If someone offers me a glass of grüner veltliner, I am almost certain to accept. I did not expect to find that intriguing Austrian grape when visiting Marked Tree Vineyard in Flat Rock, North Carolina, but there it was. I was given their 2018 vintage; putting my nose in the glass led me to anticipate tasting something floral or even musky – which I wasn’t against – but in a delightful twist, the wine delivered all the acidic brightness I’ve come to know and love from that particular grape. I took a bottle home and began to understand that Marked Tree, much like their grüner veltliner, is full of surprises.
Marked Tree Vineyard is new on the scene in Henderson County, North Carolina’s burgeoning wine region, which was federally distinguished as an American Viticultural Area, or AVA, in 2019. Appropriately named the “Crest of the Blue Ridge,” Henderson County’s AVA was earned in recognition of the area’s distinctive microclimate, which provides optimal conditions for vine-growing thanks to its elevation in the lower Blue Ridge Mountains. Warm by day and cool by night, vines—and their winemakers—seem to be falling in love with Henderson County.
Winemaking is both a science and an art, a partnership between owner and land, winemaker and vine.
The vineyard sits on Cherokee land and was named after routing systems used by native and indigenous peoples in forests across the United States. Tribes bent and coaxed young saplings to point towards critical resources in the wilderness, forming landmarks that would guide others on the trail. Though they’re disappearing, old marker trees can still be found around the country, and nodding to that tradition, owners Tim Parks and Lance Hiatt hope Marked Tree will invite visitors to pause and reflect on their own life’s journey over a glass of wine.
In a region with a quickly-growing reputation, Marked Tree sets itself apart by selecting varietals that can flourish in very specific ways on their terrain. Their vineyards stand on sloped land that encourages water runoff on rainy days, yet still offers enough sun and rocky soil for vines to thrive. On the menu beside grüner veltliner, you’ll find terroir-driven varietals like petit verdot, cab franc, and vidal blanc, along with must-try blends.
Summer’s gearing up, and lucky for us, Marked Tree spent the past few years crafting the perfect rosé for hot, southern summer days. Sweet Ellie Mae Rosé, named after one of the owner’s canine companions, is—as its name hints—just pleasantly sweet enough to cool you down. While you’re trying summer wines, be sure to sample their Chloe Rosé as well, a drier blend that won Best Rosé for its 2020 vintage in this year’s North Carolina Fine Wines Competition. If, like me, you often lean toward dry whites and lighter reds, you might enjoy starting with Marked Tree’s chardonel, which won a silver medal in the same competition for its 2019 vintage. The wine gives a definitive nod to one of its parent grapes, chardonnay, while standing elegantly on its own.
Winemaking is both a science and an art, a partnership between owner and land, winemaker and vine. Marked Tree seems to respect that symbiosis, creating wine that has meaningful stories to tell. From the way harvests offered hope during a pandemic year to the ghost house whose chimney still stands by the tasting room, the stories told by this fledgling winery feel as old as time.
Marked Tree Vineyard, 623 Deep Gap Rd, Flat Rock, North Carolina. (828) 513-3773, markedtreevineyard.com