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Del. Wine Industry Growing But Still Comparatively Small

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MARYDEL, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware is not a state most of us would connect with wine-making. But a small group of people is trying to change that.

Wind whipped across a snow-covered Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel Friday afternoon. No grapes are on the vines, but by summer that will change.

"I want Delaware wine on every table," said Chuck Nunan, managing partner of Harvest Ridge.

"I want it at the inaugural ball to be served."

Nunan broke ground Friday on his winery's new production facility and retail and event space. He started planting in 2010 and will get his first harvest this year.

"I've been a basement wine maker for 15 years. I've taken the hobby to where it is going to be a business."

Commercial wine production and sale in Marydel will give Delaware three such locations. The other two are Pizzadili in Felton and Nassau Valley in Lewes. That's growth, but it's still very small for an industry that's boomed recently nationwide. According to Wine America, the number of wineries in the country nearly doubled from 2005 to 2010 to almost 6,700.

"If you look at the strides that have been made right around us," Cindy Small, executive director of Kent County Tourism, said, "They are definitely further ahead than we are."

Small says there could be many reasons the industry in Delaware is playing catch up.

"One of things you have to look at is Delaware doesn't have that much land to start with. Obviously, you need land to grow grapes."

But small and Nunan expect Delaware's wine industry to grow. They point to the same reason, and it starts at home.

"Everything right now seems to be about buy local," Small said.

"People want to be able to eat what's grown locally and drink what's grown locally," said Nunan.

Delaware currently has a Wine and Ale Trail that includes 12 winery or brewery locations.

Last month the state's producers and a start-up distillery in Smyrna came together to form the Delaware Wineries Association. The group's goal is to promote the industry in Delaware.

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