Wine tasting

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery

We recently had the opportunity to visit Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Banner Elk, NC.  It had been a year or more since we had last visited.  It was good to taste again, take in the beautiful mountain scenery, and just relax!

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Grandfather is owned by Steve and Sally Tatum.  The Tatums live on the property.  They purchased the land where the winery and vineyard sit in 1998.  The first planting of wine grapes happened in 2003.  It should be noted that this was the first planting of wine grapes in the mountains of northwest North Carolina.  The Tatums’ son, Dylan, is the winemaker.  Dylan’s wife, Nicole, is the tasting room manager, so it’s a family run operation.  Fruit is sourced from the vineyard onsite, other area vineyards within the Appalachian High Country AVA, the Yadkin Valley AVA, and Lodi in California.


We were fortunate enough to have Nicole do our tasting.  She was very knowledgeable about the wines and let us sample pretty much what we wanted.  Here are our notes:

  • 2016 Pinot Gris – The nose was floral with a crisp minerality on the palate.
  • 2016 Vidal Blanc – An Appalachian High Country wine, pear, apple, and melon showed on the nose.  The palate was tart and crisp with light melon notes.
  • 2016 Vermentino – These grapes were sourced from California.  Lemon and cream greeted you on the nose.  The palate was classic Vermentino.
  • 2016 Viognier – A nose that was floral and peachy transitioned to a palate of grapefruit and lychee fruit.
  • 2016 Chardonnay – The wine was barrel aged in French and American oak.  A buttery nose continued on the palate with light oak.  It finished crisp and had 1% residual sugar.
  • 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé – Made from local and Willemette Valley, Oregon grapes, watermelon and strawberry showed on the nose and the palate.
  • 2015 Cabernet Franc – This wine was made North Carolina grown grapes.  Dark cherry, vanilla and bit of oak were the primary flavors.
  • 2014 ASU Scholar – A Yadkin Valley wine made with the Fermentation Sciences students from Appalachian State University, this was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  Cherry and oak predominated on this wine.  We bought a bottle!
  • Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon – Made from fruit from local fruit, Yadkin Valley fruit & Lodi, California fruit, the nose showed rich cherry and currants and was slightly floral.  The palate had tart cherry, currants, and a light cedar note.
  • 2015 Marechal Foch – Blackberry and blueberry notes greeted you on the nose of this Appalachian High Country AVA wine.  The palate had a nice acidity with a bit of oak and spice.
  • Legacy Zinfandel – This was a classic Lodi, California Zin – jammy and smokey.
  • Tempranillo & Malbec – A blend of Tempranillo and Malbec from Lodi, California, this wine was a bit jammy with notes of cocoa, warm cherry, and vanilla.
  • 2016 Seyval Blanc – A Watauga County wine from the Appalachian High Country AVA, this wine had notes of apple, sweet honeysuckle, and mango.
  • 2016 Marquette – Served on draft, this Appalachian High Country AVA wine had notes of red currant, blackberry, and vanilla.  You can purchase a growler of this wine.
  • 2016 Merlot – Also served on draft and available for growlers, cherry predominated here.  It was a very nice Merlot.

Barrel Room at Grandfather Vineyard & Winery


Dylan was not available the day we visited, so Chris Denesha, one of the assistant winemakers, stepped in.  Chris is originally from the Sonoma, California.  He had stops in Spain and Southern Utah before coming to the High Country.  Chris started the tour in the vineyard just outside the tasting room.  He mentioned that Grandfather manages three other vineyards in the area and has 200 vines of Marquette planted just across the mountain from where we were standing.  Current plantings in the vineyard onsite are Chardonnay, Catawba, Marechal Foch, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.  Locust posts in this terraced vineyard came from trees that once stood where the vineyard was planted.

After the vineyard, we made stops in the barrel room and the winery.  The barrel room has French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels.  Some are new.  Others have one or two years of use.  The winery is small.  It sits just behind the tasting room.  Fermentation Sciences students from Appalachian State University in Boone often work with the Grandfather staff on wines and ciders.

We wrapped us the tour and headed back into the tasting room to purchase wines and say goodbye to Nicole.  The next time you’re the High Country, be sure to stop by and check out Grandfather Vineyard & Winery.  Grab a bottle and relax by the gently following Watauga River.  Tell them we sent you!



Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
June, 2017 Visit – Leicester, NC Wineries/Vineyards

June, 2017 Visit – Leicester, NC Wineries/Vineyards

We continue a look back at our mid-June wine visit to the Hendersonville / Asheville area.  Day Two took us northwest of Asheville to Leicester, NC.  Leicester is about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville.  It’s an easy and beautiful drive.  Located in Leicester are Fontaine Vineyards and Addison Farms Vineyard.

Fontaine Vineyards

Stunning View at Fontaine Vineyards

After several wrong turns, we made it to Fontaine Vineyards.  This was our first visit!  Google was a bit confused that morning and had us on a wrong road.  We were glad to finally see the main entrance.  As we drove up and around the vineyard we were awestruck by the view.  Mountains were all around.  The vineyard was small and quaint.


Jackie, co-owner with her husband Michel, quickly greeted us upon our arrival.  She gave us a quick overview of their story.  Fontaine is focused on growing European grapes (mostly French) and making small allotments of wine.  They also cater to those looking to get married and function several times a month as a wedding venue particularly in the warmer months.

Tastevin used for Tastings at Fontaine Vineyards

The tastings are done inside the wine cellar.  You won’t find a tasting glass here though.  Instead, Jackie presented us with a metal Tastevin from which to drink.  A tastevin is a metal saucer like cup.  Created by Burgundian winemakers to enable them to judge a wine for clarity and color in a dim wine cellar, the tastevin certainly made for a unique tasting experience.

