Monday, March 22, 2010

N.C. wines coming into their own

We've discussed before the historical popularity and success of North Carolina's wine industry. In fact, as Phil Kirk writes here, North Carolina's wine industry was the top one in the nation before Prohibition. (We could've used Homer and his bowling ball-speakeasy techniques.)

Well, our state's vineyards have made quite the comeback in recent years. So much so that it may not be long before N.C. wines are back in the top 5.

"North Carolina enjoys a number of 'firsts' in the wine and grape industry," writes Kirk, the spokesperson for the Yadkin Valley Winegrowers Association. "The first cultivated grape in the U.S. was discovered in 1524 in our state. Also the first commercial winery in the U.S. was opened in Halifax County in eastern North Carolina in 1835. Prohibition wiped out the wine industry in our state and we were slow to getting back in the business.

"The Duplin Winery, located off I-40 in southeastern North Carolina, was opened in 1972 and is the oldest, continuously operated winery and is also the largest in terms of annual wine production and sales in our state. ...

N.C. wineries are winning both national and international awards for excellence. On the "Today" show, food editor Phil Lempert proclaimed that the Napa Valley is out and doomed by global warming. He said, "North Carolina is poised to claim Napa's crown."

The state has twice been named as one of the top states for wine and culinary tourism. North Carolina ranks third in the nation as a wine-related travel destination. Wineries have tasting rooms and provide tours, as well as extensive gift shops.

The state's wine industry employs more than 6,000 people with a payroll surpassing $200 million. More than 1 million visitors are recorded at N.C. wineries and there is an economic impact approaching $1 billion annually. The Biltmore winery is the most-visited winery in the United States. ...

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