Food & Beverage

Festive Spirits of the Season…from the Vine and Orchard to You

By Steve York

Winter is back, and so are those tasty High Country seasonal wines. Specialty blends, classic fruit favorites, and of course those extra celebratory fortified wines and ciders are on tap, artfully labeled and ready to light up seasonal gifting and joyful gatherings.

From Watauga Lake Winery in nearby Tennessee, to Grandfather Mountain Vineyard & Winery in Foscoe, NC, to Banner Elk Winery and Villa just outside Banner Elk, all the way down highway 221 to Linville Falls Winery & Christmas Tree Farm, our High Country A.V.A. (American Viticultural Area) wineries have become the home of preferred wines and the cheerful destinations for seasonal visitors. So, let’s hit the High Country Wine Trail and check out what’s awaiting wine lovers this year…

Starting first at historic Watauga Lake Winery & pastoral Villa Nove Vineyards in equally historic Butler, Tennessee, Linda and Wayne Gay are recommending their Beary Apple, a fortified dessert wine with bright notes of vanilla cream and ripe apple character. Also there’s Beary Black, a port-style with bold flavors and aromas of chocolate, plum and ripe blackberries. Finally, they suggest their Duncan Hollow, another port-style wine with bold fig, chocolate and cinnamon flavors. All have a little extra “kick” to warm up your winter.

Back on Watauga County turf, Nicole Tatum of Grandfather Vineyard & Winery is boasting about their raspberry cider, a dry and sweet, lightly carbonated treat full of apples and raspberries. Next on the list is the Chardonel, a semi-sweet hybrid Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grape wine with vanilla, banana flambe’, yellow apples, honeysuckle and cream soda. Another fun choice is their Sparkling River White crafted from locally grown Vidal Blanc grapes with pineapple, honeydew melon and mango—the first of their carbonated sweet wines. And, lastly comes their classic Black & Blue. A blend of Appalachian blueberries and blackberries makes this sweet, ruby red wine a perfect pairing with charcuterie boards and buttery desserts.

Up the road in Avery County is Banner Elk Winery and Villa, on Deer Run off Hwy 194 just outside of downtown Banner Elk. General Manager Pattie Greene started off her list with their Banner Elk White Reserve. It’s a semi-dry made from Columbard and Seyval Blanc grapes creating a mellow blend of fragrances courtesy of its sweet pear and golden apple highlights. Her next selection is their High Country Rosé. It’s an estate-grown semi-dry rosé blending red Steuben and golden Muscat grapes with notes of fresh strawberry, peach and white cranberry; it makes a great pairing with your seasonal turkey meal. For a bold twist, it’s their rare and decadent French-American hybrid Marechal Foch. This unusual grape is the result of successfully grafted currents and red berries onto a grape vine to produce a red wine of intense flavor and deep color. And then there’s Petit Syrah, a big-bodied, dry red wine that boasts of plum, blackberry, currant and black cherry that is aged for 10 months on French oak to give it a full, smooth flavor with excellent depth.

Now head down Hwy 221 south to Tuscan-style Linville Falls Winery and Choose & Cut Christmas Tree Farm. Three generations of the Jack Wiseman Family have been growing grapes, making wine and hosting winery visitors since opening its doors in 2012. And they’re continuously adding new wines to their bounty. An always seasonal favorite is their special, authentic Cherry Bounce with the added taste of cinnamon and fortified with apple brandy. Speaking of brandy, their Brandy Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon is a hearty, dry red with notes of tobacco, oak and vanilla, aged in French oak barrels for two years and an additional six months in American brandy barrels. Their Red Barn Blend (named after the historic red barn below the winery) is a dry red with rustic notes of tart cherry and spice. And brand new to their Club Members’ offerings is Wiseman’s View, an authentic Appalachian High Country dessert style Noiret, complete with a backstory of the breathtaking Wiseman’s View overlook facing picturesque Table Rock and Linville Gorge.

Once again this season, our own High Country A.V.A. wineries have decked the halls with bottles bright just in time for winter festivities. Beginning with the surge of Christmas tree trekkers and running all through our snow-clad ski season, wine lovers from throughout the southeast and beyond look forward to spending time in these magical Blue Ridge Mountains and tasting the many award-winning varieties that our wineries feature.

Despite the disruptions to normal life and holiday gatherings that have come with recent health concerns, our wineries have been operating under current guidelines and continuing to offer on-site and online customers a rich selection of wines and festive ambiance. So, as you plan your seasonal outings and gifting, our area wineries are ready with warm hearts, warm hearths and a true spirit of wonder and joy. Season’s greetings to you from all High Country A.V.A. wineries.

From the CML Kitchen

By Meagan Murphy Goheen

Pizza Dough

Servings:  2 small pizzas or 1 large


4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups warm water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 TBSP of yeast or 1 packet

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt


  1. Add warm water to bowl with yeast and sugar. Let proof for five minutes. Continue if yeast turns foamy, or toss and start over with new yeast if it doesn’t.
  2. Add olive oil, salt, and flour. Combine in stand mixer with dough hook on low. If too sticky, add additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Or let the kiddos knead the dough for 7-10 minutes.
  3. Dough is ready is when it springs back a little when you poke it. Add dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel; put in a warm place for about an hour.
  4. After rising, remove from the bowl and divide into two equal size pieces. Use immediately for your favorite pizza recipe or try our butternut squash pizza recipe!

Butternut Squash Pizza

with a Roasted red pepper Chipotle sauce and Arugula salad

Servings 8


4 slices of bacon, diced

8 oz. shredded Gruyere cheese

Roasted butternut squash (see instructions)

Arugula Salad (see instructions)

For the Pizza base:

12 oz. jar roasted red peppers
2 TBSP Chipotle Peppers in adobe sauce

2 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 Vidalia onion, sliced thinly and caramelized

For the Roasted Butternut squash:

1 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ tsp of chili powder

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

1 TBSP Honey

Arugula Salad:

2-3 cups arugula

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

1 tsp Honey

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 oz. shaved parmesan cheese


  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a medium size bowl add cubed butternut squash, 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil,½ tsp of chili powder, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper, 1 TBSP Honey.  Toss butternut squash. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast until tender, 20-25 minutes, stirring the veggies halfway through. Remove and set aside. 
  3. In a medium sauté pan, crisp bacon, set aside.
  4. Drain all but 1 TBSP of bacon fat, add sliced onion and cook down on low until caramelized, add minced garlic until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  5. To your blender, add caramelized onion and garlic, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and roasted red peppers.
  6. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  7. Stretch your pizza dough into either 2 small pizzas or 1 large pizza. Add to preheated oven for about 5-8 minutes until very lightly browned.
  8. Add to a medium size bowl arugula, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, shaved parmesan, salt and pepper, then toss.


  1. Add red pepper chipotle sauce to pizza, then add Gruyere cheese, bacon and roasted butternut squash. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Top pizza with arugula salad and serve. Enjoy!

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