Saturday, November 26, 2011

Charleston Daily Mail Raves About Fisher Ridge Winery in West Virginia

Wednesday November 23, 2011
Local man says Mountain State ripe for producing wine
More than 30 years ago, Putnam winery ushered in new era of West Virginia-made vintages

A video visit to Fisher Ridge
by Scott Bates

Courtesy photo
Wilson Ward takes a sample of wine as it is fermenting at Fisher Ridge winery in Liberty, Putnam County. Fisher Ridge has produced wine since 1977. Courtesy of Matt Murphy.
LIBERTY, W.Va. — For more than 30 years, a small Putnam County vineyard has been quietly producing wine because its founder made a simple decision.

"I had always enjoyed wine, and I figured, 'Why buy wine when you can make your own?'" said Wilson Ward, a now-retired dentist who lives in Charleston.

Ward established the Fisher Ridge Winery in the hills of northeastern Putnam County in 1977.

It produced its first bottle in 1979 and since then, 19 other wineries have taken root in West Virginia. More than 30 years later, the Mountain State's vineyards, while small in number, are proving themselves statewide and regionally, one cork at a time.

Ward first became interested in wine when he was in dental school at West Virginia University. He pursued that interest as his professional career began. He became interested in making wine on his own after he served a stint in the Public Health Service in California.

About a decade before Ward opened Fisher Ridge, he joined a group of home winemakers who learned the trade together. Ward said the production eventually "got away from him" — and Fisher Ridge was born.

Since putting a cork in that first bottle, Ward has seen his business grow substantially, becoming one of the most well-known operations in West Virginia.

The wines produced at Fisher Ridge are sold only in West Virginia because of interstate commerce rules by the federal government. Selling in other states would mean obtaining an additional permit — and paperwork — that doesn't interest Ward.

But in West Virginia, Fisher Ridge has seen significant recognition, Ward said.

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