Fall has just begun in the Carolinas and that means a few things: comfortably warm days, cool nights and beautiful colors in the forests of the Appalachian mountains. In short, the perfect time of year for an afternoon of wine tasting. I recently found a hidden gem in the highlands of North Carolina. Grandfather Winery and Vineyard is located in Banner Elk, North Carolina, just a short drive from Boone and is set far back from the main road giving it a feeling of peaceful seclusion from the busy world. It’s a small place, bordered on one side by a stream that’s the perfect setting for a picnic with your new favorite wine, and on the other by a vineyard on the mountainside’s fifty eight degree slope. In such an idyllic setting, it’s no wonder my husband and I lost track of time and spent the entire afternoon tasting new wines, listening to live music on the porch of the winery, and chatting with the wine makers and other guests like ourselves by the quiet and lazy stream.
In 2011, owner Steve Tatum opened his tasting room to begin serving the wines he’d been making from the vines planted in 2003. Since then, Steve and his family have been producing world-class wines in their mountain oasis. Whether your tastes run towards dry or sweet wines, reds or whites, Grandfather Vineyard and Winery will have a wine you’ll love. I tasted eight dry wines: three whites, one rose and four reds. While all eight wines were excellent, there were a few that stuck out to me above the rest. The Verdelho is a crisp white wine that is made from a native Portuguese grape which grows surprisingly well in North Carolina’s climate, and it’s similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, refreshing and full of clean citrus notes. If your tastes run towards a slightly sweeter wine, I recommend the Voignier. This white wine is the perfect choice for a warm afternoon with floral aromas and a bright peachy flavor that go nicely with light summer fare. While I heartily enjoyed Grandfather Vineyard’s white wine offerings, my favorites are always reds. I tried an incredibly smooth Barbera that started off with tastes of dark fruits and finished with warm spice and vanilla notes that would pair well with spicy foods or strong cheeses. It would stand up to sharp flavors but is not an overpowering wine. For a stronger, bolder wine, I’d suggest going with the 58 Degree Fusion, a Malbec blend that is spicy and smoky and warm. It would be perfect on a cold winter’s night by the fire.
All in all, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a person that couldn’t be happy at Grandfather Vineyard and Winery. With such beautiful surroundings, a comfortable and friendly atmosphere and of course the high quality wines, the winery is perfect for a leisurely day away from it all.