Over the year in 2007, the land would be surveyed and the vineyard mapped with laser precision. Each variety was specifically located where we believe it would thrive, i.e. the Cabernet Franc in the schist soils on the hilltop, Merlot in the coolest area of the vineyard in the loam clay soils. . Sustainability is extremely important to us as the health of our vineyard and ecosystem will provide quality fruit, which in turn will help us produce world class wines. Clones were identified to contribute different nuances to the future wines. In all, 11 varieties were selected. A specialty trellis was designed to provide for maximum height off the ground for fruit while preserving a comfortable working height for tending the grapes. To push the trellis to over 7 ft. high, special wood end posts were purchased. In order to drive these extra-long, extra beefy posts, we ended up having to purchase a post pounder developed in New Zealand as none of the available equipment could handle the task.
The land was heavily worked with chisel plows then ripped to depth of 3 feet to break up the decades of compaction from pasturing and haying equipment. It was during this time that we discovered that under that beautiful terrain was countless rocks, so many that a large commercial “rock-picker” machine was leased to help remove them.
In 2008, an Amish contractor was engaged to build the tractor barn that would begin to house the growing stable of equipment required to maintain the vineyard. The vines were ordered from several nurseries in California as dormant root plants. All of our vines are grafted onto rootstocks to prevent infection by the phylloxera root louse as well as help control vigor.
Over the winter of 2008-2009, the large diameter wooden end posts were installed, 1006 of them. They are set at a 30-degree angle and driven 2.5 feet into the ground. This angle helps to carry the strain of the trellis wires once the vines are established. Each post is guyed to a steel helical anchor set 30” in the ground. In some cases, the ground was so rocky we had to install custom designed anchors that were driven 3 ft. into the ground by the post driver, embedded deeply in the fractured rock. After the wooden end posts were installed, the metal trellis supports were driven in. These were specially designed for this vineyard and provide for a 7’ tall top wire and a nearly 8 ft. tall canopy.
Beginning in the early spring of 2009, the vines were planted. The first vine in the ground was Merlot, Bear Flats Clone, in row 503 in Block G. Planting 24,300 vines took several weeks as we worked through rain, wind and cold. The vines were planted in holes dug by a Bobcat mounted auger 12” in diameter and 12” deep. We dug the holes the night before using several machines in order to prevent planting holes from filling with water should it rain. In many cases, the guys drilling holes were only a few rows ahead of the planters. It resembled a ballet of equipment and people. After the vines were planted, grow tubes were placed over the freshly planted vines. These are cardboard cylinders skewered with a bamboo stick. This tube protects the young vine from deer damage as well as provides a warm, mini-greenhouse for the buds to emerge into.
After the vines were planted, work began on erecting a 7-foot deer fence around the property. While deer can jump 7’ when panicked, they will usually go around a tall object. It took several weeks to place all the poles, stretch and attach the netting and then secure the base of the netting to the ground with steel hooks. The deer do tear holes in the fence with their hooves and find a way into the vineyard, but the tear is easily repaired. In 2014, Dan reconstructed the old electric fence that surrounds the property and electrified it. We’ve had zero deer damage since. The dual fence worked great.
During the summer months, the cordon wire and supporting canopy catch wires were installed. There are a total of 8 wires running each row; 1 to hold the irrigation tubing, 1 for the cordons, and 6 catch wires (3 sets). Nearly 1.4 million feet of wire is strung in the vineyard.
In 2010, work began on building the large 9 million-gallon pond along the creek. The Army Corps of Engineers had to give approval as well as the NC Dept. of Natural Resources. To conserve and preserve the bottomland, we excavated the lake to a depth of 34 feet. There is a small 4-foot wide safety ledge along the shore and then it is straight down. The water is extremely cold.
The irrigation system installed in the vineyard is suspended on a wire 12” off the ground. This is a drip irrigation system controlled by a digital processor allowing us great flexibility in defining zones. We have impounded sufficient water to allow for a full drought season of irrigation. As a backup to the lake should its level drop in a drought is a 700 ft deep well that is connected to the irrigation filters.
The winery building was constructed in 2012 on the hillside overlooking the vineyard. It is a practical structure providing a large winemaking facility as well as a retail store or tasting room. The building was built in very short order, breaking ground in late February and available for our first crush in August. In 2012, we harvested nearly 118 tons of beautiful fruit from the vineyard. Our first vintage received over 100 major awards, and as of now, our wines have received over 300 international, national and regional awards. Our grand opening in May of 2014, was attended by over 700 people, and was a beautiful spring day filled with excitement, music, food and games.