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Your Grandfather's Wine

Article Published: May. 19, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Your Grandfather's Wine

Steve and Sally Tatum prune the vines at Grandfather Vineyard & Winery.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

In 2001, Steve, Sally and Dylan Tatum planted grapevines in their Foscoe backyard.

"If you grow your own grapes, you're supposed to make your own wine," Steve Tatum said.
It doesn't only make sense; it makes outstanding wine.

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery is the Tatums' labor of love, and it has the distinction of being the only winery located within Watauga County limits.

Freshly opened May 19, it's also the newest winery in the High Country.

Though the winery is new, the Tatums' methods are tried and true, and a goal of 2,000 plants no longer seems very lofty. Dylan Tatum studied viticulture and enology at Surry Community College, working in its vineyard, while Steve conducted extensive research on high-elevation viticulture.

He spoke with fellow growers, checked growing degrees and sunshine levels in relation to those in European growing regions, and then considered the thousands of possible grape varieties.
"We picked 13 and can now start narrowing them down," Steve said.

"The idea is to have a few varieties that consistently do well," Dylan said.

That includes a Vidal Blanc ice wine, in which the grapes freeze on the vines - at a minimum of 16 degrees Fahrenheit - and the water content is frozen solid. "So, when you squeeze it, you get the sweet essence of that grape," Steve said.

The result is a sweet wine, ideal for dessert, with flavors both unique and subtle. But there's nothing subtle about the additional 250 Vidal Blanc plants the Tatums just planted. "And you can't make it into ice wine anywhere else," Sally Tatum said.

That's not the only factor that makes Grandfather Vineyard & Winery a special place.

Grandfather Vineyard, named such for its breathtaking view of the Grandfather Mountain profile, features the aptly named and forthcoming Profile Red, a meticulous blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, pinot noir, landot noir, St. Croix, Chambourcin, Frontenac and Foch.

The Terraced Gold, a blend of chardonnay and pinot gris, is Sally's personal favorite, featuring "tendencies of both grapes." "It's a light wine that's good on a summer day," Steve said.

Other varieties include the Big Boulder Red and Rosť of Pinot Noir, with a variety called Symphony on the way.

"Because of the many varieties we have, we can come up with so many different flavors," Steve said. "We've been having fun experimenting."

Visitors can experiment for themselves at Grandfather Vineyard & Winery's tasting room. Tasting flights cost $5 and include a keepsake glass.

Owners of the nearby Tatum Galleries, the Tatums were able to outfit the winery with one-of-a-kind furniture and accessories that complement the theme, as well as the 17-foot bar counter, made from a slab of white oak, from Bark Home Design in Spruce Pine.

"We thought white oak would be perfect, since you use it to age your wine in," Steve said.

As their operation grows, the Tatums plan to expand the winery's offerings to include cheese and foods appropriate for pairings, while opening the grounds for events and functions.

"It's a really beautiful setting for things like that," Sally said. "It's a nice place to sit out, look at Grandfather Mountain and drink some wine."

And it's a scenic and simple drive to get there. Grandfather Vineyard & Winery is located on Vineyard Lane, just off N.C. 105 in Foscoe and past Sleepy Hollow. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call (828) 963-2400, visit or e-mail (

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