Who would have thought that getting caught stealing grapes would lead Jerry Deal to ownership of one of West Virginia’s foremost wineries? Well, that’s just what happened! When a neighbor chastised Jerry for eating grapes from her vines (on his side of the fence), he planted his own. In no time at all, the grape vines were so prolific that eating them all was out of the question. Wine making was the next choice. After several years of home wine making, recognition in amateur competitions, and the support of his friends, Jerry Deal decided to turn his hobby into a business. And so, Forks of Cheat Winery was established in July of 1990.
The business that started with a production of less than an acre of grapes has grown to almost sixteen acres. Forks of Cheat Winery now grows some of each of the French Hybrid and American varietal grapes that are used in the wine production. Locally marketing a few bottles has grown to state-wide distribution. The little enterprise that started in one room at the Deals’ weekend get-away has expanded into a new 5,000 square foot facility with space designed for tasting and sales, special events, and the always necessary office area.
What started as a hobby for Jerry has become a full-time job. Several full-time jobs in fact, as Jerry oversees the entire operation. Susan, his wife, manages the office and oversees the sales room. They are joined by their son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Ivy Deal, whose responsibilities include much of the day to day operations, design, and advertising, as well as distribution of the final product. In keeping with Jerry’s original “think gift” concept, Eric makes thousands of special labels each year. In this way, a bottle of wine truly becomes a special gift for any occasion. David Sedney, the full-time cellar manager, has been with Forks of Cheat Winery for several years. Rob and John Leppard, as well as several seasonal workers, tend to the vines. Gertrude Paugh makes sure all the bottles get labels and keeps the facility looking good. Adrienne Garvin and helps customers in the sales and tasting room, gives tours, and generally lends a hand wherever she is needed. Tasting Room Manager Bob Budden oversees the retail shop, gives tours and tastings, and produces custom labels.