Burntshirt Vineyards

Western North Carolina is surely one of the most picturesque regions of the state.  The Blue Ridge Mountains tower over the western part of the state creating an isolated feel that is truly relaxing.  One of the many benefits of the mountains is that it also creates a unique climate that sees moderately short winters with long summers.  The summer days are hot, but the evenings are cooler making this a great area to grow wine grapes.  Burntshirt Vineyards is one of the few that are taking advantage of this unique area.  We recently received an invitation to visit the vineyard and winery to take a detailed look at their process and taste their offerings.

Burntshirt Vineyards first planted their grapes in 2009.  They have right around 27 acres of grapes on two different plots of land.  The plot at Burntshirt Mountain is located at 3400 feet above sea level.  This high altitude provides a much cooler climate, which is great for some of their white varietals.  The rest of the acreage is located just outside Hendersonville alongside of their winery.  Our tour started at the winery production building with their head winemaker, Justin.

The winery was first opened in 2013 and has grown ever since.  Since we first visited the winery in early 2014, they have added a new production facility totaling 10,000 square feet. This new facility allows them to make up to 15,000 gallons of wine per year.  Currently they’re not at that volume, but there’s room to grow for sure.

The ample space allows Justin to have some extra room for ensuring he can make wine that will truly showcase their peak flavors.  Their wines all start at the crush pad right near the large holding tanks.  Most of the white wines will end up in the steel tanks, with some making it into the barrel room.  The reds pressed and fermented in the holding room and then move into their barrel room (now the 2013 and 2014 reds).  Justin likes to ferment whole lots of fruit at one time, keeping the lots separate when possible.  This gives him the opportunity to see how each lot is coming along and he can make adjustments as needed.

After our tour of the production room, we moved into the lab.  A good part of winemaking is actually as much science as it is art.  The on-site lab allows them to conduct most of the tests they need to do.  For some of the more detailed tests, they work with a local laboratory and will send out samples.  While we were in the lab, Justin poured us a few samples of some of the single barrel wines from his new works in progress.  With each sample, you can really taste some of the differences in the different lots.  One that we’re really looking forward to is the new Grüner Veltliner.  The 2014 we tasted had a huge green apple flavor with a nice creamy finish.  Their 2014 Cabernet Francs are also coming along nicely, with some showing a white pepper finish while others had a nice green pepper undertone.  After tasting each of these wines, it was clear that Justin is really enjoying developing his craft.  We enjoyed gaining some inside knowledge of the winemaking process and seeing how Justin is making some fantastic wines.

We moved on from the production building into the tasting room.  This building has also received renovations since our last visit and has expanded to serve at least three times the number of visitors from before.  It was fun to compare the current releases to the upcoming new releases.  Our favorites were the 2013 Grüner Veltliner and the 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay.  The Grüner Veltliner was soft yet crisp with a lingering finish.  The Chardonnay was delicate and well-rounded with a tight floral nose and light fruity taste throughout.

Our thanks go out to Justin for sharing details of his wine making process and his love for the craft.  Also to Deborah for helping to organize the tour and to Tiffany who conducted the current release tasting.

Burntshirt Vineyards is located in Hendersonville, NC minutes away from the downtown district and nearby many other attractions.  Plan a visit and stay a while!

Posted by Matt Kemberling

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