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Burntshirt crushes grapes for 2013 vintage

Reisling juice comes out of wine press at Burntshirt Vineyards. Reisling juice comes out of wine press at Burntshirt Vineyards.

In what may have been a first since Prohibition, a winery started the process of making wine in Henderson County from its own locally grown grapes.


Burntshirt Vineyards last week fired up its new wine press and made juice from Reisling grapes that had been harvested hours before at its vineyard.
The operation, which uses an inflating diaphragm to squeeze the fruit in a rotating tank, marked the first time that Burntshirt has made juice for its wine on site.
ReislingMike Sterling shovels a bin of Reisling grapes into wine press at Burntshirt's winery."This is the most concentrated sugars," winemaker Mike Sterling said as he watched the juice fall into a holding tank beneath the press. "As it presses harder and harder you get less juice and more tannins."
The rain stopped just in time and Burntshirt's wine press arrived just in time.
After a summer of near record rainfall and few sunny days, the rains stopped about three weeks ago, turning what could have been a bad crop into a good one.
"It's a good vintage," Sterling said. "It started off wet but we got a lot of sun the last weeks. It saved the crop. If you get sun at the end that turns it around."
A native of Richmond, Va., and graduate of George Mason University, Sterling has worked in California for Kosta Browne Winery in Sebastopol as a harvest intern and in Northern Virginia as a cellar assistant for Sunset Hills Vineyard. He and his wife live in Spartanburg.
While Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards is also making red and white wines from Henderson County-grown grapes, Burntshirt has become the first to make wine here as well. White wines from this year's crop should be ready by next spring while red wines will age from a year to a year and a half, Sterling said.
Owners Sandra and Lemuel Oates also have added the Summit Event Center, which has 3,100 square feet of indoor space plus patio space that overlooks a winery vineyard across Dana Road. It accommodates up to 150 for seated events and twice that for stand-up gatherings.
The 10,440-square-foot winery includes fermenting tanks and both French and American oak barrels for red and white wine. It contains a laboratory to test grapes as they ripen and to test wine as it goes through fermentation. The winery plans to add a bottling room.
The 1,700-square-foot barrel room includes large chandeliers and low lighting that will be available for private functions and special events such as a winemaker's dinners.