Heard it through the grapevine


The Appalachian Online

Halie Hamilton

A new American Viticultural Area was just approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It is called Appalachian High Country and spans through select counties in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

An AVA is a designated area that tells consumers where there grapes were grown, if a bottle of wine says Appalachian High Country on it, that means 85 percent of the grapes in that bottle come from the Appalachian High Country.

The Appalachian High Country AVA runs through Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Carter, Johnson and Grayson Counties.

Johnnie James, board member of High Country Wine Growers Association, said they decided to draw the AVA along areas that are above 2000 feet in elevation along the Appalachian Trail.

In order to make the Appalachian High Country an AVA, James had to document which wineries and grapes were local to the area along with climate information for the region.

In order to gather the data they needed to, they reached out to Appalachian State’s geology department and got a graduate student to gather the data.

James said it was a year long process to gather all the data they needed to submit.

“This started with a few growers who came to the conclusion that in order to be sustainable, they have to be an AVA,” James said.

In the United States, there are 234 AVA’s, over 100 of which are in California.

“This AVA is a big deal and a very rare thing,” James said. “It is a positive thing for everyone in the community it has been proven that the wines bring visitors, draw more people than before, bed and breakfast get more people, people come and want to visit the wineries, there are more jobs and more economic opportunity.”

The AVA got support from all eight of the counties. They provided compensation for the graduate student’s research.

On Oct. 27, the Appalachian High Country viticultural area was approved by the TTB.

It’s exciting to be in the same echelon as Napa Valley and have the area’s vines be recognized, Wiseman said.

The AVA is important to wine drinkers because vines in different locations will taste different. James said different soils produce unique flavors of wine.

“[It is] actually something everyone is excited about. [We have] been growing on our property for over 10 years, and are excited to be established in that sense,” Wiseman said.

Story by: Halie Hamilton, News Reporter