Wine served in test tubes is one of many innovations at three-day event
A phrase like “agricultural vitality” doesn’t inspire thoughts of fun and frivolity, but without the farmers and this particularly apt growing region, Henderson County wouldn’t be as lush with quality wine, cider, beer, and good food. And what better way to celebrate that agricultural vitality than a long weekend dedicated to those microlocal makers? That’s what’s on tap for Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend, happening April 22-24.
“We have some of the most diverse growing regions in the world,” says Barbara Walker, the general manager of St. Paul Mountain Vineyards and Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Cider. Combine warm summers, great soil, and a just-right altitude in the lower reaches of the Blue Ridge mountains, and, more to the point, “we have one of the few growing regions in the state that can properly grow the French vinifera [a type of grape common in the Mediterranean],” says Walker.
And so Henderson County has become a wellspring for innovative wineries. “Just recently, in the last year and a half, we were named an AVA — an American Viticulture Area — which is what Napa and Sonoma are,” explains Walker. (The officially branded, federal designation is Crest of the Blue Ridge American Viticultural Area.)
Long filled with orchards, Henderson County also ranks as the seventh largest apple producer in the nation, making it ripe for hard-cider production. (Cider of any kind is typically made with high-quality apples that aren’t cosmetically pleasing enough to go to market.)
The county-led Cider, Wine & Dine initiative sees nearly a dozen vineyards and cideries hosting events revolving around tastings, food trucks, live music, and activities at each venue. Marked Tree Vineyards will offer a coursed wine dinner as well as a Vintner’s Tasting — pouring rare vintages that aren’t even available in the tasting room — paired with curated bites. Appalachian Ridge will host a breakfast and walking tour of their farm during the day, and bonfires with s’mores and live music at night. Stone Ashe Vineyards will branch out with a hiking tour, and Sawyer Springs plans a cornhole tournament and yoga sessions.
Newcomer Souther Williams Vineyard will celebrate the grand opening of their winery, serving a collection of unique Eastern European varietals including Grüner Veltliner. And Point Lookout Vineyards is even staging a Celtic festival with Irish music, food, and step dancing.
In another creative twist, St. Paul — the county’s oldest vineyard — presents “Tubular Wine Tastings” and flights served in test tubes, which started as a way to serve varietals during the pandemic, when servers and guests alike wanted to cut down on face time.
But the tube tasting was so popular St. Paul kept it in play. “We were going through thousands of glasses a day, because you get six different wines [in the tubular tastings]. But the tubes gave us a way to serve a lot of people measured pours quickly,” says Walker. “It also allows you to go at your own pace.”
Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend will be held Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24. For more information, schedules, and a list of participating vineyards, call 800-828-4244 or visit visithendersonvillenc.org/cider-wine-dine-weekend.