North Carolina's first commercial winery was established in 1835 by Mr. Sidney Weller, in the community of Brinkleyville, in Halifax County.
But that wasn't the beginning.
In 1584, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, exploring on behalf of Sir Walter Raleigh, came upon a land they described as "...so full of grapes...that I thinke in all the world the like abundance is not to be found." Before them, in 1524, Spanish conquistador Giovanni de Verrazzano saw the coast of North Carolina and described "many vines growing naturally...[which] would doubtless yield excellent wine..."
And it did.
Evidence suggests that before the Europeans sailed the ocean blue, native populations – specifically, the Croatoans – were already making wine from North Carolina's native grapes. The "Mother Vine" – an immense, 32-feet-wide by 120-feet-long Scuppernong plant – is thought to be the direct descendant of this ancient viticulture. At 400 years old, she is the oldest cultivated grape vine in the country (some say the world), and many vineyards across the United States have her to thank for their creation.
Although those first winemakers, and the colonists with them, mysteriously vanished in the late 1580s, nearly three hundred years later, in the 1850s, almost twenty-five wineries were registered in the state. Mr. Weller's little vineyard, (by then renamed Medoc Vineyards), actually led the country in wine production. The Civil War wiped out the industry in the 1860s, but by the end of the century, North Carolina's wine industry was thriving again, and the state's wines even won medals at the Paris Exhibition of 1900.
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