North Carolina’s Appalachian High Country AVA becomes fifth in the state

by | Nov 25, 2016

North Carolina is home to 525 vineyards, more than 180 wineries and five designated American Viticultural Areas. What better way to celebrate Small Business Saturday than to take a trip to a local winery and support an industry that consists almost entirely of small business owners?

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Banner Elk is one of eight N.C. wineries in the new Appalachian High Country AVA.

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Banner Elk is one of eight N.C. wineries in the new Appalachian High Country AVA.

Wine lovers have something special to celebrate this holiday season – North Carolina added a fifth AVA. The Appalachian High Country AVA officially became the latest AVA on Oct. 28.

An AVA, or American Viticultural Area, is a designated wine-growing region that has distinct topography, climate and soil types. Most wine lovers are familiar with one of North Carolina’s other AVAs, the Yadkin Valley, and nearly all consumers are probably familiar with California’s Napa Valley.

“The establishment of an AVA can help wine makers describe more accurately the origin of their wines, and assists consumers in identifying wines for purchase,” said Whit Winslow, executive director of the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council.

The Appalachian High Country AVA is a large 2,400-square-mile area spanning eight counties and three states. Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell and Watauga counties are included, as well as Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee, and Grayson County, Virginia. A total of 21 vineyards and 10 wineries are currently included in the AVA, with an additional eight vineyards planned in the near future.

One of the things that sets the latest AVA apart from surrounding areas is its elevation. Grapes are planted at elevations between 2,290 and 4,630 feet. More than half of the vineyards are located at or above 3,000 feet in elevation. In addition, more than half of the vineyards are planted on slopes with angles 30 degrees or more.

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Banner Elk is one such winery. Its 58° Fusion wine is so named because the vineyard is planted on a 58-degree slope. Steve Tatum, owner of Grandfather Vineyard, said the elevation has its challenges and benefits.

“Unlike other AVAs around the country, you have to deal with the mountains. We grow on the southwest face of the mountain and get really good sun all day long,” Tatum said. “If we were on the opposite side of the mountain, we couldn’t grow grapes if we wanted to.”

Other accommodations have to be made in this region as well. Colder temperatures and fewer growing days mean that more delicate grapes cannot thrive. Cold-hardy varietals such as Vidal Blanc, Marquette and Traminette do well.

appalachian-high-country-ava-mapTourists interested in being one of the first to visit the newly established Appalachian High Country AVA, can plan their trip by contacting the wineries directly. Following are the eight N.C. wineries that make up the new AVA:

More information about the state’s wine and grape industry is available at