Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards
The winery and tasting room on Chestnut Gap Road includes a walnut bar, indoor seating and an outdoor patio only a few steps from Ward's five acres of grape vines. Besides that vineyard, at 2,300 feet, Ward and another grower, cultivate another 10 acres of grapes at 3,000-foot Point Lookout on the crest of the Blue Ridge in Edneyville. The elevation, lower humidity and early morning drying of the grapes on the mountain slopes makes for a better growing season than many vineyards in the more established Yadkin Valley region of North Carolina.
"Our climate and soils are very similar to the European growing areas," Ward says. "Ninety-five percent of the grapes we grow are French vinifera and German and Austria variations."
Ward is a modern-day pioneer of winemaking in Henderson County. "We carefully selected our growing locations and with a lot of work, investment, trial and error and some good luck, we were able to produce some of the top fruit in the region," Ward said. By top fruit, he means grapes that have high Brix (a measure of sugar level), tannins and acidity to produce top-quality red and white wine.
“We're very passionate, about our farming and winemaking, and everything from his Antonio Carraro tractor to his Geneva Double Curtain trellis growing system has been considered carefully. “We're trying to establish quality viticulture in this region.” To that end he employs a full-time winemaker, Charlie Kidd, a California Polytechnic University graduate, from California's Sonoma County.
The Chestnut Gap winery is next to the house where Ward grew up, and across the road from his grandfather's farm, where Ward worked as a kid. A portfolio manager with an MBA from Clemson, Ward says that farming is his love. Nighttime can find him aboard a tractor mowing between the rows of grapes, and weekends he usually is working to get the tasting room ready or checking on the grapes, which are harvested around the same time as apples.
"We're not Chateau Ward," he says. "We're Saint Paul Mountain Farm, St. Paul Mountain Vineyards. I go back to some of the old apple farmers that truly were innovators that came here right after the Depression with no money and really did well for their families, they were able to provide and really create substantial wealth. Creating wealth is not my goal. My goal is to create the environment where my family can participate in farming, which is the most rewarding experience in my life."
Tasting Room Hours
Monday through Thursday: 11am - 6pm
Friday through Saturday: 11am - 7pm
Sunday: 12pm - 6pm