We tasted the following wines:

  • 2016 Merlot – Dark cherry and plum greeted you on the nose and carried through to the palate.  This wine was somewhat jammy yet quite tannic.  We left with a bottle of this.
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Soft cherry and black currant describe this wine well.  It also had some woodiness on the palate.
  • 2015 Riesling – A floral nose gave way to a fruity palate and just a touch of sweetness.  Soft and delicate also come to mind when describing this wine.


Ham & Cheese Crêpe at Fontaine Vineyards

Jackie and Michel make crêpes for their guests.  You can choose from savory or sweet.  We went the savory route and had a delicious ham and cheese crêpe while seated on the patio.  The crêpe was just as you would hope to find from a native French cook.  Jackie gladly poured us a glass of the yet to be release Pinot Noir Rosé.  It turned out to be our favorite wine.   The nose smelled of overripe strawberries while watermelon predominated the palate.  Sadly, we couldn’t take any with us.

As we finished out our glass, Jackie pointed out that in the distance you could see Addison Farms and clearly a storm headed that way.  We wrapped up our visit in hopes of making it to Addison Farms before the storm did.

Addison Farms Vineyard

Addison Farms Road Sign

Addison Farms is only about five minutes away from Fontaine.  However, we did not beat the storm.  Luckily, the rain was not heavy, so we ventured inside.


We began our tasting with a couple of unique wines from Alchemy Herbal Wine.  These wines are meads made with honey, herbs, and spices.  Griffin Abee, the meadmaker, works with the fine folks at Addison Farms.  We encourage you to try these refreshing and unique wines!

Alchemy Herbal Wine – Love

Here are our notes for the herbal wines:

  • Love – This mead is made with honey (of course), pomegranate juice, rose petals, ginger, cardamon, vanilla, and damiana.  A floral nose with hints of ginger and cardamon gave way to a slightly sweet and refreshing palate with just a hint of tartness.
  • Prosperity – This mead is made with honey, cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, and allspice.  The nose gave spices with a bit of a woodiness and a good smell of honey.  The palate was tart and woody as well.  We enjoyed both of these.

We then moved on to Addison Farms’ wines to finish the tasting.  Here are our notes:

  • 2015 Crown & Plough Rosé of Sangiovese – We loved this wine.  We came home with a bottle.  A strawberry nose with strawberry and raspberry on the palate make for a delightful rosé.  The palate is also slightly tart with good acidity.
  • 2013 Mischief – Tempranillo – Vanilla, leather, cherry, and a touch of caramel show both on the nose and on the palate.  Pair this with lighter Spanish dishes.
  • 2014 Five Twenty-Nine – Barbera – We adore Barbera and this one is one of the best in NC.  It was part of the NC Fine Wines Case for 2017.  Cocoa and black currant invite you on the nose.  Warm cherry with more cocoa and black currant carry through on the palate.
  • 2013 Coming Home – Cabernet Sauvignon – Notes of pepper and spice show on the nose.  Tart cherry with some leather present on the palate.
  • Smokehouse Red – This is a blend of Chambourcin and Sangiovese.  Cocoa and cherry scents greet you on the nose.  The cherry continues on the palate along with vanilla, caramel, and slight hit of smoke.
  • Gratitude – This port-style wine is made from Chambourcin.  Mocha and raspberry are key descriptors here.  When paired with dark chocolate notes of caramel appear.

Tour with Jeff

Jeff Frisbee, co-owner along with his wife Dianne, arrived in the Tasting Room during our tasting.  He was supposed to give a tour at 2pm, but the tour folks were no shows.  Luckily for us, that meant we got the tour with just ourselves and Jeff.  Also, luckily, the rain had stopped.  We headed out for a walk to the the winery.

Addison Farms is very much a family operation.  Jeff and Dianne started this vineyard as a way to preserve Jeff’s family’s farm which once belonged to his maternal grandparents.  The first acre of vines was planted in 2009.  Another acre and a half was planted in 2010.  Currently, six acres are under vine.  Cabernet Sauvignon was the first planted.  Also, in the vineyard are Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulicano, Petit Verdot, and Petit Manseng.  In addition, they manage two additional acres in Leicester and purchase fruit from other North Carolina growers.

Vineyards at Addison Farms

After the visit to the winery where Jeff walked us through crush, we head to the vineyard.  Jeff strives to make food friendly wines and makes his picking decisions based on acid rather than Brix. He produces around 1000 cases a year.  The business plan calls for having 10 acres under vine.  He says Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are the easiest to deal with in the vineyard.

Barrels in the Barrel Room at Addison Farms

We ended our tour in the barrel room which sits under the tasting room.  The barrel room has space for 50-60 barrels while another 25 or so are in the winery itself.

We finished the tour and returned to the tasting room to make our purchases and say our goodbyes.

The next time you’re in the Asheville area, be sure to carve out time to visit Leicester and these unique vineyards.  Tell them we sent you.

You can find details of our day one adventures to Burntshirt Vineyards and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards on our blog.  Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments

Wine Tasting: Mooresville Wine Maestro

We recently did a tasting at the Wine Maestro in Mooresville, NC. They offer tastings most weeks on Thursdays and Fridays. The tastings are $10 per person for six or seven wines and they’re usually heavier pours. This week’s theme was the Maestro’s picks, consisting of a white, a rosé, two light reds and two heavier reds.

First up was the 2013 Gieson Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ. It started off with a crisp clean nose with hints of floral notes. It was a full body white and had nice acids. It started bright then had a nice mineral mid-palate with citrus yet grassy mid tones and a lingering light finish. Continue reading →

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments