By: Judith Hill
Auburn, Alabama — You don’t have to travel to the west coast to experience some of the most amazing and tasty vineyards. That’s right, right here in Alabama there are more than 10 fully operating grape vineyards that welcome visitors daily.
Most Alabama natives are unaware of how prevalent grape vineyards are in the state until they happen upon one for themselves. Whippoorwill Vineyard can be seen while driving the back roads to Lake Martin just 30 minutes outside of Auburn. Hodges Vineyards & Winery is just 4.5 miles off of Highway 280, also minutes away from Lake Martin and Auburn. Morgan Creek Winery is also right off the Highway in Harpersville, Alabama.
Vineyards in Alabama
Regional Extension Agent Doug Chapman gives a little insight on the difficulties that come with growing in the Deep South. Chapman’s heritage in Alabama extends more than 200 years. He said his love for horticulture came naturally. Chapman grew up around his grandmother “who could, and did, grow anything and everything.”
Chapman said there really isn’t an ideal landscape for grape growers in the south, as California is the ideal spot for growing grapes. Several challenges arise for farmers growing grapes in the southeast. However, muscadines are much more adaptive since they are our native grape here in Alabama. Chapman explains the first wine ever made in the Western Hemisphere was made by the Spanish in Florida from native muscadines.
“Many environmental factors play into the success of healthy grapes. From the time of year, the amount of rainfall and even the type of soil in the region where the vineyard is growing has tremendous effects.” For example, he said the elevation in North Alabama has a higher success rate for growing grapes due to the higher altitude that area of the state experiences.
Chapman said farmers face many difficulties—including Alabama’s high humidity levels, intensely hot summers, disease, insect and weed pests. These factors make farming in the southeast “a real challenge for any crop.” Grapes especially require season-long pesticide sprays to produce acceptable yields.
The “buy and eat local” craze has led to the establishment of more than 13 Alabama vineyards. A few that you can travel to include Hodges Vineyards & Winery, Morgan Creek Winery and Whippoorwill Vineyard.
Hodges Vineyards & Winery
Owner Earl Hodges enjoyed making homemade wine for several years before he and his wife Elke turned his hobby into a business in 2008. Hodges Vineyards and Winery opened to the public in May 2011. then they have developed a loyal following of customers who feel right at home with the family-operated business.
The Hodges said “other wineries may offer similar services but we know our customers enjoy the personal touch and friendliness they experience when they visit as well.”
Guests can currently enjoy 17 different flavored wines and schedule special events upon request.
Morgan Creek Winery
In the heart of Harpersville lies the family owned and operated Morgan Creek Winery. Aside from offering an array of dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines, Morgan Creek hosts events open to the public throughout the year. Events in the past featured music, food and family fun. Complimentary tours and wine tastings are held weekly—Monday through Saturday. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic while enjoying the scenic vineyards the grounds have to offer.
Whippoorwill Vineyards extends 15-acres of beautiful countryside in Notasulga, Alabama. The family-owned vineyard takes pride in hand harvesting, bottling and corking all of their wine on site. Since becoming a fully-operating vineyard in 2008, Whippoorwill proudly serves more than 10 Muscadine and Scuppernong wines. Complimentary tasting and tours are available during normal business hours.
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