In only a few decades, Virginia and North Carolina’s wine industries have blossomed, so much so that the East Coast neighbors are now the seventh and eight largest wine producing states. Virginia is home to nearly 150 wineries, while North Carolina boasts 90 wineries, 400 individually owned vineyards, and three federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. A new tax bill in Virginia will pour more than $1 million into the state’s wine industry this year. With $800,000 tabbed for marketing and another $500,000 for education and research, the legislation more than doubles the state government’s support for the industry.
Both states have a long history of attempted wine production. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson each spent over a decade trying to cultivate European grapes on their Virginia estates with no success. In the late 1800s, Virginia’s winemakers finally found success by grafting native American and European vines. At the turn of the 20th century, North Carolina had 25 wineries and was the leading wine-producing region in the nation. However, neither state recovered from Prohibition, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that research allowed growers in both states to have success with vinifera grapes similar to those harvested in California.
Virginia’s official tourism site has information about over a dozen wine trails. The Yadkin Valley, just west of Winston-Salem in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, is home to nearly two dozen wineries and vineyards. It’s also part of the seven-county Swan Creek American Viticulture Areas in northwestern North Carolina that include more than a million acres of vines.