Grapes in Brushy Mountain Region
Wine growers in North Carolina were the first to cultivate the Scuppernong, a Native American grape variety. You can still find examples of the sweet wine produced by the Scuppernong in North Carolina, though the majority is now made from Vitis vinifera grape varieties, with French hybrid and Vitis labrusca varieties also remain common.
North Carolina has a varied climate so a diverse range of grape varieties can be grown. These include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carlos, Cayuga, Chancellor, Chardonel, Chardonnay, Concord, De Chaunac, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Muscadine, Muscat Canelli, Nebbiolo, Noble, Norton, Petit Verdot, Pinot gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Scuppernong, Seyval blanc, St. Vincent, Tempranillo, Traminette, Vidal blanc, Vignoles, Viognier
The Scuppernong Grape
North Carolina is home to the first native cultivated wine grape, the Scuppernong. The Scuppernong grape is a variety of the muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia, and was first discovered in 1584 on Roanoke Island by men who had landed onshore as part of the expeditions led by Sir Walter Raleigh. Muscadine grapes were commonly referred to as Bullace when they were first discovered by the European settlers, who would mistake them for a wild plum or bullace. This is understandable as some Muscadine grapes can reach the size of a golf ball.
Today, North Carolina is considered The Muscadine State, since it is home to the “Mother Vine” which is the Scuppernong variety of Muscadine.
More About Brushy Mountain Region
In the north-west of North Carolina lies the Brushy Mountain range, separated from the larger Blue Ridge Mountains by the Yadkin River valley. The mountain range is 8 miles wide at its broadest point and 4 miles wide at its narrowest. The mountain range stretches from east to west for 72 kilometres (45 miles), crossing five counties in North Carolina: Caldwell, Alexander, Wilkes, Iredell, and Yadkin. The mountains start at Hibriten Mountain in Caldwell County and end in Pilot Mountain and the Sauratown Mountains in Stokes County.
The Brushy Mountains contains a microsite for the protection of the bog turtle and the plant known as Torrey’s mountain-mint. This is only a single percentage of the entire land, with the Brushy Mountains containing thousands of acres of productive and scenic working farmlands, particularly apple orchards. This is possible because of thermal inversion which creates an increase in temperature with height, providing a unique climate that can be anything from 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer at night than nearby lower elevations.
The Brushy Mountain landowners have been on the land for several generations and the area is inviting to newcomers who want to enjoy the natural beauty and cultural heritage in the area.
The Brushy Mountains divide the waters of two of central North Carolina’s largest rivers, the Yadkin River and the Catawba River, along most of their courses.
The highest point in the chain is Pores Knob in Wilkes County which is 817 metres (2,680 feet). Other peaks in the range include Hibriten Mountain in Caldwell County and a prominent landmark in the city of Lenoir; Hickory Knob, the highest point in Alexander County and Fox Mountain, the highest point in Iredell County. The “Brushies”, as they are called by locals rise up to 240 metres (800 feet) above the surrounding countryside.
Severe weather is not common, but does occur with severe thunderstorms, hail and strong winds that can down trees and power lines. A fault runs through the Brushy Mountains, and mild earth tremors are not uncommon. On August 31, 1861 an earthquake estimated at 5.0 on the Richter magnitude scale hit the southern part of the county and caused minor damage.
Brushy Mountain apple festival
Every October the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival in North Wilkesboro celebrates the years harvest. Supported by more than 100 local organisations and attended by more than 160,000 it is one of the biggest events in the local calendar. Brushy Mountain Limbertwig is the heirloom variety of apple for the area.
With so much fruit, the region became famous for its production of illegal home-made liquor, or ‘moonshine’. Wilkes County was named the “Moonshine Capital of the World” from the 1920s to the 1950s. The delivery of moonshine across large distances which involved drivers needing to outrun police in car chases is given as a reason why the county became one of the birthplaces of the sport of stock-car racing.