Virginia Rising in the Ranks of Grape Production and Wineries

When you think of viticulture and wineries, Virginia isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but Nelson Stanley of Patrick Springs, Virginia has been growing grapes for wine for about 13 years in the south central part of the state. Stanley says that 2011 was a good year for them:

“We actually had a pretty good year. A lot of the hurricane weather that we usually encounter during harvest time actually went around us.  We missed a whole lot of that.  So, we actually had a pretty good harvest last year — had a good crop, and they matured well, and they’re really turning into really good wine so far. So, I think we had a really good year last year.”

While they’ve been growing grapes for a while now, Stanley says that they’ve recently gotten into the winemaking part of the business with Stanburn Wines:

“The winery, we’ve had it open about a year and a half now, so we’re relatively new winery.”

Stanley explains how he came to become a grower of grapes:

“I actually have a plumbing contracting business also, that I’ve had for years, and we did some expansions for all the plumbing and pipe fittings for some different wineries, and they were looking for some local growers, so that’s how we got into the growing part of it. And then kind of the natural progression of that, we got into the winery business because of that.”

While growing grapes can be profitable, Stanley has this advice for those that might be considering the switch:

“It’s real time consuming, and a lot of work goes into starting a vineyard or a winery. And one of the best advice I got from a friend of mine at another winery was he said if you want to make a small fortune in the vineyard and winery business, start with a large one. There’s a lot of truth in that, too. It’s a lot of money that you don’t get back for a lot of years, be aware of that.”

Stanley explains that with the help of state institutions, grape growing has received a lot of support in Virginia and North Carolina as well:

“The soils and things that we have here, and the type of climate that we have are really good, and they worked on it through a lot of the state institutions that have worked on it  to figure out just exactly what will grow the best, and things like that, and have been a big help to Virginia and North Carolina. So, it is a good growing area, and I think it will continue to be, too.”

For those that have thought growing grapes outside of California was a fad, Stanley had these thoughts:

“It’s pretty well established, it’s a growing industry and it continues to grow every year, and I know, especially in Virginia, we continue to take away a certain percentage from other places because the wine and grapes are getting a lot better.  So, I don’t think it’s a fad. It’s a growing industry, Virginia is now the fifth largest producing state of wine vineyards and wineries in the country. So, we have gained a lot and North Carolina is very close behind, with Yadkin Valley and all of the wineries there, so they’re improving, and it’s a growing business, and it will continue to.”

Nelson Stanley of Stanburn Wines near Patrick Springs, Virginia.


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