There’s a lot going on at Jewel of the Blue Ridge vineyard, located approximately 30 miles west of Asheville.

The teaching vineyard in Marshall is as famous for its educational programs as its products, which include Katuah Muscadine grapevine starts, Scottish Highland beef, Appalachian tobacco sticks, free range eggs, wine books and more.

And just as exciting to vineyard owner Chuck Blethen is the vineyard’s return to in-person classes in the farm’s rustic log cabin.

This year’s schedule includes in-person, as well as online workshops.

Classes for grape lovers are designed for beginners through master gardener level and include topics like vineyard design, grape sale contracts, grafting grape vines, disease identification, propagation, processing and more.

Other topics feature skills building like how to cook and bake over an open fire, axe throwing and rope splicing.

Instruction begins next month; classes range from $20 to $40 per person, and some include lunch.

The Host With the Most

Blethen is the quintessential resource on Katuah Muscadine grapes, a variety he is credited with discovering.

“Because I took the time to actually work with them, propagate them and learned how to commercialize them I had the opportunity to register them with the state arboretum as the founder/namer of these grapes,” Blethen said.

An avid historian, Blethen said it was important to him to pay tribute to the land when thinking of a name.

“Katuah is the Cherokee name for the Southern Appalachians. So, I thought it was fitting that we call them Katuah muscadines,” he said.

Blethen holds a bachelor of science in geophysics from Virginia Tech, has presented two TED talks on viticulture, is the author of two books on wine etiquette and entertaining, is a guest lecturer on wine aboard several cruise lines, trains judges for North Carolina wine competitions and is the vice president of public relations for the French Broad Vignerons, a local group of wine aficionados who meet regularly to share in their love of the beverage.

That, plus he enjoys his ham radio, and makes grape wines, country wines, Meade, cider, beer and grappa in his spare time.

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