When it comes to unearthing the origins of a grape vine that may have helped produce wine for centuries, it’s hardly surprising that no one’s sure exactly what happened. Estimated to be 400 years old, the Mother Vine, located on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island, is believed to be the oldest grape vine in all of North America, planted by either Croatan Native Americans or settlers of the Lost Colony. Some have posited that it is the “mother” of all vines for scuppernong grapes, North Carolina’s state fruit.
When Jack and Estelle Wilson bought the property housing the Mother Vine in 1957, its tangled branches occupied two acres. After they trimmed it to make room for a house, the Vine still occupies a third of their front yard in Manteo, stretching 30 feet by 120 feet. To make up for their extensive initial cutback, the couple have become its keepers.
Not only do the octogenarian couple invite visitors to park and view the sprawling web, they have allowed their neighbors to pick and eat its grapes for years. In 2005, they permitted a local winery to plant clippings from the original vine in their vineyard and make Mother Vine Wine, a sweet, mildly acidic wine.