Five acres of grapevines grow along the gently rolling hills of the countryside. Could this be in the south of France or, perhaps, California?
No, these grapes are growing at Seven Springs Farms & Vineyards near Ridgeway, which celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 19.
Operated by Preston Williams, Jr., his wife, Clara, and their three sons, Preston Williams III, Cornelius Aaron Williams and Jamal Donnel Williams, the vineyard is nestled on a farm which will include an event venue, petting zoo and more.
Preston, Jr., a native of the Grove Hill community in Warren County, and Clara, a native of DeRidder, La., established the vineyard in 2017 on property which they purchased in 1987. At the time, much of the approximately 30 acres was devoted to soybeans. The Williams transformed their land into a cattle farm with more recent plans to add the vineyard.
While Clara came to the venture after working in quality assurance/human resources in the manufacture field, Preston had a background of farming that began in childhood. When the couple visited a vineyard, Preston, Jr. fell in love with the relaxing atmosphere and beauty of the vines.
They traveled to Kim’s Vineyard in Warren County and vineyards in Henderson, the North Carolina mountains, Virginia and South Carolina, learning from others as they moved toward their goal of opening a vineyard on their property.
The Williams’ land, located on Axtell Ridgeway Road, is graced by seven natural springs which, along with the couple’s strong faith, inspired the name of Seven Springs Farms & Vineyards.
The vineyard centers around the muscadine grape, which grow well in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
“It is a hardy plant that is good for a variety of purposes,” Preston, Jr. said.
The Williams family planted eight muscadine varieties, producing grapes in a range of colors: black, purple, bronze, red and white. The resulting wines include red, white and blush.
In addition to wine, Seven Springs will offer jellies, juices, jams, ciders and BBQ sauce, among other products.
A tasting room/resale facilities currently is open on site. A multipurpose building is under construction to serve as a venue for special events and photography. In the future, a petting zoo and cabins will be added.
Plans for the vineyard and event venue were outlined during the ribbon cutting celebration. Glass jars of products sparkled in the sunlight, providing a hint of what it to come at Seven Springs: raspberry chipotle jam, strawberry salsa, strawberry moonshine jelly, strawberry jelly, strawberry jalapeno jam, peach butter, peach salsa, fireball glaze and BBQ sauce, muscadine wine jelly, peace pie moonshine jelly, apple pie moonshine jelly, peace cider and grape juice.
Warren County Economic Development Director Stacy Woodhouse described Seven Springs as a beautiful venue and wonderful asset for the area.
“It is another reason for people to visit Warren County,” he said.
Preston, Jr. told the local government officials and area residents who joined the celebration that the Seven Springs property has been a blessing to his family.
“We enjoy what the Lord has done here,” he said. “Because we are so blessed, we (wanted to share our blessings with others).”
Jamal noted that Seven Springs partners with local vendors in the manufacturing of its products.
Preston III said that the farm and vineyard will ultimately develop a winery to process the grapes grown on the property.
“We look forward to when we can process our own grapes and produce wine,” he said. “There is no timetable, but we hope it will be in the near future.”
Warren County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tare “T” Davis praised the Williams family for their entrepreneurial spirit.
“Warren County has a rich history of entrepreneurs,” he said.
Warren County Board of Education Chairwoman Ebony Talley-Brame said that the vineyard will be a valuable learning resource for area students.
Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams praised his brother, Preston, Jr., as someone with the energy and knowledge to do many things.
Larry Spruill of the Warren County ABC Board challenged local residents to support the Williams family’s venture.
“Anytime you see a small business open in the county, it is good for the whole county,” he said.
Preston, Jr. and his family look forward to a bright future at Seven Springs as they prepare for this year’s harvest in late summer. They want their products to be as good or better than what is produced in France, Italy and other areas of the world famous for their vintage.
Most of all, Preston, Jr. would like to see future generations of the Williams family operate the vineyard for years to come. As he spoke, he thought of his grandson, Preston IV, and his siblings.
“I hope a fourth and fifth generation will operate the vineyard — longevity,” Preston, Jr. said.
Seven Springs Farms & Vineyards is at 332 Axtell Ridgeway Rd., Norlina. The vineyard is open from 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2-7 p.m. on Fridays, noon-7 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2-6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit sevenspringsvineyards.com or call 252-432-0379.