Our winter’s focus on interior spaces has given our living room a fresh, inviting look and the increasing warmth and sunlight pulls our attention to the avid green growth on tips of twigs and in the garden. Hmmm, we saw that after the 20 inch snowfall covered other vegetation, the deer had a field day munching on the edges of our cypress trees around our pergola. However, the eager growth of warming days seems to be overcoming this setback! We survey the grounds to see what is blooming and what needs to be thinned or moved to more prosperous spots. The hollies we planted last spring have grown a foot since last year, and the four hydrangeas we transplanted from our home in Charlotte are thriving. One hydrangea given to us by a neighbor was severely damaged by roofers in the fall, but we are delighted to see that it is recovering in step with the rising temperature.
Every step outside the door shows me new evidence of spring renewal. Vinca enthusiastically covers new ground with shiny green leaves and gently swirled periwinkle petals. The flower boxes are showing hints of the perennials we planted last year, and I made space with my trowel for the bold pink tulip left by one of our TSOP guests. Kylie noticed the pink on our TSOP logo and on our signature RND candles and left us this thank you for her recent stay. I planted the tulip in the flower box in hopes that next spring Kylie’s tulip will bloom for her next visit.
After planning, digging, and planting in our terraced hillside garden, we opened the windows and drove up the mountain to breathe the crisp air of the High Country Wine Region and taste its fruits.
Wandering a baker’s dozen of miles to Deer Run Lane, we came to Banner Elk Winery, eager to tour their Tuscan-inspired Villa, vineyards, and blueberry orchard. As we ambled past the unfurling vines and budding blueberry bushes, the mountains stacked about on all sides drew our eyes to their grandeur and lifted our hopes toward a season of growth. Bocci ball, hikes, and a fire pit invites visitors to relax and rejuvenate. Our senses filled and soothed, we capped our visit with a glass of delicious Blueberry Ice wine paired with a cheese and nut tray. A taste of their robust Cabernet Sauvignon and velvety Marechal Foch Reserve is penciled in for our next excursion up the mountain!
A welcome respite from renovation decisions and fingers steeped in garden dirt, Grandfather Vineyard is one of my favorite refreshment jaunts, just 5 minutes from This Side of Paris. I love to linger over a glass of their 58° Fusion wine on the veranda overlooking the Watauga River. This wine is named after the 58 degree slope of the vineyard on the southwest face of Grandfather Mountain, and is a complex blend of red wines that soothes and satisfies. Families and dogs are welcome to come with picnic baskets. When the river is low, children can often be seen laughing and throwing pebbles into the water. This inviting place and their variety of tasting packages makes us glad again and again to be near neighbors.
In our adventures through the western mountains we look forward to visiting more mountain vineyards, wineries, and event venues. Linville Falls Winery in Newland, NC is run by Jack Wiseman who returned to North Carolina after spending his post-Korean War years in Napa Valley wine country. He bought a former dairy farm near Linville Falls and built a Christmas tree business, which provided the capital to fulfill his vineyard dreams. He and his grandchildren now run this vineyard, winery and event venue, featuring a full schedule of live music events beginning in late April. They offer both dry and semi-dry wines as well as some dessert wines, and their Friday tasting events are known to be crowded by a variety of enthusiasts.
Villa Nove Vineyards and Watauga Lake Winery are neighboring vineyards just over two miles apart near Butler, Tennessee. Villa Nove is a farm winery producing all six of its estate wines from its own vineyards. They are open from May through October with regular Sangria Saturdays featuring wood-fired pizza, and Sunday picnics in the vineyards with deli baskets available to enjoy with their wines.
Watauga Lake Winery produces a variety of award-winning wines and also hosts regular weekend events, often partnering with Villa Nove. Watauga’s dry reds include Copperhead Hollow, a cozy blend of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Chancellor grapes. Two more popular dry reds are Big Dry Run, a bold fruity blend, and Doe Mountain Reserve, with a complex current, blackberry, and peppery profile born of late-harvest Norton grapes. Watauga also produces dry whites, blushes, and dessert wines. There is so much to look forward to in the coming months!
Respectfully, our Airbnb Plus listing invites travelers to “Go on a Wine Tour” at This Side of Paris. Our picnic basket is waiting to be carried on a stroll to one of the many beautiful vineyards around this side of the mountains. We encourage our travelers to take part of the High Country Wine Trail and follow the map for a fun day of exploring the many vineyards around TSOP.
The farms around TSOP are known to deliver fresh homegrown produce to local restaurants in the area. These farms are associated with CSA so you get to know the farmers, their land, and their crops. There is this side of me that longs to be an expert organic, green thumb guru tilling the raised beds expecting a harvest. I know it is not as easy as it looks, especially at This Side of Paris where the climate does not allow for a long growing season. Growing up in the South in early spring, I remember my dad, would till the ground in preparation for the vegetable garden. He knew exactly what he wanted to plant. My siblings and I, on the other hand knew what would become of it — a playground for us to meander through the tunnel of green beans and bitter cucumbers. The “Big Boy” tomatoes were often picked before they could show off their size as part of the produce market game my brother and sister enjoyed playing.
We know we plan to enjoy cooking locally grown produce brought to us by our local farmers in the area. Much of their produce is sourced by local restaurants. However, if we decide to take a break from our ground work, we love supporting our local restaurants that source through local farmers.
Against the Grain is a certified biodynamic and organic produce grower not far from TSOP. Their modern approach to farming is helping their company expand their business to meet the demands for cleaner food consumption. They partner with one of our favorite restaurants in town. F.A.R.M cafe is a non-profit restaurant on W. King Street. It has a unique concept of dishing out high quality and delicious meals for lunch regardless of means. They stand by their motto, “pay what you can” and get a quality meal that is farm to table from local farmers in town. North Fork Farms is another small family farm serving pasture-raised high quality meat products without added hormones or antibiotics. They are a known meat provider to several local restaurants in the area such as Proper Restaurant— Boone’s local proper southern diner with all the fixins’.
For now, we are busy cultivating the flower beds for a bountiful perennial showcase of colors come middle of June. Finding the right plants to grow is half the battle. Thankfully, the soil at TSOP is extraordinary rich. We are borrowing gardening concepts from Paul Gautschi, founder of Back to Eden Gardening. The earth’s natural process of mulching the ground leaves for a very dark soil, rich in nutrients. This black gold makes the variety of ferns, hostas, wild irises, wild lilies, roses, and hydrangeas on the property to thrive. The property is a natural nursery for Cinnamon ferns, Ostrich ferns, Royal ferns, and Licorice ferns. Finding these all around the property, we have gathered enough variety for replanting in our redesigned garden beds. Along with the flowering plants, the variety of hostas, and the “Endless Bloom” hydrangeas propagated from our original plant back home will bring in the splash of colors and a source of flower cuttings all summer long.
We have also added large colorful terra-cotta pots around the gardens for added interest and an all year round pop of color. Most of what have planted at TSOP are perennials. With the warmer temperatures lately, I get excited to see little buds starting to pop up from the ground - weeds included. I discovered that pure vinegar works just as well to weeds as Roundup without the harsh chemicals, plus it is a fraction of the cost.
1. Terracotta pots in blue and white 2. David bust planter 3. Gardening stool 4. All in one bulb planter 5. All weather boots 6. Toile rain boots.
Our House of Fashion board has my best pick for garden essentials. Blue and white remains a forever classic color scheme for both indoor and outdoor decor. You must really see the colorful pots and gardens at TSOP. Our Airbnb, “Go on a Wine Tour at This Side of Paris” listing gets plenty of views, so don’t waste “thyme” but plan to come see us on the mountain side.