If you have read or plan to read my marketing handbook, The Ultimate Marketing Handbook for Small Businesses,” you know that I framed the book around the boutique winery business. “Why wineries?” you might ask. Well, because it was more fun to research and write about boutique wineries than, say, an industry that makes expensive gourmet coffee from cat poop. With spring just around the corner and and cabin fever creating an urge to get outside, why not visit some boutique wineries in your area. In North Carolina, it is one of the state’s fastest growing industries. But winemaking is not new to North Carolina. Like most things, it has evolved over time and barely resembles its historic past. Most of you have read or seen the story of the Mother Vine, but it warrants a revisit here. Read the following excerpt from The Ultimate Marketing Handbook for Small Businesses now available on amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle editions.
Almost as legendary as the stomping ground and hideout of Blackbeard and other notorious pirates, the legend of the Mother Vine located on Roanoke Island is a story that has been told hundreds of times. Like the tales of Blackbeard, the mystery surrounding the legendary vine never gets old. The celebrated vine is a 400-year-old Scuppernong mother vine that boasts a two-foot-thick trunk and once covered half an acre (“Outer Banks Folklore”, n.d.).
The legend goes that the vine and its grapes may have been spotted by an expedition sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584. The explorers, already familiar with the European grape regions, reported that North Carolina was “so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them . . .” (Kickler, n.d.).
Historical evidence of the Mother Vine cannot be traced beyond the 1720s. Yet, historians do not dispute the early existence of the sweet Scuppernong grape. The mystery lies in whom, exactly, set the vines. There is no doubt the vines were set by advanced cultivators who used scaffolding to hold the vines. Most believe these farmers to be Croatoans, a branch of the Algonquian tribe known for their advanced farming methods. Colonial records report that the native peoples made and enjoyed wine. Still, this does not tell us where the vines originated (Kickler, n.d.).
The Scuppernong is a variety of muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) grape. More than twenty varieties of the grape have now been cultivated. The bronze, red, and purple-black muscadines lend themselves to both red and white wines. Of particular importance to health enthusiasts, these grapes pack as much as 40 times more resveratrol and antioxidants than other American and European varieties. The high levels of resveratrol also protects the plants from pests, diseases, and other threats allowing it to thrive in the warm coastal climate of North Carolina (“North Carolina’s Toast to the Mother Vine”, 2013).
Thomas Jefferson, a wine connoisseur himself, claimed North Carolina wine “would be distinguished on the best tables in Europe, for its fine aroma, and crystalline transparence” (“North Carolina’s Toast to the Mother Vine”, 2013). North Carolina was listed as the number one wine producing state in the 1840 Federal Census and held that status until the early 1900s when Prohibition put a halt on the industry (“North Carolina’s Toast to the Mother Vine”, 2013).
Currently, the Mother Vine is located on private property and is under the care and watchful eyes of John and Estelle Wilson who have lived on the property for approximately 60 years. Some damage over the years has caused the oldest root to shrink. Nevertheless, with a lot of TLC, the Mother Vine continues to thrive. Jack and Estelle want to make sure future generations have the same opportunity to experience all the wonder the vine has given them (Burritt, 2014). Estelle says, “We might own the land, but the vine belongs to all people” (as quoted in Burritt, 2014).
It took almost 100 years for wine to be produced again from the native Mother Vine. Wine is currently one of the fastest growing industries in North Carolina. The current revival is introducing imported European-style viniferous proving that the climate and soil of North Carolina is a perfect match to making the state the leader once again in U.S. wine production (“North Carolina’s Toast to the Mother Vine”, 2013).
If you have visited the Mother Vine, I would live to hear from you. Please share your experience or thoughts in the Comments section. I have not seen the Mother Vine but just might venture a visit out that way in the not-so-distant future.
“North Carolina’s Toast to the Mother Vine.” (2013, January 17). Retrieved November 16, 2015, from visitnc.com: http://media.visitnc.com/news/north-carolina-s-toast-to-the-mother-vine.
“Outer Banks Folklore.” (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2015, from outerbeaches.com: http://www.outerbeaches.com/OuterBanks/AllAboutOBX/Folklore/.
Burritt, C. (2014, September 24). The Keepers of the Mother Vine. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from Our State: http://www.ourstate.com/mother-vine/.
Kickler, T. L. (n.d.). Mother Vine. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from North Carolina History Project: http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/commentary/122/entry.