When most people hear of the region of Southwest Virginia, they automatically think of coal, and indeed the mining of this resource has been a way of life for many generations in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. What many people do not realize is that there is fertile ground that is contained in the vast, open expanses that are found on the plateaus of reclaimed strips jobs, as well as the many naturally occurring, open meadows of the area that make the region the perfect location for growing grapes. There are several vineyards in the region that seek to capitalize on this resource as some in the area make the transition from coal and begin to pursue more sustainable endeavors.
My favorite vineyard in the region is located at the far corner of Virginia in Wise County, Mountain Rose Vineyard (10439 North Reservoir Rd., Wise, Virginia. 276-328-2013). The Lawson family which owns the vineyard planted its first vines in 1996 on land that was originally a reclaimed strip mine. At an elevation of 2,640 feet, the Lawson’s currently grow eight varieties of grapes at this vineyard – white: Traminette, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Niagara, Rkatsiteli, and red: Chancellor, and Cabernet franc are grown there to produce wines that are known as “fruity and complex” and are winning awards everywhere. They offer daily wine tasting for free for five wines with a $3 fee for additional tastings, and tours 6 days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and also offer several special events throughout the year. This vineyard is also known for the over 100 roses that are growing throughout the vineyard and is becoming known for the private events that it also hosts, which include birthdays, weddings and other group gatherings. Perhaps two of its best known and regional favorite events are the annual Concord Grape Festival, held sometime in September, where visitors are invited to pick their own grapes, and also the annual Grape Stomp & Harvest Festival, held sometime in October of each year, the event features hayrides through the vineyard, a country lunch, and a grape stomping contest! Recently the Lawson’s opened a second, smaller vineyard in nearby Russell County, which is known as Grace Vineyards.
In nearby Russell County, there is another vineyard that seeks to capitalize on the region’s abundant fertile ground and elevation to produce great wines, Vincent’s Vineyards (physically located just past Big Cedar Creek Bridge near Lebanon. 2313 E. Main St., Lebanon, Virginia. 276-889-2505). The Gilmer’s started the vineyard on land that has been a family farm for over six generations. Over the years, the farm went from growing Wheat, Corn and Tobacco and raising cattle and sheep herds to planting its first vines in 2001. Currently they grow seven varieties of grapes which includeTraminette, Cabernet Franc, Steuben, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Chardonnay and Concord. They offer free wine tastings and tours 6 days a week from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, sell wine from their tasting room, and also have a small gift shop that features local artisan’s crafts, wine accessories, and jellies made at the Vineyard.
Continuing up the road to Washington County one will find the Abingdon Vineyard & Winery (20530 Alvarado Rd., Abingdon, Virginia. 276-623-1255). The Nordin Carlson Family owns the 53 acres upon which this vineyard was founded. They planted their first 500 vines in 1998 and had over 6,000 by 2001. Their main varieties of grapes are Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonel, Traminette, Pinot Noir, Norton, Chambourcin, and Viognier. This vineyard offers tastings and tours March 15th through December 15th on Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 12 noon to 6 p.m.
There are many other vineyards that can be found throughout the unique, abundant and bountiful region, but these three are currently the best known. As more individuals in the region become more aware of the area’s natural resources and turn to tourism and ecology to diversify employment opportunities in the region there will surely be more vineyards in the region in the years to come.