Couple’s Vineyard& Winery Firmly Rooted in Old World TraditionPhoto & Article by Eloise D. Morano, Associate Broker, Lake Realty
The owners of Daveste Vineyards in Troutman, Dave and Ester DeFehr, have been married over 40 plus years, and the name of their winery says it all: ‘Dav-Este’, a composite of their names. Like their vineyard, they are anchored in a way that allows them to send out new shoots of growth as needed and do so gracefully.
The quiet depth of the DeFehr’s relationship has reduced at least one visiting bridal party to happy tears. Ester says she was surprised.
“They asked me ‘How do you do 40 years and what does it take?’” says Ester. “I told them it was very simple, and I simply spoke from the heart. We give each other space. But most of all we respect each other,” she says.
Dave and Ester have known each other since college in the 60’s, when they made the decision to get married and go to Nigeria to teach for 3 years – Dave taught science and Ester taught English. When they returned to North America, Dave joined the family furniture business in Winnipeg, Canada.
In 1991, they moved South, opening a factory in Troutman to serve Dave’s East Coast clients. By the time it closed in the early 2000’s, he and Ester were hooked on the Lake Norman area and the climate, and wanted to figure out a way to stay.
“In the summer of 2003, I was browsing the newspaper,” says Dave. “I noticed an article about RagApple Lassie in the Yadkin Valley, and how they had transformed from growing tobacco to growing grapes. I was always interested in landscape and growing things, and my mother and grandfather had amazing green thumbs,” he says.
Dave decided to take viticulture courses – offered then only at Surry Community College in Yadkinville – to learn about grape growing. At the same time, he volunteered at Laurel Gray Vineyards nearby, learning from mentors there.
He loved it, bought 52 acres in Troutman, and together, he and Ester took the plunge at starting a vineyard in 2004. They planted a 4-acre vineyard to start.
Their spread went officially from vineyard to “winery” when the DeFehrs opened their 1000-case winemaking facility in the fall of 2006. In the fall of 2008, they opened a full-service timber-frame tasting room on the property, with a 3-sided rocking chair porch overlooking the rolling scenery. There’s a pond, waterfall and walking trails that volunteers are helping them develop.
A visit to the winery during growing season is a visual feast, with rows of neatly-staked grape varieties accenting the shape of the rolling land. Roses are in full bloom on the ends of some of the rows. Like the DeFehr’s themselves, those roses are romantic yet practical. And they signal change.
“They serve as our ‘canaries in the coal mine’” says Dave with a twinkle. “It isn’t very romantic, but fungal diseases will impact the roses before they affect the grapes. So the roses work hard for us. And they’re great to look at.”
Both of Dave’s parents were born in Russia, and his mother often talked about her vineyards there. Dave’s grandfather had emigrated from Germany, “answering a call from Catherine the Great, because my granddad was skilled at growing things on the land, and Russia needed experts in agriculture,” he says.
The family vineyards were destroyed during the Russian Revolution, and Dave’s mother escaped with her life by underground railroad through China, carrying nothing but jewelry and money sewn into the hem of her skirt. She got safely out, but never saw her husband or parents again.
Dave says, “With all this in mind, when I was deciding which grapes to grow, I was able to find a widely grown Russian grape called Rkatsateli, which makes me happy because it carries on family tradition,” he says. It is rarely found in North Carolina, and makes a dry white wine.
Ester is a native of Argentina – with not a trace of an accent. “That’s my father’s doing,” she says. “He was a linguistics teacher, and it’s very simple. He didn’t allow accents,” she says with a smile.
From Argentina, comes the Malbec grape that the DeFehrs grow. It makes a complex, deep red wine with fruit notes that are distinctively different from a merlot or cabernet.
They are still expanding their vineyards, so some of the grapes they make into wine come from select vineyards as far away as Virginia.
Ester discovered a latent artistic talent 15 years ago, and to her delight, has become the focus of an artist’s group in the Troutman area that meets at a studio on the vineyard property. It’s so popular, there’s a waiting list to join. Daveste’s tasting room is their gallery, and you’ll see Ester’s paintings on Daveste’s wine labels.
Probably the most striking of these is a painting of a mighty tree, reaching its muscular limbs to the sky. The soil beneath appears transparent, revealing how deeply the roots are anchored.
Ester says it’s by far her favorite.
Ester’s Roast Pork with Chambourcin Sauce for Two
Stuff garlic liberally throughout a pork loin. Rub heavily with cracked pepper & rock salt, and roast ‘til brown.
When it’s cooked, remove it to a platter, and mix into the drippings:
¾ cup Chambourcin wine
+ ½ cup chicken broth
Season the gravy to taste. Just before serving, mix in and heat through:
fresh apple slices, dried cranberries and/or apricots.
Serve with the sliced pork and/or over mashed potatoes, and enjoy.
155 Lytton Farm Rd
Troutman, NC 28166
White varieties: Chardonnay, Viognier and the lesser known Rkatsateli, grown widely in Eastern Europe. Red varieties: Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin.
Call if you wish to rent the facility for a wedding or party. Daveste has a relationship with a list of caterers that can help you.
Daveste welcomes volunteers, who are treated to wine & some of Ester’s famous cooking, in trade for their help.