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Vineyards are now in 'Crest of the Blue Ridge'

Alan Ward and Barbara Walker of St. Paul Mountain Mountain Vineyards and Sandra and Lemuel Oates of Burntshirt Vineyard celebrate the AVA designation of Crest of the Blue Ridge region. Alan Ward and Barbara Walker of St. Paul Mountain Mountain Vineyards and Sandra and Lemuel Oates of Burntshirt Vineyard celebrate the AVA designation of Crest of the Blue Ridge region.

Henderson County wineries have won a key federal endorsement to designate the "Crest of the Blue Ridge" grape growing region.

 

Agribusiness Henderson County  announced Monday that it had successfuly completed a rigorous process to gain a federal designation as an American Viticultural Area for local grape and wine producers. AgHC and the N.C. Agriculture Extension Service jointly filed the petition for the designation in December 2016. The designation now establishes approximately 215-square miles in Henderson County as the AVA named “Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County."

"The AVA petition has aged for three years, but the cork is finally popped, and we can toast a great achievement for Henderson County’s vineyards,"  AgHC Executive Director, Mark Williams said.

An AVA is a grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name and a delineated boundary. The establishment of AVAs allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers. For a wine to be labeled with an AVA name, at least 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that name. Examples of AVAs are Napa and Sonoma Valley in California and Yadkin Valley, here in North Carolina.

The distinguishing features of the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA are its climate and elevation. Warm days and cool mountain nights during the growing season, coupled with the right soils and quality water, provides a favorable and unique combination for grape production. Geographically the area straddles the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the Blue Ridge Plateau, which are separated by the Eastern Continental Divide, also known as the Crest of the Blue Ridge. Attaching “Henderson County” to the name specifically identifies the area.

When the petition was filed, the area had 14 commercial vineyards over 70 acres, with existing growers planning a combined expansion of 55 acres. AgHC indicates much of the expansion has already occurred and the designation is almost certain to spawn more acreage than originally planned. Henderson County had two wineries in 2016, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and Burntshirt Vineyards. Point Lookout Vineyards has since opened and AgHC says four more are on track to open soon.

Although AgHC was the primary petitioner for the AVA, they credit Alan Ward, owner of Saint Paul and Lemuel Oates, owner of Burntshirt for initiating the process. Ward and Oates researched and engaged the consulting services of geologist Joseph Forest of Resource Geoservices.

“Their foresight and leadership were critical to the process, along with thousands of dollars they personally invested,” Williams said. Barbara Walker, of Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, worked closely with the consultant and first proposed the “Crest of the Blue Ridge” name.

“This was truly a team effort," Williams said. "In addition to efforts of the wineries, consultants, AgHC and Extension, the Henderson County Travel Development Authority was a key supporter and Congressman Mark Meadows was actively in contact with the Treasury Department in seeking the designation.”