Joe Brock

In the Wine Light – International Grenache Day

In the Wine Light – International Grenache Day

Grenache growing at Jones Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery

Grenache growing at Jones Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery – Photo Courtesy of Jones von Drehle

In the Wine Light is International Grenache Day.  This wine holiday is celebrated yearly on the third Friday in September.  In 2021, that falls on September 17th.

Grenache Day celebrates the red grape Grenache as it’s known in France.  In Spain, it’s known as Garnacha and is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world.

Grenache typically thrives in a hot, dry climate and is believed to have originated in what is now northern Spain.  It is also widely grown in the southern Rhône Valley in France where it makes up to 80% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends along with primarily Syrah and Mourvèdre.  Grenache is also used to make rosés with is being the predominant variety in the famous rosés of Tavel.

Grenache is not widely grown in North Carolina.  Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery currently uses their Grenache solely for their dry rosé, Rosa Dia.  Hanover Park Vineyard has a small planting used for blending.  Junius Lindsay Vineyard uses Grenache as an occasional standalone wine but mostly for blending in both reds and rosés.  MenaRick Vineyard and Winery also grows Grenache and has a single varietal of Grenache available.

What do you like about Grenache?  Would you like to see more Grenache grown in North Carolina?

#GrenacheDay #InTheWineLight

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In the Wine Light – International Cabernet Day

In the Wine Light – International Cabernet Day

Cabernet Sauvignon at Hanover Park Vineyard - Yadkinville, NC

Cabernet Sauvignon at Hanover Park Vineyard – Yadkinville, NC

In the Wine Light is International Cabernet Day.  This wine holiday is celebrated on the Thursday before Labor Day.  In 2021, that falls on September 2nd, but it can occur in late August or early September depending on the year.

So, is Cabernet Day for Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or both?  It seems that most folks celebrate Cabernet Sauvignon on this day, but we don’t see any reason why we can’t celebrate Cabernet Franc too.  After all, without Cabernet Franc crossing with Sauvignon Blanc, we wouldn’t have Cabernet Sauvignon!

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely planted and noble wine grapes in all the world.  It typically bud breaks later, so it isn’t subject to as many issues with the late spring frosts we see here in North Carolina.  Due to the later bud break, it’s often one of the last grapes to be harvested, but it can also struggle to get to optimal ripeness.

Cabs are often known for being full bodied with big tannins.  Old World Cabernets and those we find on the East Coast tend to be softer and more delicate.  Both have should have their place in your wine rack.

There are many delightful Cabernet Sauvignons in the state.  Just a few of our favorite include (but not limited to) Cabs from Overmountain Vineyards, Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery, Laurel Gray Vineyards, South Creek Vineyards and Winery, and Hanover Park Vineyard.

What do you like about Cabernet?  How are celebrating this iconic variety?

#CabernetDay #InTheWineLight

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In The Wine Light – North Carolina Grape Month 2021

In The Wine Light – North Carolina Grape Month 2021

NC Muscadine Grapes and Wine
NC Muscadine Grapes and Wine

In the Wine Light we celebrate North Carolina Grape Month!  Back in August for second year, NC Grape Month 2021 is a great time to visit vineyards across the state whether that be to scope out you pick opportunities or taste wines from locally grown grapes.

Whatever way you want to celebrate, we encourage you to do so safely.  Take your masks.  Wash your hands.  Keep your distance, but ENJOY!  

And don’t forget to share your fun on social media.  Use the hashtag #NCGrapeMonth.  

Grapes ripening at Jones von Drehle Vineyards & Winery in Thurmond, NC

If you’re looking for ideas on how to celebrate NC Grape Month, we have some suggestions:

