Forks of Cheat Winery
Forks of Cheat Winery
Who would have thought that getting caught stealing grapes would lead Jerry Deal to ownership of one of West Virginia’s foremost wineries? Well, that’s just what happened! When a neighbor chastised Jerry for eating grapes from her vines (on his side of the fence), he planted his own. In no time at all, the grape vines were so prolific that eating them all was out of the question. Wine making was the next choice. After several years of home wine making, recognition in amateur competitions, and the support of his friends, Jerry Deal decided to turn his hobby into a business. And so, Forks of Cheat Winery was established in July of 1990.
The business that started with a production of 600 gallons of wine from that first harvest has grown to the production of approximately 12,500 gallons from the harvest in the fall of 2003. Less than an acre of grapes has grown to almost sixteen acres. Forks of Cheat Winery now grows at least some of each of the French Hybrid and American varietal grapes that are used in the wine production. Locally marketing a few bottles has grown to state-wide distribution. The little enterprise that started in one room at the Deals’ weekend get-away has expanded into a new 5,000 square foot facility with space designed for tasting and sales, special events, and the always necessary office area.
What started as a hobby for Jerry has become a full-time job. Several full-time jobs in fact, as Jerry oversees the entire operation. Susan, his wife, manages the office and oversees the sales room. They are joined by their son, Eric, whose responsibilities include much of the day to day operations, design, and advertising, as well as distribution of the final product. In keeping with Jerry’s original “think gift” concept, Eric makes thousands of special labels each year. In this way, a bottle of wine truly becomes a special gift for any occasion. David Sedney, the full-time cellar manager, has been with Forks of Cheat Winery for several years. Ted and John Leppard, as well as several seasonal workers, tend to the vines. Gertrude Paugh makes sure all the bottles get labels and keeps the facility looking good. Donna Shaffer and Ivy Winning help customers in the sales and tasting room, give tours, and generally lend a hand wherever they’re needed.
In addition to making and marketing wine, Forks of Cheat Winery has become the premier event location in Morgantown with an outdoor pavilion which will seat approximately 130 people. Outdoor facilities are open May to October. The indoor seating area, with space for 90 to 100 folks, will be open year round for parties and meetings.
Pictures and information were provided by Forks of Cheat Winery
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