Grower of the Year Awards Celebrate Virginia Winemakers - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Grower of the Year Awards Celebrate Virginia Winemakers

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Hundreds of winery and vineyard owners are working together to create the tastiest wines Virginia has to offer. Friday at Charlottesville's Omni Hotel, the Virginia Vineyards Association honored the best of the bunch.

The Grower of the Year awards mean vintners across the commonwealth can talk all things wine. This year's awards were especially important because the demand for Virginia wines has skyrocketed.

"Thomas Jefferson tried and failed over 200 years ago to make wine and the folks here in Virginia now are fulfilling his dream," said Todd Haymore, Virginia's secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Right now, Virginia wine sales may even surpass that dream. Just last year, 7,000 cases were sold. The awards are a chance to share the knowledge that keeps all that wine flowing.

"It's an excellent time to get knowledge of what's going on and research in the field right now, and also networking with friends and other growers and winery representatives and winery people," said Dean Triplett, an independent grower.

An Amherst County man left with more than just farming tips - he took home the Grower of the Year award.

"It's been a wonderful trip and just been very interesting and really very thankful for the award; it's very nice," said Len Thompson.

Haymore says he's seeing incredible growth in the industry.

"We're trying to get these growers to grow more grapes so, because we need that, as wine sales continue to grow we need more grapes being planted," he said.

According to Haymore, making the best wine is part art, part science. It's all about having the best grapes and using the best technology.

More than 250 vintners were on hand for the event. And there's more good news for Virginia wine: the secretary of agriculture says industry growth was up by 2 percent.

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