By Justin Taylor

The local residents of Western North Carolina, whether seasonal or full-time, understand the unique weather and environment that exists in the special place we call home. While residents and guests travel around the region, there is a very obvious difference in the geography where the Piedmont meets the Mountains. This is often referred to as the foothills, and it is home to a very unique weather pattern seen in very few parts of the United States. The towns of Tryon, Columbus, Mill Spring, and Lake Lure are exposed to a temperature inversion called a thermal belt which promotes the opportunity for cultivation of wine grapes.

The first collection of horticultural information was published in the early decades of the 1900’s when fruit growing was very prominent in the region. Prior to full documentation, grapes for wine production were cultivated in the Tryon Foothills from the 1860’s until the full impact of Prohibition destroyed the local industry. As agriculture moved into alternative crops, additional stone fruits and berries have been cultivated in place of grapes, all thanks to the weather patterns within the Thermal Belt.

The economic impact of a returning wine industry has now returned to a century’s old practice of growing vines in the Tryon Foothills. Many of the vineyards currently in existence are new plantings and very few of the historical vineyards are still evident. The amount of research that has been collected since the time of the early publications have been a strong utility in the development of the current industry that dot the hillsides of modern day Polk County.

The answer to the previous Wine and Vine trivia is a booming sector of smaller wine producers in the U.S. known as Direct-to-Consumer. These sales are mainly conducted on the internet, and show strong support for local winery operations. The Wine and Vine trivia for next issue: What is the name of the most recent American Viticultural Area established in North Carolina?


Justin Taylor is winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard, Mill Spring, NC.