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In only its first year of producing wine, Mount Vale Vineyards — Grayson County’s first winery — already has earned the Silver Award in the 2012 Virginia Governor’s Cup competition for its wine, Misty Morning.
Judges, who evaluated entries on taste and quality, commented that Mount Vale’s sweet white wine made completely from Virginia grapes is “Surprisingly delightful, well balanced,” according to the scoring sheets.
“Lovely. Hard not to swallow!” raves another judge.
The silver medal indicates Misty Morning is a “very good wine.”
This is the vineyard’s fourth of five wines. Mount Vale’s other wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cranberry Delight and Cellar Door.
The next wine to be released will be Table for Two, a bordeaux.
With an outsider’s perspective, winery owner Noel Belcher said that this validates the mission of Mount Vale Vineyards.
“We’re excited to win this award,” he said. “This speaks volumes to what we’re trying to do here, which is to have great wine.”
For his wife, Peggy, this winery is a dream come true. The Belchers, who owned a construction company, moved from the Raleigh, N.C., area to establish a vineyard in Grayson County, just outside Galax.
“Being a young winery and being able to accomplish this in just a few months, it shows that we’re on the right track,” she said.
Another goal, winemaker Mary Simmons said, is to put Grayson County on the map. With more surrounding wineries, it produces a tourism trail that draws people from one winery to the next.
“There’s no competition in the wine industry,” said Peggy. “With wine trails, people will drive from one to another.”
Since the winery opened Thanksgiving weekend last year, others have become interested in creating vineyards in Grayson County.
Noel said most would think that it would be impossible to grow a vineyard in Grayson County. “Here, you have to grow hybrid grapes, but you can produce a great wine,” he said.
In fact, Virginia’s wine industry contributes about $747 million to the state’s economy, and has created 4,753 full-time jobs, according to economic impact study from the governor’s office.
So far, Mount Vale Vineyard’s boutique-style winery employs five workers.
“With the decline in the furniture industry, agritourism is the next big thing,” said Noel. “It makes businesses thrive.”
In about five years, when the vineyard hits its peak of maturity, about nine or 10 tons of grapes will be produced.
Last season, the vineyard produced three tons, Peggy said. About 3,000 gallons of wine will be made this season.
If business is good in years to follow, Mount Vale Vineyards may produce about 5,000 gallons a year.
On April 28, Mount Vale will host a class on how to grow a vineyard. The day-long class, which will cost $150 and include lunch and wine tasting.
Also, beginning May 12, Mount Vale will host a music festival — the first in a monthly series.
The winery also books weddings, small meetings and other small parties, such as family reunions.
• For more information about Mount Vale Vineyards or the calendar of events, visit mtvalevineyard.com or call 233-4483.