garden with three pools that are symmetrical as well as a classic statuary. The Conservatory has glass roofs and grows tropical plants as well as orchids. Then there is the Azalea Garden that expands across 15 acres.

The Winery

 

      This is America’s most visited winery, period. In fact, the number of people who visit it every year is larger than the population of Wyoming. This is more than any California Winery. Go on, you might as well take a look around. There are the cellars, the fermentation room, corking area, and more. You can of course have a tasting sampler of the Biltmore wines, and take a listen to the Biltmore chefs if you so desire. Your taste buds will thank you.

 

The Village

 

      Extremely walkable, Antler Hill Village is next door to the winery. There’s food, shopping and even a variety of entertainment. Take a listen to live entertainment on the village green, or make your way over to the Outdoor Adventure Center. As you make your way to various places around the estate you will come across many aspects of its history.

 

Other North Carolina wineries to note:

 

  • Noni Bacca Winery, Wilmington

      This winery is known not only in the US but abroad. They have a hefty amount of international awards under their belt, and their tasting experience is phenomenal.

  • Grandfather Vineyard & Winery, Foscoe

      Located off the Boone Area Wine Trail, this winery is tucked in perfectly to the Appalachians and the view is absolutely stunning. Make sure to grab a bottle of their ice wine, it’s delicious and sells out all the time.

  • Rocky River Vineyards, Midland

      Right outside Charlotte, this winery and vineyard is the perfect escape into the countryside. The mountains offer beautiful views and fresh air.

  • Stony Knoll Vineyards, Dobson

      This winery is located in North Carolina’s first AVA: Yadkin Valley. Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains this quaint winery has the most ideal atmosphere and is incredibly peaceful.

  • Childress Vineyards, Lexington

      This Tuscan-style winery will astound you with its gorgeous interior. You will no doubt be floored as you walk in, from the bistro, to the tasting room, and out to the deck. Every single detail was thought through in the creation of this magnificent winery. 

There are many North Carolina Wineries and lots of rich history to take in! It is a growing and thriving community.

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