Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

The Mother of all Wineries

Not only is North Carolina is the origin of the first commercial wine grape in the U.S.-the Mothervne-but Cypress Bend Vineyards also makes its home there.

The Mother of all Wineries

Cypress Bend Vineyards
Wagram, NC

In January of 1524, French explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano made landfall in , home of Cypress Bend Vineyards. He wrote in his diary ".many vines growing naturally there that without doubt would yield excellent wines." Indeed. Since the first commercial grape Mothervine in the U.S., dating back to Sir Walter Raleigh, resides in North Carolina, it makes sense that Cypress Bend Vineyards thrives here as well. In fact, the 1840 census listed North Carolina as the top wine state in the country. This is where the ancestors of Dan Smith and his wife, Tina, proprietors of Cypress Bend, come into the picture.

In 1807 Daniel and Catherine White, Dan's great, great, great grandparents, purchased a thousand acres and called the land Riverton. Many generations grew up there, including Dan Smith, who eventually returned after 30 years to farm the land. In 2002, digging post holes, stringing arbor wire, planning and building an irrigation system, Dan and Tina planted 35 acres of bronze Muscadine grapes, the state fruit of North Carolina. Muscadine, often referred to as Scuppernong, has commonly been used to make flavorful, sweet wines. Dan and Tina began making several varietals (there are around 100 types of Muscadine grapes in all), but they also began using a proprietary fermentation and winemaking process to produce a dry Muscadine. "Cabernet Sauvignon lovers visit our winery and are delighted to discover our dry Muscadine wines," Tina says.

Tina, who is the president of the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association, is quick to point to several studies that prove the grape's health benefits. "Besides its exotic flavor, Muscadine has been found to have exceptionally high levels of resveratrol and other healthy antioxidants," she says. Resveratrol is said to cross the blood brain barrier to help protect brain cells. And as a whole, antioxidants help protect the body from the damaging effects of oxygen-free radicals, which can contribute to degenerative diseases.

Beyond promoting the healthy properties of the Muscadine grape, Cypress Bend Vineyards is reaping its share of accolades. Notably their Autumn label won the 2008 Double Gold/ Best in Class at the 32nd International Eastern Wine Competition. And their other Muscadine wines have won Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals at the 15th Annual Indy International Wine Competition.

A visit to this tradition-rich family farm is a must on any wine tourer's itinerary. Cypress Bend's 4,800-square-foot, sand-colored winery, topped by an old-fashioned cupola and bronze weathervane, includes a retail shop, tasting room, tank room, and outdoor picnic area. The charming building sits behind a 200-foot-wide lagoon and a rise of loblolly trees and is available for weddings, concerts, and other special events. "Scotland County is such a beautiful part of North Carolina," says Tina. "Once at the winery we hope people will feel the excitement and romance a vineyard and winery have to offer."

Cypress Bend's success can be attributed to hard work, fertile land, and the belief in the worthiness of a native grape. It would likely please the many North Carolinians--who weathered prohibition and continued to make their Muscadine wines--to know that Muscadine is alive, well, and believed by many to be nature's healthiest grape.

What to Buy:
Riverton ReserveDry, full round palate and velvet finish $10
RoseneathLight-bodied, soft flavors, smooth finish $9
AutumnIntense, aromatic red Muscadine $12
Isabelle Semi-sweetMuscadine, full-bodied Magnolia $12
Christina's MagnoliaPassionate dry white, citrus, delicate, Magnolia, very soft $12

910.369.0411; Fax 910.369.0484
21904 Riverton Rd.
Wagram, NC 28396
Open Mon-Sun 12-6; Sat 10-6

Getting There:
Take Hwy 401 35 miles south of Fayetteville to Wagram. Turn left on Riverton Rd. for three miles.

1. The winery's tasting room includes a retail boutique. 2. The lumber River runs along the property. 3. Serveral varieties of the Muscadine grape flourish here. 4. The patio is a great spot for picnics and summer concerts.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks