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NC winery prices bottles $100 and up, aiming for premium market

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Dynamis Estate Wines

Merlot grapes in the vineyard at Dynamis Estate Wines at 1004 Highland Road in Jonesville.

Would you pay $100 for a bottle of North Carolina wine?

The owners of Dynamis Estate Wines think so. They are banking that customers will be able to taste the difference given to the wines by the soil and geography of their Brushy Mountains property and the extra care they take in the vineyard and the winery.

Dynamis opened its Jonesville tasting room on the winery’s sprawling, 1500-acre estate in June.

It’s less than a minute from Interstate 77.

But once you enter the property, you wind up and up a driveway for about 2 miles until you reach the heart of the vineyard and tasting room. “The tasting room is at the easternmost ridgeline of the Brushy Mountains,” said Jennie Hess, Dynamis’ director of estate hospitality. The elevation here is 1,640 feet.

The property was once primarily an orchard — and still has a few acres of apple and peach trees.

Grapes were planted there in 2015 and Dynamis was established in 2019, the year of its first vintage.

“Everything is grown, produced and bottled on the estate,” Hess said.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Matheson Worrell (from left), partner and wine maker, Katy Kidd, partner and wine maker, and Joseph Geller, partner and vineyard and orchard manager, display the barrel room at Dynamis Estate Wines.

Property owner Harry Crosby previously sold grapes to other wineries. But now he has formed a partnership to make Dynamis wines with winemakers Katy Kidd and Matheson Worrell and vineyard manager Joseph Geller.

The property has 30 acres of grape vines. “Our main grapes are French vinifera,” Worrell said. They are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot.

Pinot gris and traminette also are planted on the estate but are sold to other wineries and not used in Dynamis’ wines.

Dynamis currently makes five wines for sale: a sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon and two red blends. A rose made with malbec is set for release early next year. Worrell and Kidd also plan to make a sparkling wine from chardonnay in the next few years.

Dynamis Estate Wines

A vineyard flight includes one white and four red wines at the Dynamis Estate Wines Tasting Lodge.

The 2020 sauvignon blanc ($35) is made in a French style with malolactic fermentation and aging in concrete — which allows for some oxidation without imparting any oak flavors associated with barrel aging. The result is a clean wine without the zesty quality of a New World or New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

The 2019 merlot ($50) received stainless-steel fermentation and aging in a variety of containers, including new French oak. It has plum and herbal notes and only light tannins, bolstered by good acidity.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Katy Kidd, partner and wine maker at Dynamis Estate Wines, pours a glass of The Mountain for a vineyard flight at the Tasting Lodge.

The 2019 cabernet sauvignon ($100) was harvested late and fermented in oak vats. It’s also 100% free run — which essentially means the grapes were not pressed as with most wines. Free-run wines typically yield less, but produce softer wines that avoid the sometimes unwanted phenolic compounds that come from pressing grapes. Dynamis, thus, was able to produce a softer, more elegant cab with medium body, black fruit and cedar — and, like the merlot, good acidity.

The cab and merlot are made in a more French style. But the two red blends are more powerful wines, similar to what comes out of California.

The 2019 Alpha ($95) is a blend of cabernet, merlot and petit verdot. Unlike the cab and merlot varietals, this is more heavily extracted with deeper color, flavor and tannins. The grapes were fermented and aged in different ways to add complexity. The result is a wine with good concentration but medium tannins and moderate alcohol.

The other red blend is Dynamis’ most concentrated, most extracted and most like a wine from the Napa Valley.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Merlot grapes in the vineyard at Dynamis Estate Wines at 1004 Highland Road in Jonesville.

“The Alpha is more elegant, but the Mountain is more about power,” Worrell said. The Mountain ($125) is a cab and petit verdot blend that has a bit more cab but is almost 50-50. It is riper, more full-bodied, with slightly more alcohol at 14%.

Worrell confessed that they were realistically aiming this wine at fans of such powerful and highly regarded California red wines from Caymus Vineyards and Opus One. Still, the Mountain probably isn’t quite the “fruit bomb” people often encounter in Calilfornia wines.

“We’re shooting for balance in our wines across the board,” Kidd said, adding that they were all food friendly and generally moderate in alcohol.

Dynamis Estate Wines

A vineyard growing merlot grapes at Dynamis Estate Wines.

As to how Dynamis justifies its high prices — nearby Raffaldini charges $65 for its top wines after being in business 20 years — Worrell, Kidd and Geller said that its starts with the vineyard.

“Our cool thing is the geology of the mountain, and the rocky soil,” Geller said.

Whereas so many N.C. vineyards have to deal with clay soil, which is not conducive to growing grapes, Dynamis’ property has more rocky soil that allows good drainage and deep root development — desirable traits in any vineyard.

The higher elevation and mountain breezes help promote gradual ripening and tone down the humidity that can lead to diseases in grapes. As a result, they can pick the cabernet well into October at fairly high ripeness — say, 25 to 26 brix — which gives them a jump start on producing a quality wine.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Katy Kidd, partner and wine maker at Dynamis Estate Wines, pours a glass of Alpha, a red blend, for a vineyard flight at the Tasting Lodge.

“The vines are happy up here,” Geller said.

“We just see a big difference in the quality of the fruit here compared to fruit from lower elevations,” Worrell said.

The sloped property also gives the vines some protection from frost.

“We’re sorting the grapes in small, 40-pound lots, instead of half-ton bins,” Worrell said. “We’re looking at precision and quality over quantity. If it’s not in perfect condition, we’re just not going to make it.”

Worrell and Kidd also said that they use a lot of technology and advanced equipment in the winery to make the best wine they can. A large vertical press gives the winemakers more control over the extraction of juice from the grapes. An oscillating destemmer also helps them sort ripe from unripe fruit. They use barrels of varying size to control oak flavors and tannins. They also have temperature-controlled, concrete egg-shaped containers for fermentation and aging and oak vats for fermenting.

“We like to have as many options as we can for adding complexity,” Kidd said.

Dynamis made about 2,500 cases last year and may go up to 4,000 this year, but it plans to stay small.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Indoor seating is available at the Dynamis Estate Wines Tasting Lodge

Visits to the winery for tastings are by reservation only, Wednesdays through Saturdays. Tastings are $5 for a self-guiding tasting or $60 for a guided tasting. Prepared snacks from Barking Coyote Kitchen in Elkin are available for an extra fee.

Though some people may roll their eyes at paying $100 a bottle for a North Carolina — or any — wine, Worrell said that customers are paying.

And Dynamis’ wine club — which starts at more than $500 a year — is already up to 75 members.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Indoor seating is available at the Dynamis Estate Wines Tasting Lodge

Worrell said that Dynamis wines have done well in side-by-side tastings with coveted California wines, and Dynamis wants to show that North Carolina can be taken seriously in the wine world.

He said he and Kidd looked at RDV Vineyards in Virginia as an example of a premium winery on the East Coast.

“We looked at the quality of these wines and said we can make wines as good,” Worrell said.

“We buy the best equipment. We sort the best grapes. We take losses on our end. This is a high-tech winery, and we give a lot of attention to detail.

We think North Carolina needs to take itself a little more seriously.”

Dynamis Estate Wines

Katy Kidd, partner and wine maker at Dynamis Estate Wines, pours a glass of Alpha, a red blend, for a vineyard flight at the Tasting Lodge.

Dynamis Estate Wines

Merlot (foreground) and sauvignon blanc are part of the vineyard flight at Dynamis Estate Wines.

mhastings@wsjournal.com

336-727-7394

@mhastingswsj

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