Botanist & Barrel “DéFi” Merlot


Yadkin Valley, North Carolina

Featured on March 27, 2023

Who: Sisters-in-law Kether Smith and Amie Fields, together with their respective husbands, form the mighty team behind Botanist & Barrel  Cidery and DeFi Wines.

As head cider maker, Kether first found her passion for fermentation through a love of kombucha, later working in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York and earning an expert cider certification through Cornell University. She’s supported in the cellar by fellow wine and cider maker Bailey Rehbein, who earned her bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Wisconsin-Stout before working  harvest at esteemed Soter Vineyards in Willamette Valley.

Meanwhile, Amie works as sales director and hospitality manager for the family business, bringing decades of wide-ranging experience in the wine industry and a Certified Pommelier status from the American Cider Association.

Where: While the buzz around North Carolina wine is still relatively quiet, that’s changing. With more than 500 vineyards and 250 wineries, the state is tied with Virginia as the top wine-producing state on the East Coast.

Among its six AVAs is Yadkin Valley, which spans three counties and  is home to 44 wineries, as well as Surry Community College, which has a rapidly growing enology program. Elsewhere in the South, sultry and sauna-like weather might be less than friendly to grapes, but here in the gentle Appalachian foothills, temperatures and humidity remain relatively mild. Soil in this region is primarily hornblende schist, which retains heat and offers excellent drainage. Since 2007, the family-run Jones von Drehle Vineyard has cultivated vines on 30 acres perched at an elevation of 1467 ft. , not only producing their own wines and sourcing fruit to other wineries, including Asheville-based Botanist and Barrel.


How: This naturally sparkling Merlot is a pet-nat made in the méthode ancestrale with hand-harvested fruit. After several days of cold soaking, the juice was pressed off the skins, then fermented with native yeast and bottled. After resting on lees for 150 days the wine was disgorged, producing a total of 23 cases at 10.5% ABV.

Why:  You’d be wise to put Appalachian wine on your radar. Also, when was the last time you drank something that surprised you … in the good way? This all-season sparkler is a pure dang delight that offers cherries, earth, and the lively zing of watermelon rind on finish.


Order this tasty juice directly from the winery here>

Amie Fields, Co-Owner