Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Crest Of The Blue Ridge A New Home For Top Quality North Carolina Wine

Photos and article by          

Dave Nershi, CSW

The Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA is perched on the Eastern Continental Divide. North Carolina’s newest AVA, it spans 215 acres and features seven wineries with more on the way.

Warm days and cool mountain nights coupled with the right soils and quality water provide a favorable combination for producing quality grapes and wine. The wineries are a short drive from Hendersonville, NC, a vibrant Blue Ridge mountain town that offers a popular downtown with shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and pubs.

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During our recent trip we visited five wineries and enjoyed a truly elevated experience.

Burntshirt Vineyards

The curious name for this vineyard stems from a European custom of burning back vines to the ground to renew the nutrients in the soil. According to folklore, if you burned a shirt in the fire, it brought prosperity and good fortune. We visited the Hendersonville tasting room located at 2695 Sugarloaf Road (there’s also a tasting room at Chimney Rock).

At the heart of the winery are two vineyards one on each side of the continental divide. The highest is on Burntshirt Mountain, at 3,400 feet. Also at the Hendersonville location is their wonderful Vintner’s Table restaurant, where we enjoyed a superb paired food and wine tasting, thanks to the skills of Chef Clint Betts.

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Standouts included the 2021 Dry Riesling paired with the pork belly, chevre fritter, and pickled red onion appetizer. Seared scallops and rosé were followed by my favorite wine, the 2021 Altitude 3400, a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chambourcin, paired with sesame tuna. A beautiful fillet and the 2021 Cab Franc Reserve was a high point on which to end our lunch.

Burntshirt offers a range of wines to suit all palates, including dry, sweet, and dessert-style wines. This is a true destination winery you’ll want to include on your next visit.

Souther Williams Vineyard

Located in Fletcher, Souther William is a 35-acre estate in Hoopers Creek valley. The farm has been in Ken Parker’s family for more than 220 years. What used to be home for apple trees, livestock, and tobacco, is now an estate winery in with a focus on grapes from Germany and Eastern Europe.

Ken spent a career in banking. Since he has a love of all things wine, it was only natural that he and his wife Angela Adams would start a winery. Souther Williams opened in August 2021 and today features 10 acres under vine including three whites, Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, and Vidal Blanc along with five reds, Cynthiana (Norton), Blaufrankish (Lemberger), Regent, Saperavi, and Cabernet Franc.

The 2021 Gruner is well-balanced with citrus and pepper notes. The 2022 Vidal Blanc has a luscious fruitiness with tropical notes. An exceptional wine is the 2019 More Shenanigans, which features 60% Cynthiana, 25% Blaufrankish as well as Regent and Cab Franc. It has fresh fruit flavors with brambly blackberry notes, with fresh cranberry and spice touches.

Souther Williams’ unique open-air tasting pavilion is in the midst of the vines and is perfect in all weather.

Stone Ashe Vineyard

Craig and Tina Little had a vision to establish an estate vineyard similar to the great growing regions of France. Today their vision has taken root at 736 Green Mountain Road in Hendersonville. Stone Ashe Vineyard is named for the soil at their site, which provides outstanding drainage. The vineyard’s steep slopes and microclimate are well-suited for growing elegant fruit.

Channeling a ski resort vibe, the tasting room is an upscale experience with a spectacular view from 2,300 feet. It’s the ideal setting to enjoy their meticulously crafted estate wines. An example is the 2020 Cabernet Franc. As Craig says, many wineries in North Carolina produce Cabernet Franc, but few do it well. The grapes are hand-picked with unripe berries removed. Three different clones are used, and picking is done at the optimal time.

The wine has a deep violet color with a ripe berry aroma and blackberry, herbs, and vanilla on the palate. All Stone Ashe wines are estate-grown. Other standouts include the 2021 Montrachet-style Chardonnay, the delicate Sauvignon Blanc, and the Provence-style rosé.

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards was the first commercial winery in Henderson County. In 2008, Alan Ward established the winery on farmland that had been in the family for centuries. The farm offers vinifera wines at the tasting room as well as Normandy-style cider at the adjacent Appalachian Ridge Cidery.

 Winemaker and cider maker Kelly Rivera Meyers has experience at Virginia wineries as well as Burntshirt Vineyards. A new production facility was opened in 2021, enabling Kelly to combine the best of old and new winemaking techniques. She shared two barrel samples of Petit Verdot, one using délestage, which provides additional oxygenation to the wine to give a lovely soft texture.

The Saint Paul tasting room is a vibrant meeting place for friends to enjoy live music and outstanding wine. It features a walnut bar and a patio that overlooks a five-acre vineyard. The quirky tubular tasting features wine served in test tubes. The 2021 Vidal Blanc has lovely notes of tropical fruit and green apple. The 2022 Nouveau Jour is a Merlot blend aged three months in neutral oak. Stop by to discover your favorite.

Marked Tree Vineyard

Marked Tree Vineyard is located in Flat Rock on the eastern Continental Divide, situated at an elevation of 2,300 feet. The sloped hills provide good drainage for the vines and the warm days and cool nights allow the grapes sufficient time to develop subtle flavors and character as they ripen.

Early settlers in the area noticed oddly shaped trees. The trees were formed and shaped by Native Americans to point out water, hunting grounds, a locations of food. The ancient navigation system now points directly to really outstanding wine.

Lance Hiatt and Tim Parks wanted to leave their careers in architecture and luxury retail sales. Today their stylish winery, with floor-to-ceiling windows with inspirational views of the hills and the vineyard, is the perfect location to enjoy award-winning North Carolina wine. The 2022 Grüner Veltliner is exceptional with grassy notes, stone fruit, and a peppery touch. The Chloe Rosé is a blend of Lemberger and Muscat Ottonel. It has a fruity mouthfeel of melon, citrus and strawberries. My favorite red is Watershed Red, a luscious blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger.

For more information about Hendersonville, see https://visithendersonvillenc.org/

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