Phillip Holcomb in Roane County said he believes he can turn most beer drinkers into wine drinkers, but I had my doubts.
While I’ve been a beer fan since before I was legally allowed to be a beer fan, I’ve never thought much of wine.
I had somewhat of a change of heart after Phillip poured a taste of a red wine he called “Forbidden.”
I looked up and said, “Hang on. That’s not what I’m used to.”
“It’s not bitter, is it?”
I finished the taste he poured me. No, it wasn’t bitter.
A lesson on wine wasn’t something I expected to find in Roane County. I’d been to Roane County years ago and had written a couple of times about the Robey Theatre, America’s oldest continuously operated movie house.
I’m a fan of the place. Before the Robey got its first projector, vaudeville troupes used to come through. The theatre has an orchestra pit and downstairs rooms for performers.
My first stop on this trip was the Queen Bee restaurant, a local staple in Spencer. I ordered the special (I always order the special unless it’s organ meat of some kind), but everybody I talked to afterwards said I should have gone with a milkshake.
Finding Phillip and Teresa Holcomb at Chestnut Ridge Winery, in Spencer, was a nice surprise. Phillip walked me through their history. They were artists who transitioned from full-time careers as luthiers and jewelry makers into the wine business in 2008.
They’d gotten the idea to go into wine making after a couple of biker friends told them they were doing the same thing. They thought if their friends could pull it off, why couldn’t they?
So far, they’re doing pretty well.
During our conversation, I received a crash course on West Virginia wineries and vineyards.
“Chemicals,” Phillip said. “There are 171 chemicals that can be added to wines.”
Also, wine is supposed to be kept at a cool, consistent temperature. Grocery stores can be hit-or-miss on that, he said.
I took home a bottle and it wasn’t even the sweet stuff that’s supposed to be popular with the tourists.
Next door to Chestnut Ridge Winery, I dropped by Jeff Fetty’s metalworking studio, where he was in the middle of another big project.
He and assistants Craig Hinchman and Lucas Morning were busy at work, but Jeff let me look around and check out the forge.
“I’m sorry I don’t have more to give you,” Jeff said half a dozen times. “We’re just really busy right now.”
I tried to thank him for what he let me see. I thought it was pretty cool.