Chef & Winemaker Summit: Opening the Conversation in the Appalachia Experience from Field to Table

(Event not open to the public)

BOONE, N.C.—As a result of extensive research for her upcoming book, and given the world-class regional wines now being produced, an Appalachian State University professor posed the question: “Why aren’t more regional wines featured in the area’s top restaurants with menus devoted to regionally-sourced ingredients and regionally-inspired cuisine?”

The upcoming Chef & Winemaker Summit begins at noon Tuesday, March 21 at Over Yonder restaurant in Valle Crucis. The summit is the result of Dr. Jessica Blackburn’s collaboration with area chefs intended to further the discussion around creating a regional network based on Appalachian terroir-inspired menus from the glass to the plate.

The summit is the first event of its kind and has been designed to bring some of the region’s top and rising chefs and vintners to the same table. The summit will feature four of the region’s chefs who have taken an interest in featuring the best wines from Appalachia—Travis Milton of Shovel and Pick, Bristol, Virginia; Nate Allen of Knife and Fork, Spruce Pine; Andrew Long of Over Yonder and Ian Boden of The Shack, Staunton, VA—plus 11 of the vintners in the region, ranging from Maryland to Alabama.

Blackburn, associate professor in the Department of English and affiliate faculty in Appalachian Studies, has conducted over 70 site visits and interviews with chefs, craft food producers, vintners and restaurateurs for her research project culminating in her forthcoming book, “Appalachian Terroir: A Stylist Approach to New Landscapes.” In the course of her travels, Blackburn noticed a disconnect between the top chefs and restaurateurs in the region and the wineries. “Many of the chefs I interviewed,” said Blackburn, “admit there is a wine hierarchy that can make it difficult for restaurants to sell our region’s wines, but most also agree that this hierarchy is based on an outdated and inaccurate stereotype stemming from a lack of knowledge of the wines produced in our region.

“One of my chief observations from this project is the necessary relationship between our region's wineries and our region's top chefs – specifically chefs who use locally-sourced ingredients and who celebrate our region's food heritage. These are the chefs who appreciate our terroir enough to prioritize local ingredients and then pair the region's cuisine with our wines,” said Blackburn. “In other words, this project has led me to see that, as always, wine and food go together as a result of a shared terroir, and our regional cuisine and varietals are no exception. The timing of the growth in our region's winery/vineyard industry is perfectly poised alongside the farm-to-table movement.”

With such a strong commitment to the region’s diverse food heritage and future, the chefs participating in the summit share Blackburn’s interest in connecting the region’s award-winning food with its wines. Early in the collaboration, Milton told Blackburn, “Foodways are a part of Appalachia’s story, and if I can open a door to help someone else tell the story, that’s all I can ask for.”

From there, Milton and Blackburn discussed putting winemakers and chefs in the same room to start conversations on pairing the region’s food and top wines. After a few chefs asked her to introduce them to her favorite wines from her research, Blackburn made a few phone calls, and the result is the upcoming summit.

The 11 participating wine producers from American Viticultural Areas (AVA) extending from Maryland to Alabama are:

  • Blenheim Vineyards and Winery, Charlottesville, Virginia; Monticello AVA. Kirsty Harmon, winemaker.
  • King Family Vineyards, Crozet, Virginia; Monticello AVA. Matthieu Finot, winemaker.
  • James Charles Winery & Vineyard, Winchester, Virginia; Shenandoah Wine Trail. Justin Bogaty, winemaker.
  • Big Cork Vineyards, Rohrersville, Maryland; Antietam Highlands Wine Trail. Dave Collins, winemaker.
  • Jones von Drehle Vineyards & Winery, Thurmond; Yadkin Valley Wine Trail. Dan Tallman, winemaker.
  • McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, Thurmond; Yadkin Valley Wine Trail. Sean McRitchie, winemaker and cider maker.
  • Elkin Creek Vineyard, Elkin; Yadkin Valley. Louis Jeroslow, winemaker.
  • Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery, Dahlonega, Georgia; Dahlonega Wine Trail. Brandon Boegner, winemaker.
  • Ramulose Ridge Vineyards, Moneta, Virginia; Bedford Wine Trail. Sandi Ramaker, winemaker.
  • Banner Elk Winery, Banner Elk; Appalachian High Country AVA. Dr. David Craig, winemaker
  • Maraella Estate Vineyard and Winery, Hokes Bluff, Alabama; North Alabama Wine Trail. Justin Miller, winemaker. Founder and winemaker for featured cabernet was James Lee (1942- 2015).

About the Appalachian Studies program at Appalachian

Appalachian’s Master of Arts program in Appalachian Studies is an interdisciplinary program offering cross-cultural learning and applied career training through engaged research, internships, outreach and classroom-based programming. It is housed in the Center for Appalachian Studies, a regionally recognized hub of learning on the Appalachian region whose resources include the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection and the peer-reviewed Appalachian Journal.

About the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, three stand-alone programs, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities, social sciences, and the mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. Our values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of our students as global citizens. There are approximately 5,850 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.