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Partnerships Will Benefit North Carolina’s Wine and Tourism Industries

By Jane Nicholson

071305wine_dl.jpgBOONE – North Carolina’s wine industry is growing, but to ensure continued success wineries and others must develop partnerships with restaurants, chambers of commerce, and others in the travel and tourism industry.

“Our future right now is with the tourism industry,” said Norm Oches with the N.C. Winegrower’s Association. Oches was one of more than a dozen speakers who participated in the First Western N.C. Wine Conference held July 11 at Appalachian State University.

“Most (wine) sales are going to come out of the tasting room. We depend on people coming into the tasting room and being part of the wine experience,” he said.

North Carolina has 48 wineries, with seven new wineries expected to open by the end of the year. There are more than 350 grape growers farming more than 1,350 acres of commercial vineyards. In 10 years, it is anticipated that the wine industry will have a $947 million impact on the state’s economy, including $300 million in winery sales, $150 million in distribution sales, $200 million in restaurant and retail sails, and $150 million in tourism.

But despite its growth, the wine industry has an identity crisis, according to Jerry Douglas, in part because of the variety of wines being produced – from sweet wines made from muscadine grapes at Duplin Winery to those made from vinefera grapes at Biltmore, Shelton Vineyards, Westbend Vineyards and others. Douglas is senior vice president of marketing and sales for the Biltmore Co., owner of Biltmore Winery.

“Part of what makes wine fun is that there is difference, but it’s challenging to market,” Douglas said. “We produce a little of everything (in North Carolina) and we need to celebrate that, but it’s hard to explain to the public.”

By focusing on quality control and improving the consumers’ image of N.C. wine, the industry will continue to grow, Shelton Vineyards’ George Denka explained. But one key ingredient for success is a focus on education. “It’s important to have a local source of skilled labor if we are to move this industry forward,” he said.

Surry Community College offers a two-year viticulture and enology technology degree program. And, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx has submitted a request for $1 million federal grant to establish an enology and viticulture research center at Appalachian that would work with the state’s wineries to monitor the quality of their product.

Other efforts to advance the state’s wine industry include “The Wine Trails of the Yadkin Valley,” a driving tour narrative of Yadkin Valley wineries that can be downloaded from the Winston-Salem Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; links to winery Web sites from the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s General Store Web site; and a focus on the state’s wine industry this fall on the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Visit NC Web site.


PowerPoint presentations from the conference are available at