LUMBERTON — A locally produced pomegranate wine is among the top two winners in the 2016 North Carolina State Fair Wine Competition sponsored by the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council.
Stephens Vineyards and Winery, which is located at 284 Smith Mill Road in Lumberton, won Best of Show and the N.C. Winegrowers Cup for its pomegranate wine. The fruit wine also won the Best Fruit, Honey, Dessert and Other category.
“Usually one of the larger wineries win those types of awards,” said owner James Stephens. “We’ve only been in business since ‘09 and we’re still considered fairly small so it means a lot to us.”
The winery produces a variety of fruit wines, including blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and watermelon, apple, peach and pear as well as three types of muscadine wines.
“We started with fruit wines just to be doing something different,” Stephens said. “Pomegranate was always something I loved so that’s actually one of the first wines I ever made.”
Stephens said the wine captures the tart, tangy yet sweet taste of the fruit.
“When people actually taste it,” he said, “it takes them right back to the pomegranate.”
The winery store is open Fridays and Saturdaysf rom noon to 6 p.m. and on Sundays 1 to 6 p.m.; hours are subject to change so patrons are asked to go to the winery’s Facebook page for updates.
Stephens Winery also makes ciders and jellies, it jars asparagus and okra for sale and it carries a variety of barbecue sauces.
The competition had 480 total entries in both commercial and amateur categories, according to Whit Winslow, executive director of the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council.
North Carolina’s wine and grape industry contributes $1.7 billion to the state’s economy. The state is home to more than 180 wineries and 525 commercial grape growers. North Carolina is ranked 10th nationally in wine and grape production.