ADDISON FARMS VINEYARD
Jeff Frisbee remembers the fried chicken and mashed potatoes his grandmother used to make in an old farmhouse on the family property in Leicester. He lives there now, with his wife Dianne, a motion graphics artist. They opened a winery up the hill in part to keep the land in agriculture and in the family.
“I didn’t want the place to become a subdivision,” Frisbee said. “We’re seeing way too many small family farms disappearing.” Farm families that sold tobacco to put their children through college still have good, fertile land to use. Frisbee has lots of it, as well as a family willing to pitch in and help with the winery.
Together they tend about 3,000 vines on four and a half acres at an elevation of about 2,300 feet, harvesting the fruit in the fall to crush and bottle in the winery beside the vines. They built a tasting room on one end of the property–a beautiful, lodge-like building with a gracious front porch. Addison Farms’ 2012 Orion (a chenin blanc) and its 2011 Coming Home (cabernet sauvignon) are the first wines to be pressed entirely from its own grapes. Other wines available for purchase at the tasting room are Gwinn (a blend of chardonnay and traminette grapes), the Smokehouse red (chambourchin and sangiovese grapes) and a red dessert wine Gratitude (chambourchin grapes).
After having fallen in love with the wines they encountered while traveling in Italy and France, the Frisbees decided to use the family land for a winery in 2008 after Jeff, an electrical engineer working in telecommunications, was laid off. He attended the viticulture school at Surry Community College and planted the vines with some two dozen volunteers from the school. Jeff and Dianne, high school sweethearts, did their first crush in 2010 from fruit they bought from other vineyards.
“Like anything in farming, running a winery is a lot of work,” he said. “We’re hoping to be cash-flow positive this year, but I’m not sure we’re going to hit that goal. But we get to meet people in the tasting room from all over.”
Addison Farms doesn’t have plans to get much bigger. Jeff and Dianne like working the farm with people close to them. “We’d like to keep this a family affair,” Dianne said. “This whole thing is a family affair,” her husband added.
If there’s one thing Henderson County has, it’s lots of apples. The biggest apple-producing county in one of the top apple-producing states, Henderson County’s crop ends up as produce, juice, sauce–and now, hard cider. Noble Hard Cider, which presses its apples near Asheville Regional Airport, was the first of three hard cideries built or planned in the region. All of its apples come from within 100 miles of the cidery.
“We already have a large craft beer scene, so a lot of people are interested in trying new tastes and flavors,” said Joanna Baker at Noble Cider. A cool, dry cider is refreshing and not as filling as some of the beers made in the area. Like a light sparkling wine, cider pairs well with spicy food and cheese. And it’s a killer with barbecue, cutting through the richness to awaken the palate between bites.
The Bakers and partner Lief Stevens started the business with not very much money. They put in and raised about $20,000 from their families, and then they got a $40,000 Advantage Opportunity Fund loan from AdvantageWest, the state economic development group for the Western North Carolina area. Last summer Trevor went to cider school in Washington state.
The partners lined up their first apples last fall. They pressed 2,000 gallons by hand, but they’ll find another means for extracting up to 15,000 gallons this season. “What took us six weeks last year will probably take a day this year,” Trevor said.
Distributed only in kegs, Noble Cider has to bring the uninitiated to the product, the Bakers said. “It’s very similar to when craft brewing came into this market years ago when people used to drink light beer,” Joanna said. “We make a drier cider that appeals to the wine drinker. And Generation Y, they’re more adventurous and willing to try something new.”
“I think you’ll see more hard cider on the market,” Trevor said. “It’s the next wave of craft beverage. Craft alcohol in general, it’s blowing up all over the country. I think everyone was surprised that making hard cider here hadn’t happened yet on a commercial scale. There are a lot of craft beer drinkers who want to branch out into other products.”
Noble Cider is working with state agricultural extension agents to see how well vintage varieties will grow in Henderson County (Thomas Jefferson was well known for the hard cider he made at Monticello, Virginia). Noble Cider doesn’t have a tasting room (there may be one in the future), but people are welcome to come by to visit, Trevor said. He came up with the company’s name after leafing through “Wild Apples,” a book by Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau called the apple a noble fruit. “The name stuck with me,” Trevor said. “It’s a good, solid name that goes with our tagline–true to the core.”
For a full listing of local Western North Carolina makers of local libations–all breweries, cideries, distilleries, and vineyards–complete with links and where to find them, visit our Local Libations page.