Wine Month in North Carolina

Fay Mitchell

Here’s a toast to the tradition of wine and grapes in North Carolina, a fitting tribute during September, which is Wine Month in North Carolina. It is believed that wine cultivation here goes back to the 1580s, when the first colonists cultivated the “mother vine” in Manteo. It survives to this day and is the oldest known producing grape vine in the country.

Early North Carolina farmers embraced production of the grape, and the scuppernong and muscadine were popular varieties. They do well in the sandy soils of eastern North Carolina.  Hybrid grape varieties are better suited to piedmont and western North Carolina. Early farmers raised grapes to provide fruit, jams and jellies, and wine for the family.

In the early 1800s, North Carolina was a national leader in wine production and in 1840 was the nation’s top wine producer. Thomas Jefferson favorably compared North Carolina wine to that of Europe. Our state was highly ranked until Prohibition and today still is among the country’s top 10 wine producers.

Today there are nearly 200 wineries in North Carolina, covering more than 2,000 acres. Frequently planted varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay, usually in the western part of the state.

Several wine festivals will accommodate revelers wishing to celebrate the pleasant potable this month. Visitors can choose from among a variety of experiences to sip sweet or tart temptations during September.

If you want to celebrate with the “mother vine” there’s The Lost Colony Wine and Culinary Festival September 29 in Manteo which charges a fee, or the Renaissance-themed Mead Day Celebration and Fall Festival September 22 in Pittsboro that’s free. Also, there’s the North Carolina Muscadine Festival September 22 in Kenansville that also has a fee.

But if your September is all booked, consider exploring the wine trails of North Carolina later. The Swan Creek Trail includes six wineries in Hamptonville and Ronda, near Winston-Salem. Also near Winston-Salem is the Yadkin Valley Trail in East Bend and Ronda, with five wineries.

The Shallow Ford Wine Trail includes four wineries near Yadkinville, and the Southern Gateway Trail offers four wineries in the Lexington area. The Uwharrie Valley Wine Trail has four wineries near Albemarle and Salisbury.

North Carolina State Historic Sites include some farms from bygone days, but only Duke Homestead still has grape vines. The Duke family was known to be religious and it is unlikely that they would have made wine.

But if you’re inclined to make a toast to state’s winemaking tradition, Wine Month a fine time to do so.