Monday, October 3, 2022

Grandfather Vineyard 2019 Appalachia Red, North Carolina

A high-elevation wine inspires us to tackle the highest mountain in the East.

North Carolina Wines Elevate Flavor

We recently spent a long weekend in Weaverville, North Carolina, a pleasant drive north from Asheville. It was time to hang out, jam on guitars, catch up with old friends, and open many bottles.

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For someone who lives at an altitude of 315 feet, Ashville is up there, at about 2,200 feet. We would propel even higher with this bottle from Grandfather Vineyard. The wine is from the Appalachian High Country AVA, established in 2016. It is a multi-state AVA, primarily in North Carolina but also with two counties in Tennessee and one in Virginia. This area has been know as High Country due to the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.

Grandfather Vineyard is located along the Watauga River in the shadow of beautiful Grandfather Mountain, which soars to more than 5,900 feet. It was the first wine-producing vineyard in High Country. I  picked up this bottle at the NC Wine Digital Summit held in Dobson back in July. Our trip to the hills of Western North Carolina was a perfect chance to open it up.

The first thing that caught my attention was the label, proclaiming Thirty-Three Hundred Elevation. That’s the elevation of the vineyard where the steep slopes, cool climate, and rocky loam soil produce wonderful reds.

Joyful companions in this wine are two hybrid grapes: Marquette and Chambourcin. Marquette was developed at the University of Minnesota and is known for being cold-hardy. Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid first available in the 1960s. Its resistance to fungal disease makes it ideal for North Carolina.

The mountain reds of North Carolina are quite beautiful. This one is medium-light in body with black raspberry flavor and playful notes of cherry cola. The ABV is 14.5%, but this feels lithe and silky on the tongue. Just perfect as the sun set in Weaverville.

Mount Mitchell Tops Them All

We were inspired by this high-altitude wine to see Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. The windy Blue Ridge Parkway through dappled sunshine brought us to Mount Mitchell State Park. At the base, the day was shirt-sleeve sunny. It was quite a different story as we parked at the summit lot. Windy gusts and cold weather caused us to layer up for the hike to the top.

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This wasn’t an attempt to summit Everest, but the walk on a wide, paved path, is rather steep. There are benches along the way in case you need a rest or aren't used to the elevation. A number of people conked out at various points. The observatory is a circular concrete lookout area that lets you check out the 360-degree view at 6,684 feet of elevation. Four annotated photo placards show you what you are looking at, which includes many peaks and lakes in North Carolina and Tennessee. We took a nature trail from the top down to the parking lot. It was great but may be considered strenuous for some with plenty of rocks and ups and downs. It took us about 30 minutes. Food and portapotties are available at the parking lot.

The number one tip is to prepare for cool weather at the top. It was comfortable in the mid-70s below and a windy, chilly 53 degrees on top. Allow plenty of time to get there, too. You'll be driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where speeds range from 35 to 45 mph.

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