If you are ever out in Hurdle Mills, N.C., at the Rock of Ages Winery and Vineyard and you happen upon a familiar shade of red at a tasting, understand it’s deliberate.
“Brushy Fork Red is our best seller,” says Rock of Ages’ owner Kevin Moore, who graduated from NC State with an economics degree in 1984. “It’s an NC State red.”
Moore, who had formerly been a stockbroker and also owns Hard Rock Marble & Tile in Hillsborough, N.C., says he made the move to wine in 2002, when he had some land that he didn’t want to simply give up to development. Instead, he wanted to find some way to actually use the land, which has been in his family in Person County since the 1700s.
“And I thought it woudl be a great asset for the community,” he says. “I thought it could mean some good things for the rural community.”
Though Moore came into the wine market with a business background, he got a enology and viticulture degree from Surry Community College to help him learn the science of wine making. And it’s that element that’s kept him and his wife, Kim, with whom he owns the winery, loving the business for more than 10 years now.
“Starting a vineyard in an entire new area is like a kid in the candy store,” he says. “We grow 17 different varieties on 26 acres. We’re trying to couple wine making with the grape-growing.”
While the science is fun for Moore, he says understanding the politics of getting a wine on the retailers’ shelves has been hard work. He says more famous and well-established wines may not necessarily want to see a local winery’s product on a shelf, and so there’s always a need for constant monitoring to make sure Rock of Ages’ wines are where they need to be in a retailer.
Moore’s had hire a sales manager who does nothing but monitor retailers to make sure prices are correct and to see if the wine has been hidden, say, behind potato chips. “You have to go out and fight for almost every bottle you sell,” Moore says.
Rock of Ages also hosts weddings, private gatherings and free events for the public. But if you’re ever there, you bet you won’t see any light blue products.
“For obvious reasons, we don’t want to make a Carolina blue wine,” Moore says, laughing.
Rock of Ages Winery is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.