A New Winery with Old Traditions
Story by Mary Koppenheffer | Photos by Linda Doll Cluxton
Wine lovers have a new place to visit in the mountains: Russian Chapel Hills Winery. Nestled in the rolling hills of Polk County, the winery may be new, but the owner, Andrey Medvedev, has a deep respect for the past.
Medvedev moved from Russia to Columbus, NC, in 2009. The story of how he left his homeland and came to own and operate the winery is a mixture of chance, luck and faith.
Formerly a Russian businessman and a soldier who served in Afghanistan, Medvedev had a lifelong dream to own a winery. About ten years ago he decided it was finally time to pursue that dream. He traveled through Italy, France and Spain looking for land to purchase. The search proved disappointing because of cost and competition. “Europe is a difficult place for a new winery to prosper,” he says.
He persisted. “If you really believe in something and want to do it, you have to pray for it.” His prayers were answered on a visit to the US when he found Green Creek Vineyard for sale. It had all of the qualities he was searching for, including a warm welcome from local residents and business owners.
Medvedev attended the viticulture program at Surrey Community College in Dobson, NC, to expand his knowledge of grape growing and wine making. The subject matter was challenging, but the language proved even harder. “I studied English for six years in Russia,” he says, “but it sounded like Chinese to me.”
From 2009 to 2011, Medvedev planted 11 of his 17 acres with several varieties of grapes, including chardonnay, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc and the native grape, muscadine. Hard work, determination and some cooperation from Mother Nature resulted in successful harvests. In the fall of 2013, Medvedev crushed his first grapes, blended his first wines, and opened a new tasting room with sweeping views of the vineyards. He also brought on local winemaker J. Adams.
Honoring the Past
While the winery thrived, Medvedev had another major mission to accomplish: Find a way to honor his fellow soldiers who died in the Afghan war. In 1985, as part of a special services unit, his role was to destroy caravans of supplies being moved by rebel forces working against the Afghan government. On one mission, a last-minute staffing change resulted in another soldier taking his place. All of the men on that mission were killed. “This was a pivotal event in my life,” he says.
A suitable way to honor his comrades and his faith materialized in the completion of St. Anna’s Chapel on the property. The chapel was imported in pieces from Russia and constructed in the 17th century traditional way using no nails or screws. The chapel includes a historic painting of St. Anna. This priceless icon was presented to Medvedev by George Obolensky of Greenville, a descendant of the Russian royal family. Obolensky’s parents fled Russia with the painting after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Medvedev visits Russia at least once a year as his daughter is studying economics and his son is a businessman there. This year he will further the connection to his homeland by exporting some of his wine to Russia.
Medvedev admits his new life here offers less money and more work than his business career, but he says he has found exactly what he was seeking. Russian Chapel Hills Winery is located at 2662 Green Creek Drive, Columbus, NC. Learn more at russianchapelhill.com.
Mary Koppenheffer writes for the Biltmore Beacon and is a Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.