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Vineyard burns shirt to honor namesake

Lemuel Oates listens during shirt burning ceremony to honor the Burntshirt name. Lemuel Oates listens during shirt burning ceremony to honor the Burntshirt name.

Travis Oates told a grand opening audience at Burnshirt Vineyards last week that he had drawn the short straw and got to speak for the family.

Although two of the new vineyard's wines had just won a competition in California, Oates talked less about wine than the work ethic and enterprise that his parents have shown since the 1970s, when they moved home from Richmond to take over the family business.
Lemuel Oates' father, Tom, founded Manual Woodworkers in 1932. Lemuel and his wife, Sandra, built it over  four decades into a company that sells woven goods and home décor products worldwide.
"I know my dad has had four surgeries in the last four months," Travis said. "My mom traveled to Virginia and the Washington area and looked at 30 vineyards in four days."
Kathleen Watson, the marketing director of Burntshirt, said people don't recall now that North Carolina was a leading wine producing state before Prohibition. Since the mid-1970s, the state has seen a resurgence in wine-making.
"And here we are standing at the 114th winery in the state," she said. "Burntshirt is about to put the world on notice about North Carolina wines and Hendersonville, North Carolina."
As a ceremonial salute to the name Burntshirt, vineyard manager Eric Case tossed a shirt into a small fire on the terrace of the tasting room. Legend has it that farmers burning their fields for planting tossed their shirt into the fire for good luck. The winery has vineyards on Burntshirt Mountain in Gerton and across from the tasting room on Sugarloaf Road.

Burntshirt Vineyards, at 2695 Sugarloaf Road, is open noon-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and noon-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Information: 828.685.2402 or Burnshirtvineyards.com.