A local winery is gaining recognition in the international market for its beverages.
WoodMill Winery in Vale is shipping its first international order today to Shanghai, China.
Opening its doors in 2006, WoodMill Winery is a three-generation, family owned and operated winery, producing both red and white Muscadine wines, and a total of 22 different varieties of wine made from native American Muscadines, Scuppernongs, blueberries and blackberries.
Owner Larry Cagle, Jr. learned his business was of international interest last year.
“In 2013, we were approached by five different groups from China,” Cagle said. “Two were distributors from Hong Kong, two were from Beijing and one distributor was from Shanghai.”
According to Cagle, the distributors approached him after discovering the winery’s website while searching online for Muscadine vineyards in the United States.
“What sets us apart from other wineries is that we make wine with one goal in mind: to produce a health benefit,” Cagle said. “We started making wine because of my family’s history of heart disease and my father’s arthritis.”
According to Cagle, his father, Larry Cagle Sr., was disabled with severe arthritis by the age of 35. In 2004, Cagle Sr. became allergic to his anti-inflammatory medications and began drinking his son’s Muscadine wine.
“Once he went off his anti-inflammatory medication, he started drinking a glass of my wine every night,” Cagle said. “After only six months of drinking the wine, he was able to prune three acres of vineyard vines at 65 years old. He qualified for disability at 35, and there he was at 65, working around the winery.”
The Shanghai distributor, Muscadine Trading International Shanghai, will be the recipient of the winery’s first international shipment.
“Our Shanghai distributor sells antiques, tea and wine,” Cagle said. “He was looking for wine high in resveratrol. While he was in the United States, he visited one winery in California and he visited us. I felt very humbled that he flew such a long way to visit me. I’m thrilled to ship something from Lincoln County to China. We want to market (our product to) the world from Vale.”
The distributor opted to purchase the winery’s dry Red Muscadine wine, believing it would be the most marketable for its region.
“Southerners are known for having a sweet tooth: sweet tea, sweet desserts and sweet wine,” Cagle said. “It’s not like that in China, though. This distributor was looking for more of a dry wine, and the wine he selected is far from our least popular choice among the locals.”
Cagle said the company hopes to work with two or three other distributors from other provinces in China, as well as South Korea and Japan.
“Everyone over the age of 21 wants to maintain good health, but the international market seems to be chasing antioxidants more than the United States,” Cagle said. “Americans aren’t looking for the next big thing in health right now. But when they do, I want to be in a better position to deal with the supply and demand than anyone else out there.”
According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, Muscadines produce extremely high levels of resveratrol, an antioxidant that blocks the negative effects of free radicals. The institute explains that free radicals are known to cause cell damage and have been linked to health issues such as heart disease, stroke, signs of aging, and various forms of cancer and macular degeneration of the eye. The Harvard Medical School and The Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology have also discovered that resveratrol may radically reduce the risk of age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
“Our wines normally range between 9 percent and 10 percent alcohol content,” Cagle said. “We wanted it to be high enough to keep the wine healthy, but low enough for consumers to be able to drink a glass and still be able to drive. We’re focusing on health, not intoxication. It’s about the resveratrol, not the alcohol.”
Unlike some of his fellow vintners, Cagle has never taken a winemaking or marketing class. Before opening WoodMill Winery, he worked as research engineer with the Electric Power Research Institute in Charlotte. Cagle attributes his extensive research skills to much of the winery’s success.
“Before I opened the winery, I ran roughly 120 experiments on how to best extract flavors, colors and resveratrol from the wine,” he said.
In addition to their vineyard tours, wine tastings and wine sales, Cagle said the winery also participates in 60-80 offsite events and hosts an average of 50 weddings onsite annually.
“Every Saturday between April 1 and Oct. 1 this year has already been booked,” Cagle said.
The winery operates on 12 acres of vineyards, harvesting 70 tons of grapes in 2013. This year, Cagle plans to add an additional two acres to the vineyard to ensure the winery can meet demand. Currently, the winery sells its products to 110 gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and health stores in the state, most within a 30-40 mile radius.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with some land and a research background, and it all kind of came together,” Cagle said. “It wasn’t part of my plan, but I think it was part of the plan for me.”
Those interested in learning more about WoodMill Winery should visit www.woodmillwinery.com.