By Justin Taylor
There are 100 years of tumultuous history between the original Tryon Grapes and the glasses of wine that slide across the tasting bar in the Tryon Foothills in 2019. The current growers of wine grapes may reflect on our pre-prohibition predecessors for a source of inspiration, but the early plantings looked a lot different from current day vineyards.
Even though wine was not the end goal for the Tryon grapes, the growing conditions that were uniquely identified are still important to growers in the Tryon Foothills today. A serial entrepreneur and farmer, W.T. Lindsey, discovered that the slopes along the front range of the Blue Ridge could hold a warm belt of air sandwiched between the cold air on the ridgeline and in the valley. This warm air enabled farmers to avoid annual frost events, yielding more crop, and supporting the longevity of hard, woody perennial vegetation. The grapes that made Tryon famous were grown on the hillsides, not in the valleys, and the varietals of grapes of old have little to no presence in the commercial vineyards today.
In the bi-monthly publication of “Fruit-Grower and Farmer” from September 15th, 1915, the cover story explains the financial benefits from cultivating grapes on the slopes surrounding Tryon. The slopes were home to a 15 acre vineyard that grew 50 different hybrid grapes, 19 American grapes, and 20 European grapes. From these several thousand vines, only two varietals are mentioned repeatedly as the financial strength of the national market: Niagara and Delaware. Niagara is a white grape that we all know best for producing white grape juice in the modern market. Delaware is a light red grape, that is largely grown today for table consumption because of its delicious flavor and bright sweetness.
The answer to Wine and Vine Trivia as previously mentioned are the Tryon Grapes, Niagara and Delaware. The Wine and Vine trivia for next issue: What makes Sherry taste vastly different from its neighboring Spanish white wines?
Justin Taylor is winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard, Mill Spring, NC.