CLEVELAND, S.C. — Tucked into a small elbow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Table Rock dominating the view, Victoria Valley Vineyards is a small slice of European flavor transplanted to the foothills of the Carolinas, dominated by a verdant valley, almost out of sight and out of mind.
That was the vision Vicki and Les Jayne had when they bought the 47-acre tract of land in 1999.
The first vinis vinifera was planted in 2000 and the first vintage was released in 2004, before the French Chateau that greets visitors was designed by Les, with all the intricate and delicate woodwork crafted by his own hands, the same as the wines Victoria Valley produces, crafted hands-on by Vicki and Les.
The Jaynes, transplants from Ontario, Canada, have taken quite well to the Piedmont region of the Carolinas and local aficionados have taken to Victoria Valley’s vintages as well, enjoying a resplendent array of tastes aged in white oak casks, adding to their depth and body.
Not to mention a Sangria, served on premises only, reminiscent of a Cuban café’s refreshing offering on a hot, humid day.
Visitors are greeted by a French Chateau-inspired scene as they crest the iron-gated entrance, instantly transporting them to a place far removed from upstate South Carolina, giving the sense of traveling to a European setting without enduring a transatlantic flight.
The aromatic blend of scents from the native fauna and flora mingles with the effervescent, yet light, hint of the vines, so carefully groomed and maintained with knowledge accrued over 29 years, beginning in the Jaynes’ basement in Canada, where Les began aging their own wines.
The tasting room, which also serves as a gift shop and greeting area, has just the right blend of the classic and modern. Les’ craftsmanship is obvious with the intricate woodworking throughout, especially with the winding staircase that leads to the aging vault.
A selection of accoutrements can be found, from wine totes made from classic rock ‘n roll albums to handcrafted centerpieces any dinner party would be remiss to omit. It’s not unusual to find the tasting room teeming with visitors on a weekday as they sample Victoria Valley’s offerings before retiring for lunch or dinner to the veranda, located perfectly for a view of the vineyards and mountains just beyond reach.
The Jaynes, proud of what they have accomplished thus far, take pride in their daily hands-on efforts in caring for their grapes, and that care is reflected in each pour.
“We love to work with the vines, to make them look perfect and happy, healthy, to make them a joy to see as much as enjoy the wines they produce,” Vicki Jayne said. “They have to be tucked perfectly, trimmed, and allowed to breathe, the air has to be able to mingle with the leaves and grapes. We love it when people stop in and enjoy this small place we’ve been able to create.”
Signature vintages such as Table Rock White, Lola’s Best and Sweet Merlot may have a complex taste and bouquet, but that is the result of experience and great care, and the vision the Jaynes brought to the Carolinas, a vision that seems to be coming to fruition as well.
“What we wanted to do was keep things simple but elegant,” Vicki said. “We wanted to bring that idea to life and bring a touch of elegance to the mountains.”
Simple yet elegant — a combination that may seem difficult at best to achieve. But an hour on the veranda gives the appearance of simplicity itself, and the elegance is reflected in the relaxing atmosphere. Music ranging from classical jazz to more modern pieces is accompanied by a refreshed palate that is only enhanced by an aged Asiago or perhaps a light lunch or dinner prepared to perfection, blessed by an almost ever-present cooling breeze despite the summer heat.
Victoria Valley Vineyard’s tastings, group opportunities, hosted events and dinners, as well as weddings are welcome moments for the Jaynes, finding their own enjoyment in the pleasure of their guests in the atmosphere of a journey half a world away yet right in their own backyard.
But what has been a hidden treasure is slowly becoming a well-known secret as visitors are now discovering the Jaynes’ small slice of heaven for themselves.
One recent guest went so far as to share with Vicki the Jaynes had saved her at least $5,000, as she felt she had a trip to the Old Continent without having to leave the country.
Vicki and Les will tell you the quality of a wine and its end result are based on the soil, grape, time and aging — which is true — but an ebullient wine is even better when the atmosphere is just right.
One afternoon on Victoria Valley Vineyard’s veranda may add one intangible to that equation, and that is atmosphere, coupled with impeccable service and the simple elegance the Jaynes envisioned when their dream began nearly 30 years ago in Ontario.
Today, Victoria Valley Vineyard is a destination, not a room with a view, but a view with simplistic elegance, just as it was intended.
D.C. Moody can be reached at 864-973-6296. Kasie Strickland can be reached at 864-973-6298.