Carter joins nearby counties in bid to create wine-producing area

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Could Northeast Tennessee and Western North Carolina be the next Napa Valley?
Carter County, along with Johnson County, is joining Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Grayson, Mitchell and Watauga counties in North Carolina to form a possible American Vitaculture Area.
An AVA is a “grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name and a delineated boundary” or “an area of unique climatic and geographic conditions which contribute to a distinct taste in wine produced from vineyards established within an area.”
Carter County Tourism Coordinator Carl Brickey said that once the AVA was established it could help to promote tourism in the county as well as the opportunity for more wineries or vineyards to locate in the county.
Johnnie James, owner of Bethel Valley Farms, a winery in Bethel, N.C., and a board member of the High Country Wine Growers Association, has been working to start the AVA initiative. He said there are currently around 200 AVAs in the United States, and by forming a designated area it allowed wineries to become an established wine producer for a set region.
“Once it is approved, it allows everyone in the boundaries to put a label on their bottle that signifies that it comes from the set area,” James said.
Brickey said one winery, Watauga Lake Winery, is on the Carter/Johnson County line and that he had heard of a location in Roan Mountain that grew grapes.
“When the AVA is in place, it could give business owners the incentives to open their vineyards or wineries here,” he said. “Once they did, they could put the AVA stamp on their bottles.”
Before a winery can use the AVA stamp, 85 percent of the grapes used in the manufacturing process must have come from vineyards in the AVA area.
“I think it will be good for the area,” Brickey said. “I don’t think there are any other AVAs in Tennessee, so when it comes to fruition we can capitalize on that.”
James said by requiring an 85 percent inclusion rate for grapes it would increase the demand for local grapes and hopefully increase production opportunities.
“Hopefully when farmers see there is more of a demand for the grapes, more of them will start to grow them,” he said. “It would be unique because you couldn’t get this win anywhere else.”
Completed AVA applications will be submitted to the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Brickey said the application process could take some time, so there is no expected date for when the area will be established. Once the area is set, no additions will be allowed to the AVA.
James said the application process could take six to eight months before the AVA is approved. He said the group expects to know by November if all technical aspects have been met. If they have, no reapplication will be needed and the review process can begin.
James added the AVA designation would provide an economic benefit for the area. He said wine enthusiasts enjoyed visiting these areas to sample different wines and experience the different growing regions.
Brickey said the area could be advertised as a tourist destination, similar to the vineyards in California.
“This could be marketed like Napa Valley,” Brickey said. “It could have that potential.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox