West Virginia Wine Country Uncorked
You don’t have to tour the Napa Valley to taste some of the finest wines. West Virginia has a plethora of wineries tucked in its hills, offering everything from high-end boutique wines to the purest of fruit wines.
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Heston Farm Winery & Pinch Gut Hollow Distillery
Just miles from Interstate 79 in Fairmont lies a couple hundred acres of rolling farmland with cattle, llamas, grapevines, corn, and an up-and-coming winery and distillery.
For years, the farm has been open to the public—a place where families gather for reunions, weddings, or, more recently, concerts. In 2010, owner Michael “Mick” A. Heston Jr. added another draw—the Heston Farm Winery and Pinch Gut Hollow Distillery. Now at Heston Farm, you can kick back with a bottle of wine or participate in a $4 wine tasting and take away a souvenir glass.
Mick, who used to run a construction company and still maintains the property’s working cattle farm, operates the winery and distillery with his wife, Julie Smith; son, Michael; and wine room manager, John Provins. “We stay pretty busy,” Mick says. “We’ve been under construction since who knows when.”
Mick “moved a lot of dirt” to get to where he is today—with a large building and tasting room, patio space, and a paved road. The efforts have taken years, but he really got moving when he approached his 50th birthday more than six years ago. “There’s something about turning 50. You think, ‘Well, I was going to do all these things. Now might be the time.’”
Today, Mick sells six wines—three red and three white—and has plans for a dozen, including strawberry, peach, and possibly rhubarb wine. The farm grows grapes in addition to buying some other vineyards’ crops. Mick has boxes of wine ready to ship, and more wine waits in five tanks. It takes about three months to make his wine, and customers can find his products in Marion and Monongalia counties or by stopping by the tasting room. Mick’s first wines were the Spring Peeper Chardonnay and Spring Peeper Merlot—his favorite. “Spring peepers are my favorite animal. I sit around on the farm here in total silence all winter, then in the spring you get that first warm rain, and they come out sounding like Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy,’” he laughs.
He also has thousands of gallons of buckwheat and corn whiskey. Mick says when his product hits shelves, he’ll be the only person making honest buckwheat whiskey. He plans to make more flavors, too, like honey peach and apple pie.
Heston Farm is fast becoming a place to hang out. Mick offers lunch specials and invites people to come down and sit outside on one of the benches or tables or in the old wire corncrib—like a farm gazebo. The food menu changes every day, and he plans to continue serving food this fall and winter. “I like spending time at the farm,” he says. “I wanted to do something to have a full-time job here and retire here.”
Heston Farm Winery & Distillery, 1602 Tulip Lane, Fairmont, WV 26553; 304.534.2516
(Heston Farm photos by Steve Shaluta, Marion County CVB)