Thursday, February 28, 2013

Episode 4: The DEP Issue

All seemed to be going well until spring when we received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) notifying us that our topsoil was washing into the Roaring River. They stated that immediate action needed to be taken to remedy the issue or we would be fined $20,000 a day.

That really got our attention! We were unaware of the situation since we did not live on the property.

Steps we took

  1. Called the grass seeding company: they stated had rained for three weeks and the seeds probably    washed down the slope
  2. hired an environmental company to assess the damage, formulate an action plan, and remedy the situation.

Proposed Action Plan: Suggested re-seeding first and then cleaning up the river.

Mandated Action Plan: DEP did not agree and made us clean the river first.

Implementation: Our contractor assembled a large team to perform the clean-up river. It was completed in about two weeks.


  1. The clean-up was completed as scheduled.
  2. After the clean-up it rained again, and the soil washed into the river again because the underlying issue was not allowed to be addressed first.

Revised Action Plan:

  1. After complaining to the DEP, they allowed us to re-seed the slope
  2. Then perform the 2nd clean-up.


  1. The slope was reseeded, and the grass came in
  2. The river clean-up was performed.
  3. The clean-up were doubled, and the clean-up was delayed due to the DEP decision
  4. The DEP closed the case


We had to wait two more years until the PH level of the soil returned to the level needed for the grapevines to flourish.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Episode 3: Preparing the Land

In the fall Tom decided it was time to clear part of the land for cultivation. 

We hired a forrestry specialist to manage the logging operations because we did not live on the site and could not be there while these activities were going on. Once the plan was put in place the loggers came and cut all the trees in designated areas.

Out of the 47 acres we cleared between 15 and 17 acres total for future agriculture purposes, roads, housing and ponds.

After the loggers left, it looked like a war zone, there was debris everywhere.  We had to hire a graders with heavy equipment to come in and pile-up the debris, dig a very long trench and push the trees into it. 

The wood pile was set on fire and it took over three weeks for the fire to subside.  Later, the trench was filled-in, and we proceeded to grade the entire hillside, creating some terraces on the steeper slopes.

The grading crew also establishes a road tha went up from the entrane all the way to the top of the hill. Another road was established going down the others side of the hill back to the entrance, in effect creating a circular roadway around the future "vineyard" area.

 They dug retaining ponds between the vineyard and the creek to effetively capture any run-off from the slopes and guide them through trenches to the retaining ponds.

We hired a grass-seeding company after the clearing work was completed to stabilize the soil until we could start developing the vineyard.  We purchased a cattle gate and lock to secure access to the property. At this point we reached an important milestone -- completing the land clearing.
Josephine Silvey standing at the future entrance of the property just purchased.

Thomas Silvey and dog (Bobo) looking at the deforested property.

View of the cleared property from the entrance looking up to the future vineyards.

RRV Episode 2: Viewing The Property

Tom was very excited to show me the property it was obvious that he had already fallen in love with it. So we we took a drive from Charlotte to the outskirts of the small town of Traphill in the NC foothills.

The 47-acre property was comletely covered by woods, and was bordered to the west by Brewer Mill Road, north by the east prong of the Roaring River, and adjoining other wooded properties east and south.

The only way to really see the property was to walk through it.  So we entered the woods and headed down towards a sun-filtered flat area where two creeks are joined into one.  The ground was covered by ferns, and a lovely trailing plant I had not seen before called "Running Cedar". We walked along an old logging road as Tom explained that the woods had been logged before probably some 30 to 50 years ago judging from the regrowth.  That is why the woods were criss-crossed with logging roads.

We started climbing a slope to find the eastern border and,surprise, found the remnants of moonshine  sites that were easily recognized due to the telltake signs: located in well-hidden spots, near a water source, sone distance well-traveled paths, littered with crushed and rusted barrels, lacations that were only known to locals who knew the land like the back of their hands.

Along the way I found a deer antler as we crossed a couple deer trails. We also came across some suspicious flowerpots in the middle of nowhere and I was reminded of a 60 Minute Program on television about the marijuana raids over NC a few decades ago.  Maybe some of that was still going on a smaller scale?

Finally we made our way to the othern border of the property delineated by the east prong of the Roaring River. The seller had carved out a narrow 3 acre parcel that was part of the original 50 acres along the river,  starting at the bridge for a distance of about 700 feet.  You can go to the artist's rendering of the vineyard and you'll see it on the left (bottom) side of the rendering.

We walked the property along the river and decided to meet the owner of that property.  So we walked over and knocked on his door.  He invited us in and we had a lovely conversation with him. His name was Jonathan Stuart, and he told us how he found this property some years ago while he was visiting the area and fell in love with it.  He was dating a local area woman at the time, and decided to relocate from Alabama to this beautiful spot on the river where he planned to build a house and marry the woman of his dreams. Originally he lived in a one-room cabin without water or septic.  Later, after he purchased the property, he moved into a trailer and build a deck over-hanging the river. He had a very kind heart and kept all the dogs people abandonned by the river; they numbered six at the time and were not the best behaved dogs around.

 He gave us a short history of the place as we were walking over to the bridg where he pointed out the swimming hole that was very propular with the locals and that was also used for baptisms. Neaby stood the remains of a dam that once stradled both sides of the river and powered two gristmills simultaneously onopposite side of the river. Near the swimming hole, facing east, were the ruins of a sawmill and the miller's cabin that was not occupied at the time and looked very distressed. There were also tall stone pillars that had once supported the sawmill and rusted equipment that had fallen to the ground.

