Ξ January 23rd, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Winemakers, Wineries |
How many Native American wineries are there in the United States? Just one, Native Vines Winery outside of Lexington, in the Yadkin Valley, Davidson County, North Carolina’s first AVA. The state is currently ranked 10th in grape and wine production in the United States. Quite an achievement. But North Carolina may now also boast of Native Vines Winery. Bonded in 2006, Native Vines Winery is entirely a family affair. The delightful family matriarch and winemaker Darlene Gabbard began making fruit wines more than nine years ago as a way of more productively using the bounty of apples and blackberries growing on the family’s 36 acre property, fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. Plantings of vinifera vines soon followed; Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc and Merlot (clones unknown) in the beginning, to which have been recently added Syrah, Riesling and Viognier, all of her favorites. She explained to me that she has never attended a viticultural school, is entirely self-taught.
And an environmentally sensitive, native ethic pervades her work. Indeed, in the vineyards lime sulphur spray is sparingly used to control endemic Pierce’s Disease and sporadic beetle invasions. In the winery she is equally green. After fermentation of most cuvées to off-dry, she limits the use of oak chips to wines aging in containers other than the more expensive American oak barrels used for the balance of her production. She dislikes the modern over-use of oak, “When I drink wine, I don’t want to taste the tree in my back yard”. She does not filter or add sulfites as a rule, yet Darlene has not sought an ‘Organic’ designation owing to the requirement that she be free to “do what is necessary” to save a vintage.
Screw caps are a non-starter for her. No romance, undignified. A synthetic cork was used for her last vintage but she objected to an obvious oily residue left in the wine from the proprietary coating designed to ease insertion into the bottle. So she washed clean the synthetic corks, each and every one of them! Natural cork will be used for each vintage from here on.
Native Vines produced about 1000 gallons of fruit and vinifera wines this year; next year, 5000 gallons is projected owing to vines coming into production on land owned in Surry County to the north. Down the road, the winery will top out at 10,000 gallons.
Darlene Gabbard will soon give what she modestly calls “a grape growing lesson” at the UNC in Pembroke, home of the Lumbee Tribe, to which she and her family belongs. She is a very energetic personality, quite a persuasive marketer. At the end of my interview, I bought half a mixed case!