Upon a recent visit to Sweet T’s Coffee, Beer & Wine Shop in Duck, I came across two bottles of wine that immediately grabbed my attention. Being a discerning member of our local NC beach community, I immediately recognized that both bottles had labels with Outer Banks motifs. One bottle read “The Lost Colony“, the other “Manteo“. As it would turn out, there are actually four wines, with two more arriving this month, that bear an Outer Banks influence. I took a closer look at the labels, “Virginia Dare Winery in Geyserville, California (Sonoma County)”.
It seemed peculiar to me that a winery located on the west coast would brand itself after Roanoke Island, NC-based history. So I decided to do what everyone who has a burning question does…I “Googled” it. A few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse later, I had my answer. It turns out a pretty famous American film director is the pivotal player behind these wines. For years now, Francis Ford Coppola, when taking time off from making award-winning movies (most notably, “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”) has a passion for making wine. Mr. Coppola purchased the former Geyser Peak Winery, and has recently reopened it under the name Virginia Dare Winery. The decorated director/winemaker is also a self-described “huge history buff, and a fan of folklore, especially when they meet shrouded in mystery”. Thus, the stories of Virginia Dare and The Lost Colony were inspiration and a natural fit for his newest winery.
Mr. Coppola created anticipation with a game of mystery and intrigue by individually releasing four wines at separate times prior to, and leading up to, the unveiling of the newest winery’s name.
- White Doe, California White Blend.
- Manteo, Sonoma County Red Wine.
- Two Arrowheads, Paso Robles.
- The Lost Colony, Sonoma County Red Wine.
Now that the veil has been lifted from the Virginia Dare Winery, it will release its two flagship wines later this month – Virginia Dare Chardonnay and Virginia Dare Pinot Noir.
For those unfamiliar with the historical significance behind these wine names, or just those that need a quick “refresher” course, here’s a quick lesson on the backgrounds behind the names:
Virginia Dare was born in the Roanoke Colony in what is now Manteo, North Carolina on August 18th, 1587. She was the first white, Christian child of English parents born in the New World. Today, a portion of NC-12, also know as “The Beach Road”, is officially named “Virginia Dare Trail”.
Manteo was a Native American Croatan Indian, the chief of a local tribe that befriended the English explorers who landed at Roanoke Island in 1584. In 1585 the English returned to Roanoke, arriving too late in the year to plant crops and harvest food, and Manteo helped the colonists make it through the harsh winter. He traveled to England on two occasions, in 1584 and 1585. After staying there, he was among those who sailed for the New World in 1587 along with Governor John White and his colonists, who founded the failed settlement later known as “The Lost Colony“. On Sunday, August 13, 1587, Manteo was christened on Roanoke Island, making him the first Native American to be baptized into the Church of England. Today, the town on Roanoke Island where “The Lost Colony” existed is named Manteo. An outdoor drama production of “The Lost Colony” has been performed every summer since 1937 on the same site where the actual events occurred.
The Lost Colony “Over thirty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, a group of 117 weary men, women and children waded ashore and made history on Roanoke Island in July 1587, establishing the first permanent settlement of its kind in the Americas.
Recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh, among these settlers was John White, his pregnant daughter, Eleanor Dare, her husband Ananias Dare, and the Indian chief Manteo, who had become an English ally during a previous visit in Britain.
They unloaded their belongings and supplies and repaired an old fort previously erected on the island. On August 18, 1587, Eleanor Dare gave birth to a daughter she named Virginia, thus earning the distinction of being the first English child born on American soil. Ten days later, John White departed for England promising to return with more supplies. It was the last time he would ever see his family.
Three years later, John White returned to Roanoke Island on his granddaughter’s third birthday only to find the settlement deserted, plundered and surrounded by overgrown brush. On one of the palisades, he found the single word “CROATOAN” carved into the surface, and the letters “CRO” carved into a nearby tree. The 117 pioneers of Roanoke Island had vanished into the great wilderness and into folklore.” [SOURCE]
The Tale of The White Doe & The Two Arrowheads: “As Virginia Dare became a young woman, she naturally attracted the attentions of suitors. Among these young men were the noble Okisko, and a jealous sorcerer named Chico.
Chico was the first to offer his hand to the young Virginia Dare, but the maiden refused his advanced. Enraged, he used his dark arts to curse the girl, and transformed her body into that of a snow-white deer.
The mysterious white doe was often seen on Roanoke, sadly walking through the now-overgrown and decaying houses built by her people. The story of this beautiful, elusive creature soon spread to all the tribes on the islands.
Now, Okisko, Virginia Dare’s other suitor, figured that this white doe had shown up about the same time Virginia Dare had gone missing. Reckoning that his rival in love was a pretty hand at the dark arts, it didn’t take him long to figure out that this white doe was his own beloved. Seeking the help of a friendly sorcerer, he learned how to make a magic arrowhead from the mother-of-pearl lining of an oyster shell that would undo the curse.
But Wanchese had also heard of the white doe, and in a bid to prove his worth as a warrior he vowed to kill the rare creature. To this end, he pledged to use a silver arrowhead given to him by Queen Elizabeth when he had been in England.
Okisko and Wanchese, unknown to one another, both tracked the white doe for weeks — one pledged to return her to her true form, the other sworn to bring her death. And as it happened, they came upon the deer at the same hour of the same day, as she was drinking from a still, deep pool in the forest. Okisko saw his beloved, Wanchese saw his prey, and at the same time they both released their arrows. At the same time, both their arrows hit the heart of the white deer, Okisko’s undoing the enchantment and Wanchese’s bringing death.
Seeing what he had done, Wanchese fled the island in fear, but Okisko sadly carried the body of his beloved to the old fort built by the colonists and buried her at its center.
But soon by that pool where Virginia Dare died, a new vine sprung up, whose grapes were sweeter than any tasted before but whose juice was a red as blood. This was the scuppernong, the grape from which the first North Carolina wines were made.” [SOURCE]
Francis Ford Coppola has once again brilliantly retold another classic tale – this time not in a theater, but a winery. The magic and mystery of Virginia Dare and The Lost Colony history & folklore lives on through his wine…even if it is made on that “other coast” in California.