Continuing westward, we headed over to Owl’s Eye Vineyard in Shelby for our fourth and final stop of the day.
We started our day at small wineries and didn’t even see our first grape vine until Baker Buffalo Creek, so it felt appropriate end our day by pulling into Owl’s Eye and driving slowly down the gravel entrance toward their tasting room, passing row after row of grape vines, some with strategically-placed plastic owls to keep away birds and other scavengers. With the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the distance, the view was stunning.
The vineyard has over 10 acres of grapes, and after a short walk up a winding path to the tasting room, you quickly have a grand view of the landscape. The giant, wooden tasting room is perched in the center of the property and is surrounded by the grape vines.
What is a grand view though, without an opportunity to appreciate it? The owners must have had the same question in mind, because positioned just outside the wine room is an expansive paved porch facing the mountains. Complete with well-kept plants, a few tables with umbrellas, tiki torches, and even a fire pit, it makes for an inviting place to sit, relax, and enjoy the view. I had to laugh to myself, thinking about the sign leading us to the “tasting room,” which now seemed to be a bit of an understatement for the newly-built building, slightly reminiscent of a huge 19th-century barn.
As we pulled open the door and stepped inside, the room was practically empty with the exception of one other couple finishing up their tasting purchase.
Although we were one of the few visitors at the time, the room was clearly designed for large events and tours of the facilities. In addition to the tables, which were outfitted with red, white, and blue balloons and other Fourth of July table decorations, a large American flag banner hung over the stage on the far end of the room, and around the corner, we caught a glimpse of stacks of well-displayed barrels — both oak and stainless steel.
My first impression of the vineyard was that it is slightly commercialized, but the more I reflect on Owl’s Eye, the more potential I see in it, and the more I realize the distinguishing feature between Owl’s Eye and the other wineries from earlier in the day: Owl’s Eye wants visitors to have the full experience. Theirs is the attraction of a larger venue beyond the wine tasting – the appeal of the weddings, the work functions, the family reunions and Friday night bands, or even just the Fourth of July celebrations. In fact, I almost regret spending so little time there — just enough time for the tasting and a brief wedding venue tour (my wine tasting companion for the day, my roommate, made the inquiry about weddings at Owl’s Eye on behalf of her recently-engaged sister).
We sampled a mix of French and American grapes, complete with the Chambourcin and Traminette varietals. In addition to the Traminette, the Niagara was also a unique grape to try. While the Niagara grape is supposed to be one of the more common grapes to the U.S., it is apparently very rarely found outside of the Northern regions, like New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Washington. It reminded me of a Reisling with its intense, aromatic floral characteristics for which it’s known. The Traminette we sampled; a white wine with extremely intense floral and sweet aromas. Contrary to the sweetness of the nose, the Traminette reminded me of another German grape, the Gewuerztraminer, with the crisp hints of green apples and a dry finish. I wasn’t extremely enthusiastic about the Niagara, but if we had more time to relax, I’d certainly have purchased a glass of the Traminette to enjoy on the porch outside.
- Owl’s Eye South Mountain Scarlet – a dry red blend of Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc produced from the grapes during the ’07 drought ($12)
Other Tasting Notables:
- Owl’s Eye Traminette – similar to its parent grape, the Gewuerztraminer, the wine has an aroma of green apples, hints of grapefruit, and a smooth dry finish
- Owl’s Eye Tweyelight – A dry red, smooth blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Chambourcin – a “Nuvo” style wine that is fresh and fruity with a velvety finish