Where Grape Growing and Wine Making is a 35-year Family Tradition
At this family-owned and operated Muscadine grape vineyard, everything is done by hand, from harvesting to bottling and corking, and everybody pitches in to help.
“It’s a learning experience,” says Colleen Bannerman of the winery she and her husband Scot opened in 2003. Although Bannerman Vineyard has been in the grape business for decades, making wine is a completely new agri-business for this coastal North Carolina farming family.
Founded in 1973 by Marilyn and Cliff Bannerman, Bannerman Vineyard is one of the oldest commercial Muscadine vineyards in North Carolina and highly recognized in the grape growing community. For most of its existence, Bannerman Vineyard was strictly a fresh market vineyard, selling top quality Muscadine grapes to the public and to the state’s growing wine industry.
“I knew nothing about farming,” says Colleen when she first came to work at the vineyard in 1992. “My background was business and offices. I didn’t even know how to drive a tractor, but I was very fortunate to have worked with Scot’s dad, Cliff, and he taught me a lot.”
Old Vines and New Wines
When Cliff Bannerman died in 1995, Colleen and Scot took over the day to day running of the family vineyard. Colleen became the vineyard manager in charge of 18 acres of grapes. She also helped organize the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Growers Association and served as its president, helping farmers who wanted to transform their tobacco farms into vineyards.
Then in 2003, with wineries popping up all over the state, the Bannermans decided it was time to join the trend and to use their grapes to make their own wines. Although they had never made more than a few gallons of homemade wine for personal use, they opened their small winery in the farm’s old tool and equipment barn, and winemaking became the next step in Colleen’s agricultural education.
Relying on local growers and winemakers for advice, Colleen also read, went to seminars, and experimented. Gradually her wines began to take shape and friends and family liked the results.
Turn of Events
Besides the winery, Colleen sells her wines at area festivals including the North Carolina Blueberry Festival in Burgaw, the Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville, and the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington. Both her fruit wines and her Muscadine wines are popular and she usually sells out early.
Recently, western wineries have been asking to buy Bannerman Vineyard’s Muscadine grapes. Once frowned upon by European-style winemakers as too sweet, Muscadine wines are gaining favor and western North Carolina wineries have begun making Muscadine wines in addition to their European-style wines.
“I think it’s because of the health benefits,” says Colleen. “Because Muscadine grapes, and the white variety Scuppernongs, are high in antioxidants, western wineries are getting a lot of requests for Muscadine wines.”
Production, fermentation, bottling, labeling, and sales all take place in the now expanded tool barn at Bannerman Vineyard. A small wine and gift shop fronts the operation and many events, including weddings, graduations, and birthday parties take place under the old oak trees, around the old tobacco barn, and among the vines.
Bannerman Vineyard produces eleven different Muscadine and fruit wines, including their very popular Blueberry Wine and their newest, Simply Sweet North Carolina Strawberry Wine.
During the busy harvest season, it’s all hands in the vineyard as friends and family pitch in to help pick and crush the grapes. Both bottling and labeling are very labor-intensive as they too are done by hand. Visitors to the vineyard during harvest season often find themselves put to work, and loving it.
Tours of the vineyard and winery are by appointment. Tours for school-age groups to learn about the grape growing process, fresh fruit market, and the nutritional values of the Muscadine grape are also available.
Bannerman Vineyard, 2624 Stag Park Road, Burgaw, NC (910) 259-5474