Round Peak recently introduced wines made from hybrid grapes and newer European varieties. (Photo provided)

So how do their wines compare with those they tasted in Napa Valley? Heerdt says that because of hot, humid weather and abundant rainfall, North Carolina wines are more medium-bodied with lower alcohol content — more comparable to European varieties.

“We are seeing tremendous success with hybrid grapes and newer European varietals like Viognier, a dry and fruity wine with floral overtones,” she says. Another grape varietal they are experimenting with is Traminette, a North American hybrid of Gewürztraminer and Indiana’s state grape.

Though she works Monday through Friday in the corporate world, Heerdt returns to the vineyard on weekends. She laughs telling people that she really has two full-time jobs. “As with most wineries, we have lots of weekend events and tastings. My corporate job has its demands but when I leave on weekends, I’m doing something I love.” Heerdt describes it as “throwing a party every weekend.”

Unlike most winery owners in the area who transformed former family tobacco farms into vineyards, the couple had to call upon the skills they learned in business school when purchasing and expanding their vineyard.

“Krannert prepared me in so many ways for business and life,” Heerdt says. “On long trips home to the Midwest, my husband and I would do SWOT analyses or talk about market threats to the wine industry. If we had an idea, it was always ‘what’s the business case for that?’”

“Krannert prepared me in so many ways for business and life.”
That analytical approach led the couple to create a growth arm for the winery called Skull Camp Wines.

“When we bought the winery, Round Peak was known for its dry red and white French varietals,” Heerdt says. “We made the decision that Round Peak would always be estate grown. We grow the grapes, make the wine and it gets the Round Peak label.” But in order to grow the business, they buy grapes from other local vineyards.

“With Skull Camp Wines we try out grapes that we aren’t currently growing and experiment with blends,” she says, calling some of the wines “Anticipation,” “Confusion” and “Euphoria.” She adds that all of the wines are semi-dry and very drinkable.

“Our goal for Round Peak wines is to continue to improve on quality and consistency in producing really great wines,” Heerdt says. “With Skull Camp we want to have more fun and experiment with new varieties. This is the growth side of our business.”

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