FAMOUS FRUITS: THE ROOTS OF TRYON’S GRAPE INDUSTRY REACH BACK TO THE LATE 1800s
“From Washington to Miami the cry is the same: Give me Tryon grapes.” So claimed prominent Tryon vineyardist W.T. Lindsey, writing in the Polk County News in 1919. Lindsey was hardly exaggerating. From the 1890s until the lead-up to World War II, grapes grown in the Tryon area were prized by consumers and winemakers across the East.
Considering vineyardists were starting from scratch in the wake of the Civil War, the grape’s triumph during this period was no small feat. The popularity of the fruit grown in Tryon was largely achieved through the labors of growers such as Lindsey, but a unique combination of geography and climate (factors known to winemakers as terroir) helped set the stage for success. The area’s soils “are poor, deep, and rocky, and those are the best soils for wine grapes,” explains winemaker Frank Lilly of modern-day Overmountain Vineyards. Even more significant is the effect of a thermal belt, stretching across the region at an elevation of about 1,200 feet. The air in this swath remains relatively warm, making grape-killing frosts uncommon.