  • Plan a trip for “you pick” grapes. Some vineyards may be open for you pick in the month of August with more opening in September.
  • Sign up to volunteer to help harvest grapes later in August, September, and October. Many local vineyards rely on volunteers to bring in their harvest. Check social media at your favorite vineyard for opportunities to help!
  • Attend a class on Backyard Muscadine Production. Hosted by Chuck Blethen of Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard, you find out all about caring for those backyard muscadines. You can register here.
  • Visit a local tasting room. Go for a tasting or an afternoon picnic or both! Visit ncwine.org to plan your trip! Celebrate locally grown grapes with a wine made from them!
  • Buy local grapes! They should start showing up at your local farmers market during August.
Muscadine grape hulls being cooked down for Grape Hull Pie
  • Make a grape hull pie! You can find some recipes here.
  • Drink local wine! Celebrate with your favorite bottle of North Carolina wine. Dry, sweet, red, white or rosé, there’s something for everyone out there and most are made with locally grown grapes
  • Talk about NC Grapes on social media! Be sure to use the hashtag #NCGrapeMonth! Let’s get it trending!
  • Follow us! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Just search for @NCWineGuys. We’ll give you tips on where to go and what to drink!
Join us for the 4th annual summit!
  • Attend the 2021 #NCWine Digital Media Summit. This year’s summit is again virtual, and it kicks off on August 8th. You can find out more here.
  • Catch up on Cork Talk!  We’re well into season 3 of Cork Talk, our podcast all about the local wine scene in North Carolina.  Subscribe and enjoy every episode.  Find Cork Talk at our website or wherever you get your podcasts. Not only do we talk about wine, but we talk about grapes too!
  • Join our Facebook group!  We’ve started a Facebook group to support the local wine and grape industry.  Search for Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine to join

Let us know if you have other ideas!  Cheers!

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In the Wine Light – #NCWine Digital Media Summit

In the Wine Light – #NCWine Digital Media Summit

In the Wine Light is the 2021 #NCWine Digital Media Summit. This is our fourth annual summit and was previously known at the Bloggers Summit. 

A Summit is Born

Attendees of the first #NCWine Bloggers Summit

The original Bloggers Summit began as a way to bring together bloggers, digital influencers, wineries, and vineyards to learn about digital media, to connect, and to network. We held that first summit at Hanover Park Vineyard on a cold and dreary Saturday in March, 2018. 

Year 2 – Better than Ever

The second #NCWine Bloggers Summit at Hanover Park Vineyard

We returned to Hanover Park for a second year in March 2019. Attendance tripled. Our content level was raised.  Everyone had a great time.

Big Plans for 2020 

We were on track for another big year in March, 2020. We planned to hold the summit at the Shelton-Badgett NC Center for Viticulture and Enology at Surry Community College. Then COVID-19 hit. We postponed the event in hopes of still holding an in-person event, but the pandemic had different plans, so we did a condensed virtual event in July, 2020.

A Multi-week Virtual Event for 2021

For 2021, we decided to stay virtual again with hopes for an in-person event again for the 5th summit in 2022. We also decided to make a name change from the Bloggers Summit to the Digital Media Summit for a more inclusive feel. But unlike 2020, where we packed the event into a single afternoon, we’ve decided to have one session per week for several weeks on Sunday evenings from August 8 – October 3 with a two week break around Labor Day.

We have great sessions with fun speakers for 2021. Head to our event page to learn more and to buy tickets. A full session package is only $20. Individual sessions are $5 each. The kickoff session is free, but registration is required. 

#Blogger #DigitalInfluencer #Media #Wine #WineConference #GotToBeNC

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In the Wine Light – National Rosé Day

In the Wine Light – National Rosé Day

National Rosé Day

In the Wine Light is National Rosé Day.  This wine holiday was established in 2014 by Bodvár House of Rosés as way to celebrate everyone’s favorite pink drink.  National Rosé Day is celebrated annually on the Second Saturday of June.  In 2021, that’s Saturday, June 12th.

Rosé is made in three ways:

  • Maceration – The skins of red grapes (usually picked early for higher acidity) are left to macerate in the juice for hours to a couple of days.
  • Saignée – This is the bleed off method. Saignée is the past participle of the French verb saigner meaning to bleed.  Here within the first few hours of making red wine, some of the juice is bled off into another tank for rosé.  Not only does this produce rosé, but it intensifies the resulting red wine too.
  • Blending – A bit of red wine is added to a tank (or some other container) of white wine to make rosé.  Generally less than 5% of the resulting rosé will have come from red wine.

Rosé is one of the most versatile wine styles when it comes to pairing with food.  It will go with almost any food from cheeses to salads to Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s the perfect wine to bring to a party if you don’t know what’s being served.

We’re big fans of rosés particularly those made from the maceration method.  Do you have a favorite rosé?

Support Local #NCWine

And if you want to join the conversation about local North Carolina Wine, join our new Facebook group, Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine!

