Proposed Tryon Foothills AVA

In the Wine Light – Proposed Tryon Foothills AVA

The proposed Tryon Foothills AVA will be North Carolina's seventh AVA located in the eastern two thirds of Polk County.
AVAs for North Carolina

Current American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the proposed seventh AVA in North Carolina, Tryon Foothills AVA.  This is an “accepted as perfect” AVA (according to the TTB) and will be located in eastern Polk County, NC including the community of Tryon.

Proposed Tryon Foothills AVA

Proposed Tryon Foothills AVA in Polk County, NC

Proposed AVA

The petition for creating the Tryon Foothils AVA originated from Cory Lillberg of Parker-Binns Vineyard and Winery and Joseph Forrest on behalf of Polk County vineyard and winery operators.  This new AVA will consume the eastern two thirds of Polk County, east of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Parker-Binns Vineyard & Winery

Parker-Binns Vineyard & Winery – Mill Spring, NC

The proposed Tryon Foothills AVA is distinguished from the surrounding areas and other AVAs due to topography and climate.  At the time of the petition to establish the AVA, there were 5 vineyards and 4 wineries within the boundaries of the AVA.  

Behind the Name

The name Tryon Foothills was chosen since the area has been referred to “Tryon Foothills” for many years.  The area sits at the foothills of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and starting in the 1890s to as late as the 1940s, the area was well known for being a grape growing region.  The Isothermal Belt, a climatic zone, of Polk and neighboring Rutherford County contributed to moderating temperatures.  According to the AVA petition, this feature “along with well-drained mountain slopes, southern hillside exposure, and deep, rocky soils provides an ideal terroir” for grape growing.  The famous “Tyron Grapes” were sold to travelers at the local train station in Tryon and were so famous that they were featured on menus at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

As rail travel declined and California continued its viticulture expansion, the Tryon vineyards declined and disappeared.  Then in 1991, Lee Griffin and his wife, Marsha Cassedy, planted a small vineyard for their personal use.  It was very successful, so it was expanded to 10 acres and was known as Rockhouse Vineyard until it closed in 2020.  In 1998, Joe and Jeanne Mize planted a 30 acre vineyard in the Green Creek community of Polk County.  Other vineyards followed with 5 currently growing in the proposed Tryon Foothills AVA.

Ovenmountain Vineyards

Overmountain Vineyards – Tryon, NC

Distinguishing Features

Per the petition, the proposed Tryon Foothills AVA “is in the low mountains and rolling hills of the Inner Piedmont of Western North Carolina.” The Blue Ridge Escarpment rises steeply to the west of the AVA.  Areas east and south of the proposed AVA see elevations that gradually decrease.

Mountain Brook Vineyards

Mountain Brook Vineyards – Tryon, NC

The growing season averages between 200 and 210 days within the AVA.  This is shorter than the growing season to the south and east of the AVA but longer than the growing season to the north and west of the AVA.  Annual precipitation is higher than regions to the south, northeast, and northwest of the AVA but lower than the region west of the AVA.

Russian Chapel Hills Winery

Russian Chapel Hills Winery – Columbus, NC

The Tyron Foothills area is a wonderful tourist destination that’s often less busy than other parts of the state.  Although that has changed a bit in recent years.  The AVA is producing some outstanding wines including wonderful Petit Mansengs, Cabernet Francs, Petit Verdots, and Cabernet Sauvignons.  Cabernet Sauvignon sees the largest planting followed closely by Merlot.  In addition to wine, the Tyron International Equestrian Center provides many events throughout the year.  Be sure to go visit the Tryon Foothills and see for yourself.

Quick Facts

Name:  Tryon Foothills AVA

Petitioner:  Cory Lillberg and Joseph Forrest on behalf of Vineyard and Winery Operators of Polk County, NC

Effective Date:  TBD – Accepted as perfect by the TTB on 8/31/2021

Square Miles:  176

Counties within boundaries:  Eastern Two-Thirds of Polk County, NC – east of the Blue Ridge Escarpment

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 712 ft to over 1656 ft with average elevation of 988 ft

Climate:  The average annual temperature is 59.2 degrees with a growing season that averages 200 – 210 days.

Source:  Petition submitted by Cory Lillberg and Joseph Forrest

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #TryonFoothillsAVA


Posted by Joe Brock

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.