Across the river stood the foundation of the gristmill, and inside the ruins stood three iron rods that held the grinding stones. Jonathan stated that the building was still intact at the time he bought the property and that soon after the purchase was completed, the gristmill was burned down.  The rumor is that the other prospective buyer was so upset that he was not able to buy the property set it on fire on one fateful night,  fled after that and has not been seen since then. It was a dream of Jonathan to someday rebuild the gristmill and have an antique business of some sort.

Since Jonathan was lonely he enlarged the parking area near the swimming hole and interacted with the visitors.  He even landscaped around the swimming hole, erecting a fence and planting some butterfly bushes. There were sometimes seven or eight cars parked there at a time, and people coming around on all-vehicles (ATV). There was a lot of stuff going on under the bridge. At one time an alcoholic woman lived there an entire summer. People drank there, and it was also a popular spot for making out.

Apparently, Traphill has quite a reputation in the state, due to its long history with moonshine, drugs,
outlaws, and the law.  We were told of the murder of a sherriff in the early 1900's in one of the "hollers" not far frrom here. The law feared the locals so much that they refused to patrol or respond to calls from the area after the murder.

The Appalachia rural area is rather poor and devoid of industry and one can understand why the local population took to making moonshine. It was during the time of prohibition and economic downturns when there was a strong demand for liquor and quick way to make money with a minimal investment.
They had to survive in a difficult environment and did whatever it took to make a living. They may not be the most educated people in the world but they have acquired a vast amount of knowledge, and  strong sense of community because they depended on one another for survival. Knowledge had to be shared and passed along from one generation to the next.  These traditions continue to this day.

In the next episode I will expose the relationship between moonshine and NASCAR..

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Episode 1: Buying the property

Roaring River Vineyards
The Development Journey

The development journey will be written in installments to ensure the posts are not too long.  So this is the first installment, about how we came to own this property and how it became a vineyard.

When we started the property development of the vineyard I thought I could keep a photo journal of the process.  I have a lot of pictures and events to post, but it is going to take me a while to upload all that especially now since I have someone revamping my website(  So when it is done, I will spend quite a bit of time updating the site.

From the time we bought the 47-acre property a lot of things have happened and a lot of work was done on the property. Other vineyards may get started more quickly because the owners are working on them full-time, and have a lot of financial resources.  For us, our vineyard did not start that way.

First of all, Tom and I were living in Charlotte at the time, had full-time jobs, and 3 kids in college, and one about to go to college.  We bought the property to be in the mountains, preferably not far from skying slopes.

However the property, we were interested in sold just before we got there.  The seller had some land in the foothills that he thought Tom might be interested in. Tom made an appointment to see the property and the rest is history. Initially we bought it to build a weekend retreat. I liked the land but was concerned about it being so isolated, so I thought we might build a little French village so that other people would live nearby and that way, we would have neighbors living nearby. But things did not quite work out that way.

The village would have to wait for several years while the children graduated from college.  I had mentioned that we ought to plant a few grapevines to give the property a certain Je ne sais quoi?  Tom was surfing the Internet to find out where to buy grapevines and came upon something that would change the course of our lives (except we did not know it at the time). Two weeks later, Tom and I were enrolled in a Viticulture and Oenology seminar at Surry Community College.  This was a seminar about everything you needed to know about growing grapes, making wine, and representation from every expertise relating to growing grapes and making wine, etc.

Before we knew it, Tom had decided to start a vineyard.  He became passionate about it right from the start, whereas I was very apprehensive about the whole thing because we went from:
 building a weekend cabin to starting a full-fledged vineyard in no time at all. I still don't know how he made this leap! Furthermore, Tom new that I had an aversion to living in isolated places.  Traphill is definitely isolated.  There is no town, no shopping, no restaurants, few inhabitants, well you get the idea!

Tom had to work very hard to convince me to go along with that idea.  There are times when I still go back and forth as to whether I like it, can do it, will continue to do it and so on.

So this journey has not been as easy on me as it has been for Tom. His passion for this project was instant and powerful. Tom's nickname at work was "bulldog" because once Tom made up his mind about something he would never let go!  He started a campaign to convince me to go along with him. He is very good at this and I had a hard time saying no to him.  He argued that he was the type of man that had to work and stay busy, especially after retirement.  He stated that he could not just sit and do nothing, that this would kill him.  So he needed something to keep busy.  And, that it did.

So against my better judgment I relented and we became the proud owners of the Roaring River Vineyards.


Friday, February 8, 2013


Welcome to the Roaring River Blog.

Many people have asked me: What made you decide to start a vineyard? or How does one start a vineyard? Well these stories can take a while to answer so I decided to start a blog that chronicles our journey from the point when we bought the property until present day.

The story is told in short episodes that are easy to read and to the point.  The development of our vineyard is still underway and will take some time before it is completed.

My husband Tom focuses on the vineyard management while I focus on planning, construction, design, marketing and vacation rentals.

We have a vision for our business and it will take several more years before all our development projects are completed. So far we have planted our vineyards and are starting to make wine. We are planning to build some event venues, wine-tasting room, and our very own home on top of the mountain.

The vacation rentals are being activated at the end of March 2013 - so check us out on Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO) to book your next vacation.

There are many attractions in the local area and there are some on our vineyards as well.  So come and stay with us, we would love to make your acquaintance.

Thank you for visiting our blog, and for joining us on our development journey.

Josephine Silvey