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #NationalRoséDay #RoséAllDay #RoséDay

 

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In the Wine Light – Two Wine Holidays

In the Wine Light – Two Wine Holidays

In the Wine Light are two wine holidays for the last full week of North Carolina Wine Month, National Wine Day and National Chardonnay Day.  Both are celebrated during the same week in 2021.

National Wine Day

National Wine Day is celebrated annually on May 25th.  This is not to be confused with National Drink Wine Day which is celebrated annually on February 18th.  

National Chardonnay Day is celebrated annually on the Thursday before Memorial Day, so the date is different year to year.  In 2021, with Memorial Day falling on May 31st, National Chardonnay Day is May 27th.  Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted varieties in the world and is one of our favorites.  From stainless to barrel fermentation to sparkling to even desserts wines, Chardonnay is a versatile grape.

Some of you could be like us and celebrate these wine holidays regularly.  But give it an extra special try on May 25th and May 27th!

Support Local #NCWine

And if you want to join the conversation about local North Carolina Wine, join our new Facebook group, Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine!

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #NationalWineDay #NationalChardonnayDay

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In the Wine Light – Ways to Celebrate NC Wine Month!

In the Wine Light – Ways to Celebrate NC Wine Month!

In the Wine Light are ways to celebrate North Carolina Wine Month!  May is officially NC Wine Month.  And after the disaster that was 2020, folks want to get out and celebrate.

So, what are some ways to celebrate NC Wine Month? We’re glad you asked! Here are a few of our ideas!

  • Visit a local tasting room. Go for a tasting or an afternoon picnic or both! Visit ncwine.org to plan your trip!
  • Buy local wine! Either at a local store or better yet, from the winery itself!
  • Drink local wine! Celebrate with your favorite bottle of North Carolina wine. Dry, sweet, red, white or rosé, there’s something for everyone out there!
  • Ask for local wine at restaurants and wine bars. It’s NC Wine Month! Encourage restaurants to do their part.
  • Encourage your friends and family to join in. There are plenty of folks leaving in NC who have no idea that we’re in the top 10 for wine production in the country!
  • Talk about NC Wine on social media! Be sure to use the hashtags #NCWine and #NCWineMonth! Let’s get them trending!
  • Take a picture of what NC Wine you’re drinking! Share with us on Social Media! We’ll do our best to retweet or repost! Don’t forget the #NCWine and #NCWineMonth hashtags!
  • Follow us! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Just search for @NCWineGuys. We’ll give you tips on where to go and what to drink!
  • Follow the official North Carolina Wine accounts on social media! Find them at “North Carolina Wine” on Facebook and @ncwines on Twitter and Instagram!
  • Catch up on Cork Talk!  We’re well into season 3 of Cork Talk, our podcast all about the local wine scene in North Carolina.  Subscribe and enjoy every episode.  Find Cork Talk at our website or wherever you get your podcasts.
  • Join our Facebook group!  We’ve started a Facebook group to support the local wine industry.  Search for Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine to join.

Let us know if you have other ideas!  Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, NC Wine Month, 1 comment
In The Wine Light – North Carolina Wine Month 2021

In The Wine Light – North Carolina Wine Month 2021

In the Wine Light we celebrate North Carolina Wine Month!  Back in May for second year, NC Wine Month 2021 looks to be more celebratory than the 2020 version.  During 2020, wineries were closed for onsite consumption until May 23rd due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Fast forward to 2021, and it’s nearly business as usual.

With the pandemic improving and the great weather in May, there’s even more of a reason to celebrate.  Head out and visit (safely) wineries, vineyards, meaderies, and cideries in the month of May.  Take your masks.  Wash your hands.  Keep your distance, but ENJOY!  

Share your fun on social media.  Use the hashtags #NCWine and #NCWineMonth.  

