SPENCER, W.Va. -- People told him he would never be able to grow a good crop of wine in West Virginia.
Almost three years later, Bryan M. George is proving them wrong.
George has been running a 38-acre farm and the organic "Vu ja de" vineyard in Spencer since 2007, and absolutely loves the rolling hills that make up his small property.
He became hooked on wine when he visited a vineyard in California's Napa Valley and saw his first "wine thief" -- a glass tube that was inserted into the barrel and dumped wine right into his wine glass.
"I didn't know you could do that," he said. "I was hooked."
George, 33, and his business partner, Karen Douglas, envisioned Vu ja de (a play on "déjà vu") to be a vineyard with "wine like you've never tasted before."
Their motto, "Passion, Love & Harmony," represents their passion for wine and life; their love of God, family and friends; and the harmonic bond that makes them successful.
"We want this to be a small, high-end boutique little cult winery," George said.
While Douglas is stationed in California and does all of the company's marketing, George is getting his hands dirty tending the vines. He has occasional help from college students who want to learn more about organic farming, but on a day-to-day basis, it's a one-man show.
"It's a lot of 14-hour days sometimes, but it's kind of a dream. I hope that it keeps progressing and the success keeps up. That is what I want," he said.
A native of Iowa and a longtime California resident, George had never set foot in West Virginia before he started looking at the farm on Reedyville Road. But after a few years in California, he decided he was tired of the "rat race" and wanted a more simple type of life.
"If guys like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash are singing about this place, it can't be that bad," he said with a smile. "I just came out here and fell in love with this property."
Grapes, vines and wine
All of the farming and cultivation at Vu ja de is sustainable agriculture, an approach that helps maintain the natural ecosystem on the small farm.
"We do the type of farming other places only say they do," George said. "We really do take pride in every bottle."
In addition to avoiding harsh chemicals and sticking to organic-only farming, he believes in biodiversity within his vineyard.
"We let more grasses grow up and wild flowers that bring in more bugs and beneficial insects," he said. He even has future plans to plant blueberry and blackberry bushes between the vines along with dwarf apple trees on the vineyards four corners.
The vineyard boasts five French-hybrid vine varieties, including red Noiret, Frontenaq and Marquette and whites Traminette and Cayuga White.
Although the vineyard has been in business for almost three years -- and George has been blending wines on his property all that time -- the first crop was harvested in Spencer this season, yielding enough for 30 bottles of wine.
"The main reason why you don't get a crop the first few years is you have to cut off the little grapes ... but you want all of that energy to go to the roots," he said.