A little piece of mountain paradise sits just 10 minutes from civilization in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, and the setting is a dream come true for a Florida author who hopes to share his love of the land and serenity with others.
As visitors leave U.S. 421 and head south just east of Moravian Falls the roads wind up and down the hilly land, along a mountain creek, across one-lane bridges to the home of Bramabella Vineyards.
The 40-acre property is a venture of Pietros Maneos, who spent time during a semester break from college in Italy and Greece visiting the land of his ancestors.
“I saw the wine culture, the slower pace of life. Other writers have settled here, and the topography is similar to Tuscany,” he said of the Brushy Mountains.
Planted on a hillside above the home on the property are 800 vines which Maneos hopes will be Super Tuscans. They include sangiovese, cabernet franc and Barbara, and are still a couple of years from full production.
While Maneos eventually will produce his own wines or sell his grapes to other winemakers, right now the plans for property include growing produce for farm-to-table and field-to-fork restaurants in partnership with New Appalachia in Fleetwood, which has developed a chain of restaurants it supplies.
Also, Bramabella Vineyards is being marketed as an outdoor event venue with a large meadow sitting on the banks of the mountain creek which falls in elevation as it travels through the property, creating a “Garden of Eden” style atmosphere, Maneos said.
The drive through the property to the event parking area passes 300 blueberry bushes which are young and growing and a black truffle orchard featuring oak and hazelnut trees. Also on the property are 15 heritage apple trees acquired from Century Farm Orchard in Reidsville.
Maneos said he found the land doing internet searches for property which reminded him of the hillside aesthetic country life he had experienced while overseas. “The lake district in England, the upper Galilee, southern France. The Brushy Mountains surely fit that image,” he said.
Tourism, he believes, is going to be part of the solution to many of the manufacturing companies moving overseas.
In 2012, Maneos bought what is now Bramabella Vineyards. The prior owners already had planted the truffle orchard, so it will have its first harvest this year, he said. The other produce is the fruit of Maneos’ labor.
“In the spring, the meadow is very lush with rhododendron and laurels,” he said as he walked along the path leading from the truffle orchard by the creek toward the meadow, where an arbor of old grapevines stands on the creek side and rock stairs lead to a landing just below the small falls.
“It is just such a sense of privacy, but you are only 10 to 15 minutes from North Wilkesboro,” said Maneos.
Creating this “Garden of Eden” has taken a lot of hard, physical work, he said, adding it’s a way of trying to find what he experienced in Italy and Greece.
“This whole project is a way to recreate that sensibility.”
And while he plans to continue writing, adding to the five published books and book reviews and other pieces he’s done, “my aim is to get this thing going.”
“I view myself as a startup,” said Maneos. “My ambition is to have a nice farm and vineyard.”
Already the vineyard property will play host to two weddings in the fall in the meadow. For those choosing the venue, the home is used as the bridal suite for the day.
With grapes being planted in 2014, he said he may be able to harvest some this year, but he won’t know until the growing season is under way. “A lot of vineyards are at 1,200 feet, and I’m at 1,600 feet so it is kind of pushing it,” said Maneos.
“Usually hillsides produce the best wine. There is better drainage, more sun exposure,” he said.
In addition to the fruit, other produce being grown at Bramabella includes varieties of tomatoes, peppers and much more, mostly grown in raised beds surrounding the landscaped gardens of the home. He spent a good deal of time studying agroecology and urban farmers who are getting high yields of produce on 10,000 square feet. “It is almost glorified gardening with the series of raised beds.”
Bramabella is different from many vineyards in the area, Maneos said, because so many are tasting rooms and vineyards, while “here there is a lot of biodiversity. I’ve tried to create an estate that is multifaceted. I always try to think of things that will enhance the beauty of the land, so for the blueberry bushes the leaves will turn wine red in the fall.”
The name Bramabella is one Maneos created from bramare, which means yearn for, and bella, which is beauty.
To learn more about Bramabella Vineyards, visit BramabellaVineyards.com, facebook.com/Bramabella or email [email protected]
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.