By Jesse Wood
With harvest season upon us, Grandfather Vineyard and Winery General Manager Dylan Tatum said that this year is turning into the best growing season he’s experienced in his six years in the business.
“I’ve seen some bad ones in the past, but this one is really, really good,” Tatum said. “All this sun recently is great for ripening … we’ve gotten the biggest yields, and the best quality grapes I’ve every seen up here for a wine grape.”
Tatum said that they are in the middle of the harvest season with a few more weeks of grape picking, crushing and pressing, and barreling and bottling left to go. While 15-hour workdays are common during the harvest season, you won’t hear the Tatums complaining because this is the culmination of a year’s work.
“A lot of people think brewing and winemaking are a lot alike, but they are very different,” Tatum said, adding that brewers can purchase all the raw materials any morning and have a brew bottled in the afternoon.
But in the wine industry, Tatum said that all of the year’s crops come in within a two-month period. “We have to deal with it right then and there,” he said. “It’s been really, really busy around here lately, but it what we’ve been preparing for all season.”
Tatum said that Grandfather Vineyard and Winery will press about 50 tons of grapes this harvest season. Roughly 30 tons will come from the surrounding area and out of their vineyard, which consists of about 3,000 vines.
This year’s tonnage producting is “significantly” more than in the past, Tatum said.
(The local grapes are a big deal because of the pending establishment of Appalachian High Country American Viticulture Area. An AVA is essentially a federal distinction that the High Country is a legitimate grape-growing region, and only bottles of wine made with 85 percent local grapes can don the Appalachian High Country label.
Pretty much the only thing local winemakers and grape growers are waiting for is for the federal government to sign off on some paperwork to make it official. However, that may have to wait until after the general election because of general government bureaucracy. See more about the AVA in the August/September issue of High Country Magazine.)
Grandfather Vineyard and Winery expects to produce about 4,000 to 4,500 cases of wine this year, owner Steve Tatum told High Country Press this summer. That number is about 10-fold relative to the 400 to 500 cases bottled in its first year, 2011.
The business’ growth is also evident in other ways.
Tatum explained that their brand new press is state of the art with an on-board computer. It presses about three tons at once compared to their old half-ton press. It also presses the grapes more gently and evenly to produce better, more-consistent wines.
Also, Grandfather Vineyard and Winery purchased land across the river that connects the vineyard to N.C. 105. This land has been graveled and will double the amount of cars able to park at Grandfather Vineyard and Winery.
“We’ve become pretty popular, especially on the weekends, and now parking issues should be all resolved,” Tatum said.
Grandfather Vineyard and Winery is located at 225 Vineyard Lane off of N.C. 105 near Foscoe and can be reached at 828-964-2400. For more info, click here.