If you’re looking for ideas on how to celebrate NC Wine Month, here are some of the special events and promotions we’ve found so far:

  • Botanist & Barrel in Cedar Grove will be celebrating with new wine and cider releases.
  • The Surry Wineries, an association of 20 wineries in Surry and Wilkes Counties, are all banding together to promote wine month!  
  • Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery in State Road released a new wine on Friday, April 30th to honor their vineyard dog, Max.  The 2017 “To the Max” is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.  Expect this wine to be a big NC Wine Month hit!
  • Brandon Hills Vineyard in Yadkinville released their 2015 Raptor Red on Saturday, May 1st.  Raptor Red is Brandon Hills’ signature red blend.  We got a sneak peak last fall.  It’s great wine, you’re sure to enjoy.  The release also includes food and live music.
  • FernCrest Winery in Andrews released their new Autumn Rosé on Saturday, May 1st.  This wine is made from their vineyard’s Cynthiana/Norton grapes and finished sweet.  Later in the month, look for their Black Lady wine made from local blackberries and organic blueberries and finished sweet.
  • Zimmerman Vineyards in Trinity will be releasing their new Sparkling Rosé, Rosé Rush with a special release party on May 14th at 6pm.  For $50 per couple, enjoy a bottle of this new rosé along with a charcuterie board.  Contact the tasting room to reserve your spot.  In addition, Songwriter Sundays continue all month!  This features local artists singing original tunes.
  • Wineries and vineyards across the state are giving away picnic sets.  Check your favorite winery or vineyard’s social media pages for details!

Stay tuned for other ways to celebrate all month long!  Keep checking back on this post, we’ll be updating it all month long.

 

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, NC Wine Month, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – Henderson County Cider, Wine, & Dine Weekend

In the Wine Light – Henderson County Cider, Wine, & Dine Weekend

Visit Hendersonville

In the Wine Light we celebrate Henderson County, NC’s Cider, Wine, and Dine Weekend!  This annual event is back for 2021 following a break in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This year’s event runs from April 15 – 18.

Per the website and press release, “The Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend features Henderson County wineries and cideries partnering together to create a signature weekend surrounded by all things cider, wine and food!  It is an action-packed weekend filled with artisan hard cider, award-winning wines, a variety of food, educational programs, live music, facility tours and more.”

All CDC guidelines for COVID-19 will be followed.

Participants include:

Tasting Room - Appalachian Ridge

Tasting Room Pre-Pandemic – Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Cider – Hendersonville, NC

Barrel Room at Burntshirt

Barrel Room at Burntshirt Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

Vineyard and Blue Ridge at Marked Tree Vineyard - Flat Rock, NC

Vineyard and Blue Ridge Mountains at Marked Tree Vineyard – Flat Rock, NC

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

Stone Ashe Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC

Stone Ashe Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

Activities include wine and cider tastings, live music, and more!  For a full list of activities, download the event brochure.

Henderson County has a rich history of agriculture and agro-tourism.  It is the largest apple growing county in North Carolina producing 85% of North Carolina’s apple crop.  This Cider, Wine, and Dine Weekend coincides with peak apple blossom time.

Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA

Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA – Elevation Map

In addition to apples, Henderson County is now known for growing grapes as well.  It’s home to North Carolina’s newest American Viticultural Area, Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County.  It’s one of our favorite spots in North Carolina, so we recommend you go check it out too!

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #CrestOfTheBlueRidgeHendersonCountyAVA #CiderWineDineWeekend

 

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Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night – NC Wine Month 2021 Kickoff

Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night – NC Wine Month 2021 Kickoff

NC Wine Month

We hosted our first ever Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Nights in 2020 to celebrate our local wine industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  While the pandemic is still affecting all of our daily lives, things are slowly improving.  

To continue to support the industry and to kickoff off North Carolina Wine Month, we’re hosting another  Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night.  So, join us on Saturday, May 1, 2021, to celebrate our local wine industry and all that we love about North Carolina Wine.

So how can you particpate?

  1. Select a bottle of North Carolina Wine, Mead, or Cider.
  2. Open it on the evening of May 1, 2021.
  3. Take a picture and post on social media.
  4. Share why you chose that bottle, who you shared it with, and more.
  5. Tag the winery, vineyard, meadery, or cidery and tag us too @NCWineGuys.
  6. And use #NCWineNight and #NCWineMonth on your posts!  

Wineries and vineyards across the state are planning special events and promotions. Head to our post about NC Wine Month for more information.

And be sure to share our Facebook Event with your friends and family!

And don’t forget to share your love of North Carolina Wine during all of May using hashtags #NCWine and #NCWineMonth!

