by Marie Maguire
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss this year’s Piedmont Farm Tour! Buy your tickets today!
Last weekend, here in Switzerland, facing the prospect of yet more dreary weather, off we went to visit the terraced vineyards of Lavaux . The terraces form Switzerland’s largest contiguous vineyard area and offer breath taking views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. The vineyards date back over 800 years and have been classified a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You may be thinking that Switzerland produces chocolate and watches only. Actually, the Swiss also produce wonderful, reasonably priced wines, but production is limited. To put it in perspective, Swiss wine production is the equivalent of about five per cent of California wine production and virtually all of it is consumed domestically.
What does this have to do with North Carolina, you ask?
North Carolina, like Switzerland, also has a thriving wine industry. Grape growing dates back to around the time of Sir Walter Raleigh’s arrival in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Old North State has more than 100 wineries, and their number has doubled since 2005. In the United States, North Carolina ranks ninth for wine production and tenth for grape production.
Here’s why this is relevant. No doubt many of you know this weekend is the not-to-be-missed 17th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour (April 28 and 29 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm). This year, the Tour features one of North Carolina’s sustainable wineries: the Winery at Iron Gate Farms www.irongatevineyards.com.
Iron Gate Farms has produced award-winning wines for over ten years now. In 2009 it received the Times News (Burlington) Readers Choice Award for Best Winery & Wine Shop. It received the North Carolina Winegrower’s Cup in 2005 for its cabernet. It’s not just North Carolinians who appreciate their wine. For several years, the wines received awards in the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition, and the wines have garnered awards in other competitions. Yet, to quote Debbie Stikeleather, “the success of the Winery at Iron Gate Farms can be seen not only in its awards and the number of bottles it sells, but in the land it allows [me] to care for and protect” (from A Guide to North Carolina Wineries, Second Edition). In addition to their wines, Iron Gate Farms has Belgian draft horses, fainting goats, chickens, barn cats and dogs and is well worth a visit.
As you tour some of the 40 farms on this year’s Piedmont Farm Tour, be sure to stop by and taste the wines at the Winery at Iron Gate Farms and learn more about their sustainable practices. And be sure to let Debbie and Gene Stikeleather and her crew know the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association sent you.
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