Loving Cup

Virginia first lady Dorothy McAuliffe gives a short speech Wednesday during the grand opening of Loving Cup Vineyard & Winery, a certified organic vineyard in North Garden.

Loving Cup Vineyard & Winery is employing nature’s existing forces to establish a unique spot in Virginia’s growing viticulture industry.

Led by Virginia first lady Dorothy McAuliffe, dozens of people gathered at Loving Cup in North Garden on Wednesday afternoon to formally cut the ribbon at the vineyard, which is one of the first in the state to be certified organic.

“The fact that you are Virginia’s newest certified organic vineyard is personally something that I really think should be celebrated and honored here today,” McAuliffe said. “That is not an easy thing to do, but it is a very important thing to do.”

McAuliffe said Loving Cup will become Virginia’s 251st vineyard and/or winery. Virginia wine sales in America and internationally are at an all-time high, adding about $750 million annually to the state’s economy, McAuliffe said.

“The economic impact and job creation you all are supporting, especially in our state’s rural communities, is key to Virginia’s future growth and prosperity,” McAuliffe said.

Karl Hambsch, Loving Cup’s founder, said the idea of operating an organic winery came to fruition in 2007 and the first vines were planted a year later. The winery produces red, white, rose and sweet reserve wines from five grape varieties that are not widely grown in Virginia.

“Growing grapes organically has been referred to as growing grapes with two hands behind your back, because you really have to do everything on the right schedule, at the right time,” Hambsch said.

At Loving Cup, operating organically means that no synthetic fungicides or pesticides are used. Instead, beneficial bugs are allowed to flourish to keep pests that damage the vines at bay. The vineyard received organic certification in 2012 and certification of the winery is expected later this year. Hambsch said Brightwood Vineyard and Farm also recently earned organic certification.

Hambsch previously worked for Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton and Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Madison County and said the industry is cooperative rather than competitive.

Charlotte Shelton, owner of Albemarle CiderWorks, which is nearby, agreed.

“I think this is a lovely addition to the North Garden viticulture scene,” Shelton said. For those interested in wine and local agriculture, “visits to North Garden are well worthwhile, and [Loving Cup] has contributed a great deal.”

Jim Turpin, founder of Democracy Vineyards in Nelson County, also was among the vintners on hand for Wednesday’s event.

With the addition of organic selections to Virginia’s wine industry, no matter what taste, style or atmosphere a person might be looking for, “We’ve got something for everybody,” Turpin said.

A grand opening celebration, which will include tastings, cellar tours and hayrides through the vineyard, is set for this weekend.

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