September is N.C. Wine and Grape month – 30 days dedicated to celebrating and showcasing wines made in the state.
In Eastern North Carolina, Duplin Winery has been putting the region on the map, and newer wineries in the area have been emerging.
One of those is Noni Bacca, which arose out of family tradition.
“We grew up making our wine,” said Toni Incorvaia, co-owner of Noni Bacca. “We would go down with our parents and our grandparents, get the lugs of grapes, load them up on the pickup trucks, head back home and start our wine-making process. Everybody got involved in destemming the grapes from the stems and crushing those grapes. It was a family project making the wine.”
Noni Bacca opened in 2007 in Wilmington. Toni and Ken Incorvaia decided to open the winery after moving to the city from New York.
“We just got tired of doing what we’re doing up north, and my wife wanted to do something else,” Ken Incorvaia said. “We did what we learned culturally with our families and turned it into a business.”
Noni Bacca wines are made at their Eastwood Road shop location, which is also a tasting room.
“There are 20 tanks in a room and three bottlers. Everything’s done by all of our workers, all the labeling is done by us, and all our bottling is done by us,” Ken Incorvaia said.
They make 60 types of wines, ranging from reds, whites, fruit and dessert wines, with grapes shipped from other countries.
Two of their most popular wines are Taxi Cab, a cabernet sauvignon, and Truffle, a dessert wine flavored with raspberry and chocolate.
The reception has been positive and supportive, Ken Incorvaia said.
“We have a great customer base – faithful customers. They are back all the time,” Ken Incorvaia said. “We have people coming in here from Washington State, from California … from the Netherlands, Tokyo, Italy, France.”
Another more recently opened winery has been drawing people from various areas of the state.
Cape Fear Vineyard and Winery was envisioned by Alex Munroe as he walked his dog around a lake near Elizabethtown Industrial Park.
The lake was on a vacant lot that had a lot of potential. Munroe decided to purchase the property and create a winery, vineyard, distillery, cottages, restaurant and event space.
The property is across from a manufacturing facility for AlertTile, Munroe’s other business, which makes detectable warning products to alert those with vision impairments as they navigate through streets.
The winery produces eight different wines, including chardonnay and muscadine wines, which are made from the muscadine grapes grown on the vineyard as well as grapes from other vineyards.
The wines are served only at the winery, and Munroe said he doesn’t plan on distributing the wines to other locations.
He wanted to open the winery to showcase the area’s natural beauty.
“From the moment you turn into our driveway you see beautiful grape vines, camellia bushes, the vineyard, the llamas, the lake,” Munroe said.
The vineyard has many animals roaming around, including donkeys, peacocks, swans and horses.
Munroe said he also opened the winery in Elizabethtown because of its central location, citing its proximity to Raleigh and Wilmington.
Being in Elizabethtown has allowed him to open a large vineyard and winery, which he could not have done in more popular winery locations like Napa Valley where the land costs much more, he said.
Having a large winery also provides more activities for visitors to experience.
“They get the whole immersive experience of a vineyard,” Munroe said. “They can come in, stay the night, do the wine tasting, look at the gardens and have a great meal.”
The winery houses The Cork Room, a Southern-style restaurant. The location also has space for events such as weddings, with a ballroom that can host 250 guests.
Running a winery business is not a difficult as it used to be in the state, Monroe said.
“The [N.C.] Department of Agriculture has done a good job of promoting North Carolina wines and wineries,” he said.
In 1986, the legislature established the N.C. Wine & Grape Council, now part of the department of agriculture and consumer services.
Whit Winslow, executive director of the council, said one of the ways the council has has been promoting wine is through the N.C. Wine and Grape month and its kickoff event, where wineries from all over the state are invited and they discuss the economic impact of the wine industry.
“North Carolina wine has a $2 billion annual impact for year that includes sales, tourism and employee wages, which is just remarkable,” Winslow said.
Eastern North Carolina has had good business when it comes to wine making.
“The coastal part of the state is still booming; they are opening wineries,” Winslow said. “This is the part of the state where you can find muscadine grapes. You also find some European variety grapes and they are doing phenomenally well."