WANT TO GO?
WineTree Vineyard Farm
Emerson Avenue exit of I-77, north of Parkersburg
Call 304-865-0507 or visit winetreevineyards.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Hours vary slightly with seasons.VIENNA, W.Va. -- WineTree Vineyards owners Craig and Candy Bandy know grapes don't grow on trees. They named the vineyard they planted five years ago after a childhood comment from their son, who saw a tree bearing exceptionally small red plums and called it a Wine Tree.
The vineyard and winery just north of Parkersburg represent a long-held dream for Craig, who's been making wine since he was 16 years old. The Bandys grow their own grapes on the farm winery, process them in a winery filled with gleaming stainless steel barrels and operate a cozy wine shop in an old home on the 25-acre farm.
"I entertained the idea of looking for a farm in France or Italy, but we decided to do it here," Craig said. "We discovered that the Ohio Valley is considered one of the 17 best grape growing regions in the world, based on climate, rain, sun and soil."
WineTree Vineyards' 2008 Noiret and Riesling both won bronze medals in the 2010 American Wine Society National Wine Competition. "I won't bottle wine until it's absolutely right," Craig said.
Vineyard guests sample wines without charge and either request specific wines or rely on the Bandys' recommendations. All four reds and six of the white wines are dry or semi-dry and made from European grapes. The four sweet wines are made from North American, or labrusca, grapes.
"What sets us apart is that we make a very authentic wine. I don't add flavoring or coloring," Craig said. "We just make the best wines we can with this harvest."
The vineyard holds 900 grape plants. Craig plans to clear space in the next few years to double the vineyard's size. The plants produce mature grapes about a year after planting.
Grapevines include European, or vinifera, grapes, which are more difficult to grow in West Virginia than indigenous North American stock. The European grapes produce the dry wines Craig favors. Labrusca grapes produce sweeter wines.
Not that there's anything wrong with sweet wines.
"Fifty percent of people like sweet wines, but won't admit it," he said. "We want people to realize that if you like sweet wines, you're not from another planet."