A Sweet Escape 14

Treehouse Vineyards Offers Vines, Wines and Views

When we arrived at Treehouse Vineyards, the first thing that hit me was the smell. The muscadine grapes lace the wind with a sweetness that’s unmistakable, as Southern as tupelo honey—and as sweet, too. The second thing was the juxtaposition of the beautiful vineyard, spread across rolling, rural hills, and the neighborhood that surrounded it, a suburban setting with cracked streets and monotonous, ranch-style homes.

How did we arrive at this surprisingly beautiful oasis in a sea of suburbia? My beautiful wife and I recently decided that we needed to take a night away from everything except each other. On the suggestion of our friend Peter Flann of French Broad Vignerons, we drove south to Monroe, North Carolina, a bustling little town on the crooked divide of the two Carolinian states. Here we found out retreat: Treehouse Vineyards.

We were greeted by the unmistakably Southern charm of the owners Phil and Diane Nordan, and by a familial atmosphere that fosters relaxation and revelry. We began our stay with a tour alongside an amazingly diverse group of people. Phil taught us everything about the vineyard, from the grapes (viniferous) to the corks (the bark of the cork oak tree), all with great deadpan humor. The land that the vineyard sits on and oversees has been in Diane’s family for 200 years. Her father Cyrus built the neighborhood that surrounds the 38-acre vineyard throughout the later half of the last century, which gives even more credence to the relaxed, familial vibe of Treehouse.

The best part, of course, was when we got to taste the vino. As we began our tasting and learned the origins of the names of each of the wines, we dove deeper into the history of the vineyard. Phil first decided to plant grapes and establish a true vineyard in 2005 and harvested their first production grapes in 2010. With names like Her Way Cabernet (an Alana favorite) and Liquid Sunshine, it’s fun to hear the stories behind how these wines got their names.

Following our tasting, it was time to check into our private treehouse. But “treehouse” doesn’t really do this building justice. We were in a 1,000-square-foot, two story, well-appointed tree-mansion, built between four trees. The height of the house affords breathtaking views of the vineyard, especially from the wraparound porch and the second story master suite.

We grabbed two rockers on the vineyard’s expansive patio and settled in with a fresh bottle of wine. While watching their two horses, Bailey and Seven, lazily stroll through the fields (and Bailey occasionally munch on a grape—he’s an excellent judge of when to harvest), we asked the staff where we should go eat that night. Their answer was as immediate as if I had asked the color of the sky: “Hilltop.”

At Hilltop Fish Fare & Steak House, we were encouraged to meet the family who has owned the restaurant for decades and who continue to run its daily operations. Owner Spiro, a figure in the local community, built the massive restaurant, which was bustling and filled to the brim with merrily munching customers. After we ordered we noticed an older couple at the bar casually talking and rolling silverware. We asked our server (who was excellent, shout-out to Pineapple!) who they were, and she let us know they were the owner’s parents and they came in often, just to help around the restaurant. In just one night, we met three generations of the restaurant’s family—it truly is a family business, run with passion and care.

We returned to our treehouse full of delicious steak and fish. The weather that evening was as close to perfect as I can remember, with a cool breeze blowing the sweet air around us. We decided the wraparound porch would be where we enjoyed our wine that evening. Sitting on that porch, watching the sunset over the vines and smelling the sweet breeze, was not only a wonderful and surprising experience, it was exactly the escape we needed and one we’ll surely take again soon.