DOBSON, N.C. — He doesn’t consider himself an avid sommelier. No, Ethan Brown says he’s more into viticulture, the science of wine.
“It’s nice and fruit-forward,” he said while swirling a glass of wine. “I get a lot of blackberry on the nose.”
He’s been around wine and vineyards just about his entire life.
“My family planted a small vineyard not too far from here, actually,” Brown said. “I grew up working in the grapes!”
After he studied viticulture and wine chemistry at Appalachian State, he joined Shelton Vineyard as a winemaker.
“The vines have been in the ground for 22 years now,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of experience with local North Carolina wine production.”
Shelton Vineyards did something special with one local university that sets them apart from other vineyards.
“N.C. State approached the council wanting to put this project together,” Brown said.
"This project" being a wine, made specifically for N.C. State University, named The Brickyard, after an iconic spot on campus.
“(It’s) a custom blend. Cabernet sauvignon, malbec, tannate, also has some merlot in there as well,” Brown said.
There are benefits on both sides. Eighteen percent of sales go directly to N.C. State for various financial aid opportunities. For Brown, there’s an extra benefit.
“It’s all about promotion of the North Carolina wine industry for me and showing that we can make excellent-quality wine here in North Carolina,” he said.
Watch Brown’s work, and you’ll see he’s a chemist. But listen to him speak and you’ll find his love for wine.
“I’m a North Carolinian and have always been in the wine industry,” he said. “I really want to see the continued growth over the years.”
It's growth he’s helping create, one bottle at a time.
The Brickyard is just the first of many wines in N.C. State’s Hallowed Places collection. It plans to expand that collection with other vineyards each year.