Our North Carolina grape genealogy has a very long vine. Halifax County was home to the first commercial winery in the state. Sidney Weller founded his vineyard in the community of Brinkleyville in 1835, by 1840 it was renamed Medoc Vineyards and led the nation in wine production.Weller’s vineyard had company by the 1850s as N.C. saw an expansion of more than 25 wineries and multiple vineyards across the state. The late 19th century brought devastation to the industry due to the Civil War in the 1860s, followed by a turnaround in the 1890s as farmers were encouraged to inject the economy with a boost from agricultural profits.Just as North Carolina wines were gaining a foothold on the international stage (picking up medals at the Paris Exposition in 1900), as well as holding their own at home (winning grand prizes at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in 1904) along came that pesky little Prohibition law squelching the state’s wine industry altogether.Fast forward to the 20th century and wine is back and going strong. North Carolina currently has four American Viticultural Areas: The Yadkin Valley, Swan Creek, the Haw River Valley, and the Upper Hiwassee Highlands (shared with Georgia), and a fifth coming up for approval before the end of the year located near Boone, further highlighting the importance of wine to the state.The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau determines whether or not an area can be designated an AVA, and there are several requirements that go into the process.”Ultimately it is community supported,” said Whit Winslow, executive director of the N.C. Wine and Grape Council. “To have that designation 85 percent of the fruit in the wine must be from that region. It allows for marketing and helps the wineries with promotions and identification.”North Carolina now has more than 150 wineries in 28 counties, and on Sept. 16 the people came together at the State Farmers Market to celebrate the commodity that makes it all possible for grape day. In a state with an official state toast, it just makes sense the wine industry is flourishing “here’s to the land of the long leaf pine.” Cheers.
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