We all know that North Carolina's Southeastern (humid) climate is not ideal for grape growing. Grapes do not like wet. They like warm sunny, dry days, and cool nights. Even in the NC mountains, those conditions are hard to come by. Some years are better than others, depending on the weather, of course. For me, the weekend was more about the discovery of quaint tasting rooms and picturesque farms than tasting amazing wines. However, there were a few wines I enjoyed and would proudly serve at home, if mostly for their very uniqueness.
Teresa mentioned Grassy Creek Vineyard, where we tasted the sweet Guernsey Red and Guernsey Whites, which were bottled in specially made milk bottles, just for fun (the place used to be a historic dairy farm). I really enjoyed a couple of Grassy Creek's other reds. One was an '07 Red Barn Blend, a nicely balanced blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese varietals. It had a prominent plum flavor, with a bit of spiciness from the Syrah, and a very smooth finish - which means the flavor disappeared from your mouth at the perfect rate as you swallowed. Tasty!
Grassy Creek also makes an '07 Chambourcin which is a wonderful mix of spice and fruit. For those of you who take pleasure from the way a wine looks as well as the way it tastes, it's a beautiful deep ruby red with a finish that lingers slightly on your tongue...this is a good one to savor with some "splurge" cheese....you know, the kind you always want to get at Trader Joe's and then think, "I cannot pay $8 for a hunk of cheese no bigger than my palm!"
In the Brushy Creek Tasting Room in Elkin, we heard stories of elderly owners Matthew and Ann Mayberry (really their last name!). Apparently, Matthew is a force to be reckoned with, and when he decided he wanted to make North Carolina wine in his golden years, no one could stop him. Hence, wines like "Booger Swamp White / Red", "Bugaboo Creek Red Blend", and "Sweet Lou" (dessert) were born!
My favorite of the vineyards was McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks. Open on Sunday, we stopped there on the way home, where Patricia kindly conducted a tasting and then offered up their garden patio for our packed lunch. Patricia and her husband moved here from Oregon, where they used to produce wines, and are trying hard to make a go of it, despite the climatic challenges. The tasting room and vineyard itself look like they were simply plunked down in the middle of a huge mountain garden, and it's a lovely and peaceful place.
I enjoyed the 2008 Yadkin Valley Ring of Fire Red, which is a Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend. It's a robust red that is not what you expect when you taste it - it has flavors of dark cherry, but also has a noticeable...dare I say it? ... "horsey" smell. I took a whiff and immediately thought "leather...tack room". If you love fruity American wines, this would take some getting used to, because it's very "old world/European" style....in that it's main quality is earthiness and not fruit. Thankfully, it's aged in French barrels vs American, which means the oak flavor is very subtle. The result is a very interesting and enjoyable red wine for sipping.
McRitchie also makes an NC Award winning Rose - the 2008 Pale Rider Dry Rose, made from the Sangiovese grape. It smells like strawberries and flowers, but is dry...and, again, if looks matter to you, you'll love the gorgeous pink color! They also produce cider, which we did not try, but since NC is better at growing apples than grapes, I am guessing it's pretty tasty. (Not that I needed a reason to head back up there this fall...but now I have one!)
So, if you are roaming through a wine section some time wanting something interesting and different, try an NC wine. I promise you, it will not be expensive, and if your drinking buddies are not wine snobs, you may just enjoy it. In doing so, you will have supported some of the kindest, most hospitable, most daring and adventurous people in the South - NC wine growers!
Cheers, and thanks for following the Vinogals!