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alexandra hackett senior beverage and service director at the cliffs

Cliffs Living: Love The Wine You’re With

Aug 18, 2020

Hidden Gems Winery Tours grow appreciation for local vineyards.

Late-afternoon sun glints off the rows of grapevines spilling down the hillsides at Overmountain Vineyards.

It’s five o’clock somewhere, so here, in Tryon, North Carolina, it seems only natural to be relaxing on the outdoor terrace, sipping the estate premium petit manseng, and noshing on cheese and salami.

The wine — an elegant, aromatic white — is produced on-site in the French style by winemaker Frank Lilly and his daughter Sofia. It’s the perfect ending to a day of winery visits organized by Alexandra Hackett, Senior Beverage & Service Director at The Cliffs.

Hackett joined The Cliffs in March 2020 and immediately poured herself into creating a tour of local vineyards for members. Her proposed itinerary begins at the new Eagle Mountain Winery on Highway 11 in Landrum, South Carolina, where young cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc vines line the driveway leading up to the tasting room. These, of course, won’t yield a substantial crop for several more years, so for now acclaimed vintner George Bursick — the former director of winemaking at Ferrari-Carano — brings in grapes from some of the finest vineyards in California to craft his wines in the Upstate.

Next, a midday stop just down the road at family-owned Victoria Valley Vineyards includes a light lunch on the covered patio overlooking the vines.

Given the myriad events The Cliffs organizes, Hackett conceived her Hidden Gems Winery Tours as a way to take members “outside the gates” to taste wine.

“I figured why not take advantage of everything that’s in our own backyard?” she says. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge foothills, within a 30-minute drive of most of the clubs, a handful of folks are planting vinifera grapes and reaping fine rewards.

The tours, limited to 14 people, are specially arranged to include winery visits, time with the winemakers, barrel tastings, and samples of wines not normally available in the tasting room. “[These tours are] more on the nerdy side,” confesses Hackett, a certified sommelier who is currently studying to take the next level exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. “As we’re touring through the winery and barrel rooms, we’ll get a little more in depth about wine making and the business side of it.”

Hackett boasts a balanced background in the food and beverage industry that began in 2004 with a position as administrative assistant/event planner at High Cotton in Charleston. Eventually, she wound up in Greenville, as general manager of the nowshuttered Devereaux’s, and most recently worked for the Rick Erwin Dining Group as beverage manager and director of operations.

When she started at Devereaux’s, Hackett was a newcomer to the world of wines, so the restaurant’s director of operations insisted she take the introductory course given by the Court of Master Sommeliers. “After that, I just caught the [wine] bug and it never went away,” she admits.

In addition to planning member events such as wine dinners and local vineyard tours, Hackett manages The Cliffs Wine Consortium. “We use our buying power [across] so many different properties to get the best deal for our members,” the oenophile explains. She sends members an email every Tuesday, detailing a wine deal for the week; members can choose a wine and pick it up at their home clubhouse.

“I’ve always thought it would be great to work with a group like The Cliffs, that has multiple properties, so I could work with the members directly,” Hackett shares. “I think there’s a deeper connection you can make with members than with the constantly changing clientele in a restaurant.”

The off-site wine tours are one way that she reinforces these connections. Whether you’re already wine savvy, or looking for an expert introduction to wine, Hackett’s Hidden Gems Winery Tours promise a barrelful of fun.

To find out more about the hidden gems winery tours and/or The Cliffs Wine Consortium, email wine@cliffsliving.com.

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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