Prior to the Civil War, winemaking was a thriving business along the Ohio River in what is present day West Virginia. The winemaking region extended as far east as Dunbar. The producers barreled the wine and shipped it by boat to Cincinnati, Ohio. Nearly everything in West Virginia was disrupted by the Civil War, including the production of wine. After the war, there were just not enough able-bodied men to do the work, and by 1872, winemaking in West Virginia was dead. It would be over 100 years before the state would begin to produce wine commercially again.The state's first modern wine producer was Fisher Ridge Wine Company of Liberty, WV. Fisher Ridge began operating in 1979.
There are three wineries here in southern West Virginia
Daniel Vineyards in Crab Orchard is the largest winery in the state. Owner Dr. Richard Daniels has 10,000 vines on 5 acres of his 190-acre vineyard.He didn't start out to be a winemaker. The property was a 9-hole golf course the first time he saw it. Standing on the first tee, he said to himself, "This would make a beautiful vineyard." And so it has. He planted the first grapes in 1990 and officially became a winemaker in 1997. He sells blueberries to the public on a 'pick your own' basis.Dr. Daniels has taken pains to make his property aesthetically pleasing. The vineyard has been the site of school and family reunions, fund raising group events and professional meetings.Nearly every weekend, from late spring to late summer, there is a wedding at the vineyard.
He has planted rosebushes at the end of every row of grapevines and blueberries. There is a gazebo overlooking a pond with seating for 35. He has a 66-foot deck with 100-year-old tree growing up through it. On the deck are 12 tables for four and around the deck is a bench seating 90 people. Should there be a bigger crowd, he has a pavilion with tables and chairs and an extension of the deck bench seating 120.
Each spring since 1999 he has held a Wine Festival. Representatives of several wineries from around the state gather at the festival and display their products. The public has a chance to come and sample wines from all over the state. This past spring, eight wineries were present. For a $10 fee, you get a souvenir 11-oz. wineglass and can sample any wine from participating wineries.
f you would like to visit at other times of the year, Daniel Vineyards are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Their phone number is (304) 252-9750 or you can go online at www.danielvineyards.com.
Kirkwood Winery is located three miles north of Summersville. Owner Rodney Facemire was working as a coal miner when he and two of his sons planted some grapevines on his farm in 1984. These were killed in the harsh winter of 1984 and the drought of 1985. Undaunted, he replanted them. In 1991, he was laid off from the mines.
At first, he thought he would sell fruit to make a living. When he saw he couldn't make any money, he decided to produce wine. In 1992, the year he opened the winery, he had two apple wines and three grape wines for sale. Today, he sells over 30 varieties of wine. Facemire has two unusual specialty wines-ginseng and ramp. The ramp wine is not a sipping wine, but primarily a cooking wine. It will bring a salad to life if you add a little to the dressing.Each year, since the winery opened in 1992, it has hosted the Kirkwood Grape Stomping Festival. This year the festival is on September 21-22. For more information about Kirkwood Winery you can call 1-888-4WV-WINE. Or you can check out their website at www.kirkwood-wine.com.
Although Charlie and Sarah Browne of Wolf Creek Winery purchased their property in Monroe County in 1976, it would be over two decades before they would be producing wine commercially. They spent a considerable amount of time educating themselves about vineyards and the art of winemaking.
In 1991, they planted two acres of grapes. Today, five acres are producing grapes, two and a half are under cultivation and five more are being prepared. They have narrowed their varieties of grapes down from 12 to 4. Wolf Creek Winery opened for business in June of 2000. All grapes used in the production of their wine are grown on-site.
Tasting room hours are 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Wolf Creek's phone number is (304) 772-5040 and their website is www.wolfcreekwinery.com.