Brought together by chance, we are a group that seeks to promote the agriculture and viticulture of North Carolina and in particular, Western NC.
Lauren & Lee and Chris were brought together through a contact at the Appalachian State Enology program where they discovered that they had written similar business plans for an urban winery in Asheville. We met several times and discovered that we had the same ideas about supporting our communities of farmers, winemakers, artists, brewers, chefs and anyone in between. We all care quite deeply about making wine using local grapes. We are not subtle about our goal to put WNC on the wine map!
Our focus begins with our local farmers. They need our support, not just financially but also with our enthusiasm for a local product and with knowledge and education that can be used to produce the best quality agriculture product with the least amount of harm to the land.
We carry that passion into winemaking, doing as little as possible to the wine to establish a baseline for the varietals we have in Western NC. In 2018, we harvested 28 tons of local grapes. From six farms ranging between Henderson and Watauga Counties, we will produce 20+ small batch wines that represent our area and showcase the potential for grapes in our region.
We appreciate the wines of the world and their history and we're just trying to build ours in Western North Carolina.
The plēb urban winery is inspired by the Roman plebeian community that established the Aventine Triad comprising the gods of agriculture, viticulture, and fertility. These divinities represented values that differentiated adherents from the patrician class. We seek to represent these cultivators past and present who bring grapes to glass – farmers, harvesters, winemakers. We want our company to represent a community of people who support each other and share in each other’s successes.
Roots (Agriculture) Growth (Fertility) Harvest (Viticulture)
Why urban winery?
North Carolina is experiencing a resurgence in wine and grape production to pre-prohibition levels. We seek to showcase high country and east coast grapes by sourcing from a variety of local farms, each of which produce a unique agricultural product that allows for high quality local wines with distinct flavor profiles.
We seek to present our wine based on the best approach for that specific fruit from vine to glass. We will work with our farm suppliers to ensure the grape grown is best suited to the land, and our taproom presentation allows for cost savings that are passed on to the growers. Rather than seeking out a specific varietal or flavor profile, we will simply try to present the best expression of our sourced grapes.
Our approach is to honor the plebeian spirit by sourcing fruit from local growers, exploring methods of fermentation and wine production, providing a welcoming environment for exploration and education, and expanding the scope of North Carolina wine.
Lauren Turpin, Executive Manager
Born in Winston-Salem, NC on Black Sunday (you'll understand if you're an ACC basketball fan), Lauren has always felt a deep connection with the state. Though she moved away for some years, it was her love of NC that brought her back soon after college. Taking a break from her first career in project management and information science, she met Lee while both were working in a brewery. As a graduate of Babson College and UNC-Chapel Hill, she felt she had the tools and experience to launch a company and when the opportunity presented itself she jumped at the chance to start an urban winery.
To further her wine education she earned WSET Level 2 certification and loves doing blind tastings. She encourages all wine lovers to give NC grapes and wine a chance to impress you!
Lee Turpin, Front of House Manager
Born in and raised all over North Carolina, Lee has averaged just under one move per year for his entire life. At 14 he started washing dishes for a fish camp in the woods and has since worked all roles front and back of house. He worked for 16 years in the service industry before becoming an oncology pharmacist. This nebulous lifestyle has led to the desire to seek out variety- he is one of those people that never orders the same drink twice. He brings this open minded approach to our taproom in an effort to ensure that everyone is comfortable and eager to try something new.
In his loads of free time you’ll find him tinkering on an instrument, experimenting with food and homebrew recipes, playing a 30 year old video game, or wistfully planning a trip to some place he and Lauren have never been. On nice days you can find him fighting with a tree stump in the yard of their West Asheville bungalow, out from which he plans to be carried.
Chris Denesha, Head Winemaker
Chris grew up in the Central Valley of California and was never really exposed to wine or farming until he was in college at Sonoma State University. While at Sonoma State, he began working for wineries in the area and took a special interest in the growing aspect. In 2011, Chris left California to work and study more diverse farms and vineyards from Utah and Washington, to Italy and Spain. He met his wife, Kelsey, on one of these farms and she convinced him to explore the mountains of her home state in North Carolina.
They moved to Boone, North Carolina in 2014 where Chris started working for a local winery and started managing several vineyards in the area. The excitement for Western North Carolina’s grape growing future was something that led Chris and Kelsey to buy land in Madison County and move forward with establishing plēb urban winery with partner Lauren Turpin.
The rest is a mystery.
Tyler Kay, Assistant Winemaker
Tyler was born and raised in the Central Valley of California. He believes wine is something that should be accessible to everyone from all regions. He started working with vines on a vineyard in Utah on an internship for WWOOF. After his time there he went on to live and work in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana while pursuing his sommelier certification. After his stint in the Rocky Mountains, Tyler moved to Chicago to work at Alinea, a three Michelin starred restaurant. After he took the Advanced course in Dallas in 2017 he knew he wanted to leave the restaurant world, and get his hands dirty in wine production. Chris Denesha asked him to be the assistant winemaker, in which his response was,”FoSho.” Whenever he is away from the winery you can find him fly fishing, playing disc golf, making Kombucha, or spending quality time with his dogs, Trapper and Maple.