It’s safe to say that North Carolina knows good beer. We host the largest number of craft breweries in the South, and while our state is also well-known for its beautiful wine country throughout the Yadkin Valley, we have a long way to go before the wine it produces can rival the landscape itself.
Thankfully, Elizabeth Ann Dover and Dover Vineyards are working to, in her words, “make North Carolina wine cool” in the shadow of the terribly ubiquitous muscadine grape. “North Carolina wine has a huge image problem,” says Dover. “It’s easy to grow grapes in this climate, and so a lot of people are making wine without knowing how. This results in a lot of faulty varieties, including those with yeast, bacteria and chemical issues.”
After watching a PBS special about winemaking her senior year at Davidson College, Dover knew it was the answer for the 36 acres of land in Concord that has belonged to her family since the early 1900s, and was excited about the opportunity to grow a business in the small town that raised her. Since 2007, she’s studied Viticulture and Enology in New Zealand with Lincoln University, and now spends her days building a vineyard alongside her diverse team of employees, ranging in age from 18 to 75.
The Vineyard currently features four acres of grapes, including Chambourcin and Villard Blanc, and is hosting a crowdfunding campaign to plant an additional three acres of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot in April, both varieties that will not only create new wines, but help enhance the existing recipes Dover has crafted.
Dover also established The Farm at Dover Vineyards, and herbs, vegetables, greens, chickens, and baby goats grow alongside the grapes off Highway 29 N in Concord. Dover is passionate about sustainable agriculture and connecting people to local food sources, and loves helping people learn to appreciate the food that fuels them.
The Farm runs a large CSA, works with First Presbyterian Church to provide greens for Concord’s largest food pantry through the Gracious Greens program, sources produce for restaurants including CustomShop, Heirloom and Bonterra, and is found at weekly farmers markets across the Queen City (Davidson, Plaza Midwood and NoDa among them) selling everything from fresh eggs, to fennel to collards.
Also available at farmers markets this spring is the Vineyard’s sixth official release: a light, crisp Villard Blanc with hints of apple, lemon, honey and vanilla. “I love the creativity that is involved in this process,” Dover says. “Starting with sticks and ending up with this delicious product that brings people together has made the patience that it takes to tend a vine completely worth it.”
Expect 1,400 bottles of this light, summery wine on sale across the area, including Common Market, Earl’s Grocery and Assorted Table. It’s time to sample this local alternative to craft beer and revisit quality North Carolina wine.
Photos: Chelsea Cote, Dover Vineyards