By Natasha Anderson
In Henderson County, the Crest of the Blue Ridge wine region continues to grow in popularity and members. As of this summer, the number of vineyards in this newly designated American Viticultural Area has doubled from three to six with the opening of Stone Ashe, Marked Tree and Sawyer Springs.
Stone Ashe Vineyards, located on 67 acres in a ridgetop setting, grows seven grape varietals cloned from legacy vines in France. They are riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot.
“We have focused on Bordeaux grapevines,” says Stone Ashe co-owner Tina Little. “The steep slopes and the sandy loam to rocky soils here emulate the same growing conditions of the great European growing regions.”
Stone Ashe offers three white wines, one rosé and one red. The three whites, along with the rosé, come from grapes grown on-site. Winemaker Chris Denesha of pleb winery in Asheville crafted those four wines in collaboration with Stone Ashe co-owner Craig Little. The red is a blend from Childress Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley, highlighting NC viticulture until estate reds are ready to bottle. Long-term plans call for two to three more acres of grapes and a winemaking facility on-site.
Guests can enjoy panoramic views of several peaks, including Bearwallow, Sugarloaf and Bald Top mountains, from the 3100-square-foot tasting room. All state and federal COVID-19 protocols are being followed. Traditional tastings have been replaced by flights, or guests can order wine by the glass or bottle. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic.
“Patrons are excited to taste wine grown from grapes in our region and the Crest of the Blue Ridge,” says Tina Little. “Each vineyard is growing something a little different, making us all distinctive and expressing our individuality.”
Marked Tree Vineyard, located at an elevation of 2,300 feet on the Eastern Continental Divide, offers 10 wine varietals made with European vinifera and French-American hybrid grapes including cabernet franc, petit verdot, grüner veltliner, chardonel and vidal blanc. From the tasting room, visitors can see both Mt. Pisgah and Tryon Peak, as well as acres of grapevines.
“We are striving to create a new modern winery experience,” says co-owner Lance Hiatt. “We have a very ‘chill’ vibe and want our guests to relax, taste wine and reflect on the moment they are in.”
Due to the pandemic, Hiatt and co-owner Tim Parks have chosen to do table service for wine tastings. With ample space for social distancing, guests are able to find a relaxing spot inside or on the patio where they can enjoy the views and find the wine that best suits their taste.
We are creating a palate of special wines that are varied in tannins, nose, sharpness, sweetness, minerality and texture,” says Hiatt. “It amazes me every day how differently people interpret taste and smell. No two tasters have the same experience.”
Sawyer Springs Vineyard is a family-run operation on land that has been farmed by Paul Dermid’s family for six generations. Sawyer Springs produces vintages in small batches made from French-American hybrid grape varietals including cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, riesling and muscadine. A selection of fruit wines made from blueberries and strawberries is also available.
“Those of us who have lived in this county for generations know that the soil here has always grown the best fruit and vegetables around,” says Dermid. “The American Viticultural Area designation only proves what farmers here have always known.”
Visitors to Sawyer Springs may choose to sit outdoors or in a rustic tasting barn showcasing the heritage of the site. “People just love the quiet location and vineyard setting,” says Dermid. “Some say being here is like sitting in their own backyard.”
The Crest of the Blue Ridge also includes Burntshirt Vineyards, Point Lookout Vineyards and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.
For more information and links to each vineyard’s website, go to VisitHendersonvilleNC.org/crest-of-the-blue-ridge.