By Jesse Wood
Grandfather Vineyard and Winery slapped its first Appalachian High Country AVA label on a bottle of Seyval Blanc wine yesterday.
A local achievement about 15 years in the making, the Appalachian High Country American Viticultural Area is a federal designation that legitimizes a wine grape-growing region.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau officially placed the Appalachian High Country AVA in the Federal Register at the end of October and the establishment of the AVA went into effect a few weeks ago – at which time local wineries were allowed to submit AVA labels for federal approval.
AVA-labeled wine must feature 85 percent local grapes within the AVA territory. In this case, the Appalachian High Country spans 2,400 acres in eight counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell and Watauga counties in North Carolina; Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee; and Grayson County in Virginia.
Grandfather Vineyard and Winery owner Steve Tatum said that the 2016 Seyval Blanc features 100-percent locally-grown grapes from Sterling Carroll’s vineyard in Deep Gap, which is managed by Grandfather Vineyard and Winery’s assistant winemaker Chris Denesha.
“We’ve been getting grapes from Sterling for the past four years,” Tatum said.
Tatum said that Grandfather Vineyard and Winery will have two or three more AVA-labeled wines in the spring, perhaps a Marquette, a Foche and a Traminette wine – in addition to the Seyval Blanc.
The Appalachian High Country AVA application process was a project of the High Country Winegrowers Association and spearheaded primarily by Johnnie James of Bethel Valley Farms, which grows wine grapes and of other fruits.
The group has launched a new website for the AVA at http://www.highcountrywines.com. It will also be seeking more support from local Tourism Development Authorities to publicize the AVA next year. Supporters of the AVA tout the economic benefits of a wine trail and say it will also have a positive impact on local farmers.
Tatum said that unlike in California, where more than half of the 234 other AVAs exist, an AVA isn’t well known in this part of the country.
“Hopefully, we’ll fix that,” Tatum said. “People just don’t realize what it is, and it’s really a big deal.”
For much more details about the AVA and the history of modern winemaking in the High Country, checkout High Country Magazine’s cover story from the August/September 2016 issue.