Apex, N.C. — Walking the picturesque grounds of Cloer Family Vineyards in Apex, visitors can hardly believe that Highway 64 and Interstate 540 are just a couple of miles away. Here in the vineyard, cows roam, sheep graze and chickens cluck amid acres of grapevines, trees, ponds and lush fields.
Meet the family behind the vineyard
Tam and Pam Cloer are the warm and charming couple responsible for this inviting, family-friendly atmosphere. Though their main business is landscaping, they own and operate the vineyard and winery and also live with their two daughters in the property’s farmhouse.
Tam is an Apex native who graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture. He is co-owner of Cloer Nursery Company, founded by his parents in 1979. Pam, a New Bern native and graduate of University of North Carolina, handles the vineyard's sales, bookkeeping and promotions. She also helps with bottling and labeling and oversees the tasting room.
The vineyard's story began in 1995, when Tam’s longtime winemaking hobby inspired him to grow grapes. Initially, he cleared five acres of land and planted Chambourcin, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, but, due to the heat, humidity and warm nighttime temperatures, he was forced to spray the vines with chemicals to control pests and mold.
The Cloers decided they didn’t want harmful chemicals seeping into the soil where their children played and garden grew, so they ripped out all 3,000 vines and started over in a more sustainable fashion. They replaced the European grapes with Ison, Magnolia, Noble and Carlos - native muscadine varietals that love heat and humidity and don’t create pest problems. As a result, the Cloers no longer use any pesticides or chemicals on any of their grapes.
As soon as the new vines yielded enough fruit, Tam began experimenting with the grapes and making wine in the family kitchen. The couple shared these early efforts with friends and relatives, gaining valuable feedback in return. When Tam finally thought he had it right, they planted more muscadine vines, constructed a winery on the land and, in June of 2010, opened Cloer Family Vineyards. Built to look like an old-fashioned big red barn, the winery provides the capacity to make, bottle and label all of their wine and share it with the community courtesy of a cozy tasting room. Of the five wines the Cloers produce, two use grapes grown exclusively on-site while two others are made with Yadkin Valley grapes and the last with Californian.
Guests are welcome to stroll through the vineyards or go on a free, self-guided tour of the petite winery as well as pet, feed and take pictures of the sheep, chickens and cows. Alternatively, visitors can relax on the vineyards’ patios, which are furnished with chairs and fire pits, or they can enjoy a bring-your-own-food picnic in its scenic fields.
From March through November, the Cloers also host “Toasts and Tunes” on the second (and sometimes fourth) Saturday afternoon of each month. It’s a well-attended family and pet friendly outdoor live music series featuring popular local bands.
Cloer Family Vineyards is one of only two family-owned wineries in the Triangle area that grow their own grapes and produce their own wine on-site. The Cloer property has been a working farm for more than 100 years, and here every guest enjoys an intimate wine experience with owners who love sharing their knowledge. This vineyard may seem like it’s out in the country, but it’s actually only 20 minutes from the Raleigh Durham International Airport!
The remaining 2016 “Toasts and Tunes” events will take place October 22 and November 12.
For more information about Cloer Family Vineyards or to inquire about holding a private event, call 919-387-5760 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Adornetto is a food writer, culinary instructor, and formally trained chef.