On a recent Sunday afternoon we joined a few friends and visited a new winery for us, Stardust Cellars in Wilkesboro. Stardust is owned by Nicolas Hogrefe. The experience was very unique and tasted distinctive wines. I love learning about how the winery came to be and the following is from an extensive email conversation with him. Stardust Cellars is the first biodynamic vineyard in North Carolina. Their goal is to produce ancestral wines and meads that are grown using environmentally and sustainable methods. Instead of using commercially made pesticides they use organic material such as wood chips from fallen trees. This wood material decomposes to leave a barrier for diseases that hurt the vines. Using the natural environment Nick grows wildflowers in connection with the vines. He uses sheep to provide natural weed control and readily available fertilizer. He doesn’t use sprays to protect his bee population that is crucial to his mead production. It can get confusing, but the one thing I would stress is he works with the land instead of combating it to produce his wines and meads.
Stardust Cellars uses grapes from the Swan Creek AVA to make their roses. Hurricane season can force winemakers to use sprays to keep grapes on the vines longer in the growing season. Instead of using sprays Nicolas sources his red wine grapes from Spain. He focuses on using local grapes for his whites and sparkling wines. He felt it made more sense to understand the terroir of the land when planning his vineyard.
They offer varied tasting experiences. Jana and Joy were our tasting room hosts and they were friendly and very knowledgeable. You can enjoy a flight of wines, meads, beers or a combination. This is a great place to take your non-wine drinking friends. I tested a wine flight of Carozba, sparkling traminette, rose, and piquette. This was my first experience with tasting piquette. It is a form of “skins” wine. Skins wines allow the winemaker to use history and sustainability. Piquette is made from the grape skins after the initial wine has been made. Considered “the wine of the people” it is meant to be enjoyed with an open mind. The bottles are sold cheap just and it was intended.
We had a picnic lunch and enjoyed a nice afternoon of friends and good drinks. They have something for everyone. The weather was perfect. They have covered seating with fans or heaters depending on the temperature. There was pumpkin carving the day of our visit. They have fire pits and blankets. Need a snack? No worries they offer local snacks for purchase. They also offer overnight camping opportunities if you would like a rustic experience. One thing we missed was trying their crepes. They are available Wednesday-Saturday 4-8. The tasting room is open Wednesday-Sunday. Check their website for upcoming events.
Nicolas has a strong biotechnology background. He is a published author of wine microbiology and holds patents on product development. He is active in the Mead and Beekeeping community in North Carolina. He chose this area due its potential for rapid growth of his processing facility. He utilizes the area’s already established wine and honey infrastructure. It’s not just his business that brought him to the area he appreciates the outdoor opportunities. He is an avid gardener.
As winemaking is a hobby his bread and butter is his meads. He has marketed his meads much as the craft beer industry. He is set to release his American Series of new world style wines. We will definitely be back to try it out. Never one to stay planted and not grow, Stardust Cellars uses profit sharing to increase smaller local farms to additional sources of income like beekeeping. It is safe to say Stardust Cellars is so much more to what you see.