6832 Old Sandhill Rd
Edward, North Carolina
Phone: (252) 322-7154
Contact: Helen Harrell
When you visit Bennett Vineyards, you will get to taste muscadine wine at its finest for sure, and if its owner, Buddy Harrell, is around, chances are you'll also get some history, facts, funny stories and anecdotes delivered with true Southern wit and charm.
Off of N.C. 33 in tiny Edward, Bennett Vineyards is certainly off the beaten path in southeastern Beaufort County, but a trip is worth the effort.
As I turned into its driveway on Old Sandhill Rd, the winery was barely visible behind a tall row of thick pine trees. However, once I cleared the trees, I encountered 45 acres of muscadine and scuppernong grapevines planted neatly in rows leading up to the winery and a bed and breakfast, the Grapehouse Inn.
I met Buddy in the wine tasting room, he took me through a tasting of all of his wines, all made from grapes grown on premises and nurtured along by his own hands and taste buds.
"This grape grows nowhere else in the world, and scientists have found that this grape has more antioxidants than any other," said Harrell, as he poured me a taste of his Plymouth Blush. "Louis Pasteur said that wine is the most perfect ddrink because it kills all bacteria. Of ocurse, the old-timers back in Bilblical times knew that, that's why they drank wine."
He went on to tell me that he is living proof, because whenever he travels abroad, he said that he never drinks water or soft drinks, he drinks wine. And, unlike many of his traveling friends, he keeps dysentery away.
"Campbell College has been doing studies on our wine," said Harrell. Two four-ounce glasses perday can add 10-18 years to your lifespan."
He was quick to point out that it is important to drink wine like his, that is made from muscadines, because they have higher antioxidant levels than the vinifer grapes, like Cabernet Savignon and Chardonnay. He said that studies aat N.C. State University have isolated the most beneficial antioxidant, called Resveratrol, that is contained in muscadine wines.
What makes him even prouder than all of these scientific facts, though, is that he is carrying on a winemaking tradition that stretches back tothe earliest colonial times."The colonists (at Roanoke Island) back in 1685 were drinking wine made from thses Native American grapes," said Buddy. "They were growing wild all up and down the banks of the Scuppernong River."
One of his wines, Roanoke Red, is named in honor of these colonists. In fact, all of his wines have historic names. The best sellers are Blackbeard's Choice and Charlestown Red. Charlestown Red was also my personal favorite because it showed off the natural sweetness of the grapes without being too sweet.
Not only do Buddy's wines have colonial names, but the actual land in which the grapes are planted also has a historical connection. The deed of the land on which the winery sits dates back to the early 1800's, when Kind Edward II granted 1,500 acres to the Bennett family.
Buddy's personal tradition of winemaking, however, was inherited from his father, Matthew, a Beaufort Count restauranteur who ran the Knotty Pine Inn. Buddy said his father was locally famous for producing tasty homemade wine, beer, whiskey and brandy, and as young boy he always helped his dad. "My job was to help make the wine, and also run to the barn to refill the jug whenever it got empty," said Buddy. "Of course, I always got a shot when I siphoned it out."
And wine was not the only thing he got to taste. "Back then, we kept our butter, milk and beer on a ledge at the bottom of the well to keep them cool. I would lower my brother down the well, and man, that beer was good.
"I remember one time, too, when my dad had been using huckleberries, or blueberries they them now, to make brandy. He had taken the berries out and left them on the table, and of course, my brother and I got into them. It took me three days to get right again."
Little did Buddy know that many years later, he would carry on his father's winemaking tradition in a much more formal capacity, as owner and operator of a vineyard.
Buddy said that the whole thing happened back in 1989, when the late Bob Godley, a friend and the winery's former owner and founder, contacted Buddy to help him make wine.
"I told him I was too old to start bootlegin," said Buddy. "Which, by the way do you know where that word comesfrom?"
He then embarked off on a tangent, explaining how the word came from the prohibition era. Buddy said that back then, everyone wore boots, and that's where they kept their illegal liquor. In fact, the concave nature of flasks and pint bottles that still exists today is because the containers were made to slide down a boot and fit against the leg.
"Anyway, Bob said, no, we'll start a winery. I've already got the vineyard started," said Buddy. "I said I'll give it a try." The winery took off over the next few years. Godley died in 1996, so Buddy decided to buy the winery and continue the business. Buddy sells his wines in Piggly Wiggly and Harris Teeter.
This was good news to ears, because I will want more than just the one bottle of Charlestown Red that I took home that day. However, that would deprive me of some more excellent stories from Buddy, so when my bottle runs dry I may just decide to make the trip down to Edward. It's sure to be worth the drive.
Winemaker: Buddy Harrell
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