Perspectives Online

Hundreds gather to taste N.C. wines

"Celebrate N.C. Wines" drew more than 400 people who sampled selections from 11 of the state's wineries. Proceeds from the event help support viticulture research at N.C. State.
Photo by Daniel Kim

On a beautiful November afternoon, wine enthusiasts and supporters of the JC Raulston Arboretum gathered at the arboretum's McSwain Education Center to sample North Carolina's bountiful wines.

More than 400 people were on hand for the first, but not the last, "Celebrate N.C. Wines" event. Eleven popular wineries from around the state brought their finest selections to share. Participants received a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences wine glass to sample various wines and to keep as a memento of the afternoon's festivities.

The event was sponsored by the College and the JC Raulston Arboretum. Nearly $25,000 was raised, and net proceeds from the event will be used to benefit the arboretum and N.C. State's viticulture research. In addition, the event attracted some new College friends who wanted to learn more about North Carolina wines.

Photos by Daniel Kim
North Carolina's wine industry is growing by leaps and bounds. As of November, the state had 52 wineries, more than twice the number in 2002. The state ranks 10th nationally in grape production and 12th in wine production. The federal designation of the Yadkin Valley Appellation gives wineries in that area a distinction similar to wineries of California's famed Napa Valley or Sonoma County.

Wineries represented at the event included Biltmore Estate, Chatham Hill Winery, Childress Vineyards, Cypress Bend Vineyards, Duplin Wine Cellars, Hinnant Family Vineyards, Round Peak Vineyards, RagApple Lassie Vineyards, Shelton Vineyards and The Winery at Iron Gate Farm.

Dr. MaryAnne Drake, assistant professor of food science and internationally recognized food and flavor specialist, conducted a demonstration on the art of pairing wines with a variety of cheeses, fruits, nuts and chocolate.

As guests gathered at the end of the evening, Dean Johnny Wynne recognized event chairs Peggy and Jim Fain and Jeanette and Wallace Hyde. Jim Fain, state secretary of commerce, described the N.C. Wine & Grape Council as "part of our team to promote tourism and wine together." Fain also said the wine industry benefits from partnerships with the College and N.C. State.

Jeanette Hyde, former ambassador to seven Caribbean countries and long-time advocate of the College and arboretum, spoke about North Carolina's rich history in wine making. "Early in the history of our state, settlers started a thriving wine industry until tobacco came along," she said. Today, the trend is reversed as some former tobacco farmers have established vineyards.

Margo Knight, director of the N.C. Wine & Grape Council, said that North Carolina's wine industry is creating jobs and revitalizing rural economies. During the program, she presented two best-in-show medals to the wineries that took top honors at the 2005 N.C. State Fair wine competition. This year, the competition attracted 200 wines that earned 132 medals.

- Natalie Hampton