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30 Years of Wine

Forks of Cheat Winery on Stewartstown Road is still open for sales and tasting

By Harley Benda

Forks of Cheat Winery,  set on nearly 16 acres of land near Cheat Lake, turned 30  on Wednesday.

 Eric Deal,  the winery’s director of operations, said it all started when his father ate a couple of grapes from a neighboring property.

“My father was originally in real estate and had a building that contained his office over on Inglewood Boulevard,” Deal said. “He had this lady that had a property that abutted ours with this fence, and on this fence grew these grapes. 

“One day, this old lady catches my dad eating her grapes, and she was really mad. Then, he came out to this piece of property where the winery actually is and planted grape vines.” 

Drone photo of Forks Of Cheat Winery. (Grayson Hall/The Dominion Post)

Deal said that over the years, his father learned how to make wine, originally from his brother, and eventually started winning amateur wine competitions. First-place and best-of-show awards at bigger competitions soon followed. 

In 1989, they applied for and received approval from the federal government to become a winery. That fall, they harvested all of the grapes in preparation for their first bottling as professionals  the following spring, with July 1 being the winery’s first day.

Since then, Forks of Cheat  has grown from that first batch of 684 gallons, now producing more than 20,000 gallons and 100,000 bottles of wine a year.

The winery  produces about 30  varieties of wines and ciders, from classic cabernet sauvignon, to different kinds of fruit wines, with blackberry being the most popular product. There is  also  a distillery, which produces vodka, rum and whiskey. Deal said a few new products are on the way.

“I’m bringing out a dry rosé this year,” he said. “I just brought on an apple cider that’s more of a traditional hard cider product. We have a nice dry red. It’s a meritage; it’s a blend of French hybrid grapes. My winemaker David really outdid himself on this one.” 

Deal said  the winery  has a crew of eight people, and many of them have been there since 1990.

“My winemaker, David, has had a really good year,” he said.  “He’s been here for the whole 30 [years]. I had to bring him on because he owed me money, and I told him he could work it off for me, and he’s never left.” 

The winery’s products can be found in 400 shops in West Virginia, 80 in Maryland, and can be shipped to 39 states across the country. 

Wine bottling machine that bottles, labels and corks wine bottles. Forks Of Cheat Winery

Here in the Mountain State, check out  Kroger, Walmart or the winery on Stewartstown Road, which is still open for sales and tasting.

Deal said  the secret to staying is business is not being afraid to try new things and having something for everyone.

“We try not to get stale,” he said. “I’m not afraid of innovation and neither is my family. With so many varieties on hand, I’m able to go from direction to direction. If you like sweet wines, I got you covered. If you really like dry wines, I’ve got you covered.” 

And for the next 30 years, Deal said, “I think we’re going to try to keep doing what we’re doing. Keep up with the times and be open minded.”

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Vineyard at Forks Of Cheat Winery.