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North Carolina Brothers Building Biggest Winery in State

Ryan Isaac
Posted: August 17, 1999

Although North Carolina is known as the top tobacco-producing state in the country, Tarheel farmers don't limit themselves to the leafy cash crop. Winemaking is a growing business in the state, and two Carolina natives are looking to advance the industry even further with the opening of North Carolina's 14th winery.

Shelton Vineyards, owned by brothers Ed and Charles Shelton, will be the largest in the state when completed, with a planned total of 250 acres of vineyards and a 50,000-case winery.

The Shelton brothers (who are also next-door neighbors) have been business partners since 1962 and are involved in various ventures, including a construction company and an investment firm. About eight years ago, the two purchased a parcel of land at auction. Then, as Ed put it, "One day Charlie came in and said, 'I think we ought to start us a vineyard.'"

Currently, only 60 of the 250 acres are planted with grapevines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. "Since this is fairly new to the area, we wanted to see what would pass," said Ed, who added that everything seems to be growing well so far.

The brothers' property in Dobson -- near Interstate 77 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 10 miles south of the border with Virginia (which has its own burgeoning wine industry) -- enjoys cool nights and moderate humidity. Ed described the land as "very rich historically," as the soil has nurtured tobacco, soybeans and corn -- the agricultural mainstays of the area.

Ground-breaking for Shelton Vineyards' winery took place on June 23, and Ed expects the facility to be operational by July 2000. The Sheltons hope to produce a limited amount of wines in 2000, with a larger bottling to occur the following year. Eventually, they will build up to the winerys 50,000-case capacity.

To oversee the project, the Sheltons hired Sean McRitchie as vice president and general manager. Previously, McRitchie had worked at Oregon's Willamette Valley Vineyards, Flynn Vineyards and Benton-Lane Winery.

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