The Brickyard by Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, North Carolina is the first of the Hallowed Places Collection of NC State licensed North Carolina wines. Each bottle retails at $39.99, with many sold already. It is available for purchase on the Shelton Vineyards website.
Chris Boyer, assistant vice chancellor for NC State Strategic Brand Management, said there were three main objectives to the creation and marketing of an officially licensed wine or series of wines: to use the revenue generated to support NC State scholarships and academic opportunities, to support the state’s economy and entrepreneurialism and to give current students the opportunity to participate in a real-world project.
Boyer said 18% of sales go back to the University, and that revenue is expected to go towards a combination of need-based, merit-based, study abroad and athletic financial aid opportunities.
“For the Shelton family in particular, scholarship and a passion for education is really what brought about this incredible project,” said Foster W. O’Brien, director of marketing for Shelton Vineyards and an NC State alumnus. “NC State has already just been an incredible partner, and I am so deeply proud of my university.”
Boyer said a working group was formed to discuss the feasibility and opportunity for NC State officially licensed North Carolina wines about a year ago.
“We spent several months really betting out how to approach it and understand the legalities and complexities of the business, and then figure out how we could make the entire state of North Carolina wine industry aware of what we intended to do to make sure that everybody would have an opportunity to be considered for participation,” Boyer said. “I think we did a really nice job with that, working with the North Carolina Wine and Grape Association, as well as the Muscadine Growers. Ultimately, we put together a process for those wineries that were interested to be considered on the basis of several evaluative criteria.”
Ethan Brown, winemaker at Shelton Vineyards, said three red wine blends were chosen for evaluation during NC State’s selection process. The selected wine, The Brickyard, is a 2017 vintage blended red wine: half cabernet sauvignon with merlot, tannat and malbec as well.
“On the aromas, you certainly get some dried fruit, some dark fruit … a little bit of pipe tobacco type of spiciness and aromatics, almost sweet aromas to it,” Brown said. “Flavorwise, a lot of that carries through with a lot of that deep dark fruit. It's a full-bodied red wine. I was very pleased with it overall, and I'm very happy that this wine was selected for this project.”
Boyer said while other universities have licensed wines, it is rare the selected wine is associated with the state the university is located in. He said it was important to the land-grant mission of NC State to highlight the North Carolina wine and agritourism business.
“I'm always a proponent of the North Carolina wine industry,” Brown said. “As an industry, we can make excellent wine across the board and we need more people to know that and to recognize it. It takes time to build that recognition, and Shelton Vineyards has been at it for 21 years now. … Working with NC State, it's more of that promotion of this local product and nothing's really more local than the grapes that you grow in your estate vineyard and produce and sell within the state.”
The start of the Hallowed Places Collection also incorporated current NC State students. Boyer said Victoria Chi, faculty member in the College of Design, was a part of the working group for this project and focused one of her design courses on the design of a label for categories of wine at the time. After evaluating the top designs for each category, Carter Avayou, current student in the College of Design, was chosen.
“I really loved watching Carter's design come to life,” O’Brien said. “I got to see it in the very final iterations and then … you can hold it and it's an experience and you can open it and try it. There's nothing like it in the world. Both Carter and I had shaky hands when I showed him this bottle, and the gravity of that moment will never leave me. It is one of the shining moments in my career so far.”
Boyer said the Hallowed Places Collection was created as a top-end, limited-edition collection with one wine to be released as a part of this collection each year. He said they are also considering wines of the muscadine category and a project geared towards affordability and accessibility.