Barley and Vine opens in Hertford

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James Smith, who co-owns Barley & Vine with his wife Sharon, talks to Devin Gregory about the picking the best wine for a sunny Saturday in Perquimans County.

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Staff writer

Thursday, April 4, 2019

HERTFORD – Saturday was the type of brisk, but sunny day where the mind seeks solace in a bottle of wine.

Not a moment was to be wasted on drinking a common glass of red or white Kool-aid grown in California's corporate vineyards and purchased from the shelf of the town’s grocery store. Instead, it was a time for a vintage vine that conjures up a mind for good conversation as the taste buds rejoice in a bottle of wine purchased from Barley & Vine.  

Located at 125 N. Church St., in Hertford, the shop sells a variety of affordable wines perhaps not seen in places near and far as well as offers a free sample of originality with its antiques, vintage items, art on the wall – reminiscent of an enoteca nestled on the Italian/Austrian border. Barley & Vine is the kind of place Ernest Hemingway would embrace while seeking a taste of Bacchus' gift to time and space.  

Eh ... enough of this free flowing tapestry of prose gained from time saved in a bottle as Jim Croce sang.

This is eastern North Carolina, so let's just say it plain and simple – Barley & Vine is cool. Wine lovers or just folks who want to get out the house, make time to go to store that's open between noon and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. You can pick up a good bottle of wine without having to deal with some pretentious Napa Valley connoisseur who gushes on about grapes and oaky flavor when all you want is solitude and a clean glass of chardonnay that doesn't taste like medicine. Maybe pick up a bottle of peach- or mango-flavored moscato.

If wine isn't your thing, they have beer too – really good craft beer. Some of the North Carolina brews make you want to ask the bottle, “Where have you been all my life?”

If that sexy, come hither bottle from Highland Brewing answers “Asheville,” you're not crazy unless you ask a follow-up question about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Perhaps this is a better question that the bottle may be able to answer – which county is the largest producer of barley in the Tar heel State?

“Perquimans County is the largest producer of barley in the state,” said James Smith, who co-owns the shop with his wife Sharon. “When one of the farmer's brought us this barley, he told us the story about how they harvest the barley and it gets sent out to the roasters who do the malting before it goes to the breweries. This beer then comes back to us – Highland Brewing uses 100 percent barley from Perquimans County. That's Starchaser White's story.”

On that note, Barley and Vine sells mixed six-packs, so you can experiment to find the right taste when searching for 5 o'clock somewhere.

“People can come in and mix a six-pack of things they want to try and then maybe come back to try something else,” Smith said.

Maybe when songstress Christina Aguilera sang, “It keeps getting better” she was talking about how Barley & Vine sells food from Layden's Country Store in Belvidere. What a perfect combination – beer and quality meat from Layden's! Maybe as good as peanut butter and chocolate.

And if you're not into alcoholic beverages – the place sells bottled Shirley Temples, as well as other non-alcoholic drinks. For trivia buffs, a Shirley Temple is traditionally made with ginger ale and a splash of grenadine to give it that pink appeal. For super trivia buffs, the drink is named after child star Shirley Temple.

"This is another interesting drink for people to try,” Smith said.

Wine prices range from about $6 a bottle to $18 and change – an affordable purchase particularly for those parents who just bought a ton of groceries and need a glass of wine after a long day at work while listening to their children with eye-rolling wonder as they regale tales of middle school madness, garter snakes, spitballs on the bus and drama queens. Beer is affordable too — normal priced bottles that don’t require a second mortgage to purchase.  

Maybe Edenton is where the cool kids hang out, but Hertford has its own special allure.  

“Hertford has always been so charming!” Sharon Smith said. “Over the years, businesses have come and gone, I think folks are looking for unique experiences right now. We all know that you can purchase anything you want online these days, even wine and craft beer. People just want to be able to walk around downtown and enjoy the simple charm that Hertford has to offer.”

Saturday afternoon, Devin Gregory, of Perquimans County, was curious about the new store that opened on Valentine’s Day, so she popped in for a quick chat and to pick up a bottle of wine.

“Welcome to town,” Gregory said with her customary Southern charm to James Smith. “I've been meaning to come in because I've heard some delightful things about you guys opening. It is such a breath of fresh air to have a place like this. There's many new venues in town where you can come, maybe get a craft beer, great wine and things like that you're not going to find in your grocery stores. There's a lot of boutique wines that are pretty cool from up and coming vineyards that are really making themselves known that I really like. There's friendly faces and cool lift gifts. I hope more vendors take a note from what they are doing here and really try to do more of this, because Hertford is such a hidden gem.”

Hailing originally from Hampton Roads, Virginia, James Smith is a computer analyst for Xerox and his wife Sharon is the county's tourism development director. Like many folks who hail from other places, they love the area.

“We love it in Perquimans County,” James Smith said.

Sharon Smith added, “And I love living in Perquimans County because it is simple. Everyone just takes care of their business and lives their own life.”