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Wine, 1 comment
In the Wine Light – One Year with COVID

In the Wine Light – One Year with COVID

In the Wine Light is one year with COVID.  On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  Stay at home orders soon followed including ours here in North Carolina on March 17, 2020.  Life changed drastically overnight.

Closed due to COVID

From March 18 – May 22, 2020, tasting rooms in North Carolina were closed to onsite consumption.  Curbside pickup and online sales were still allowed, but visiting a tasting room or having wine on a patio at a vineyard or winery was not.  Finally, a new executive order came and on May 23, 2020, onsite consumption was allowed once again but with new guidelines.

Under this new world, businesses adapted.  The wine industry in North Carolina did too, and for the most part, it thrived.  Some did struggle, but all in and all things weren’t as bad as they could have been.

It’s been a trying year for all of us, but there have been a few positives.  We want to highlight a few things we hope will continue in the wine world after things get back to normal:

  • Continued online sales and shipping.  A number of wineries didn’t have this option before COVID, but many pivoted quickly.  It’s a wonderful option for getting North Carolina Wine directly for your front door!
  • More outdoor options.  Many wineries and vineyards expanded their outdoor options in the last year.  There’s more room and more places to enjoy wine outdoors.
  • Reservations for tastings or just a table.  We hate waiting, so we find this option to be super fantastic.  Having a dedicated time to enjoy wine makes for a more pleasurable experience. 
  • Virtual tastings.  We have loved participating in these.  It’s a safe and fun way to enjoy wine and still connect with others!

And there are a few things we won’t miss when things return to normal.  These include:

  • Disposable drinkware.  Not only do they not show wine well, they’re also not great for the environment.
  • Masked faces.  We’ve missed seeing those smiles behind the tasting room bar!
Practice the 3 Ws!

Practice the 3 Ws!

Let’s all continue to do our part to help beat this virus.  Practice your three Ws.  Wear.  Wash.  Wait.  And when it’s your turn, get your shot!  You can find more information at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

Stay safe! 

#InTheWineLight #OneYearWithCOVID #NCWine

 

 

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 1 comment
In the Wine Light – Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA

In the Wine Light – Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the sixth AVA in North Carolina, the Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County.  This is the newest AVA in the state located in most of Henderson County, NC including the town of Hendersonville.

Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA

Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA – Elevation Map

The petition for creating the Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA originated from Mark Williams, the executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County, and Barbara Walker, the county extension support specialist for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, on behalf of local vineyards and winery operators.  This AVA straddles the Eastern Continental Divide in Henderson County.  The larger area is known as the Crest of the Blue Ridge, so to make it clear the location of the AVA, “Henderson County” was added to the name.

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

The Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA is distinguished from the surrounding areas and other AVAs due to topography and climate.  At the time of the petition to establish the AVA, there were 14 vineyards and 2 wineries.  As of this writing, there are four additional tasting rooms open in the AVA.

Burntshirt Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC

Burntshirt Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

Per the petition, the crest separates two physiographic provinces, the Blue Ridge Escarpment, which covers the southern and eastern portions of the AVA, and the Blue Ridge Plateau, which covers the northern and western portions of the AVA. The Blue Ridge Escarpment rises steeply, so that this region of the  AVA has an average elevation more than 950 feet higher than the region immediately south, and more than 1,200 feet higher than the region immediately east.

Stone Ashe Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC

Stone Ashe Vineyards – Hendersonville, NC

The growing season averages between 200 and 220 days within the AVA.  This is shorter than the growing season to the south and east of the AVA but slightly longer than the growing season to the north and west of the AVA.  Annual precipitation is lower than regions to the south, east, and west of the AVA but higher than the region north of the AVA.

Vineyard and Blue Ridge at Marked Tree Vineyard - Flat Rock, NC

Vineyard and Blue Ridge Mountains at Marked Tree Vineyard – Flat Rock, NC

The Hendersonville area is a wonderful tourist destination that’s often less busy than Asheville.  The AVA is producing some outstanding wines including wonderful Rieslings, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, and Cabernet Sauvignons.  Be sure to go visit and see for yourself.

Quick Facts

Name:  Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County

Petitioner:  Mark Williams, the executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County, and Barbara Walker, the county extension support specialist for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, on behalf of local vineyards and winery operators

Effective Date:  August 19, 2019

Square Miles:  215

Counties within boundaries:  Most of Henderson County, NC

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 1394 ft to over 4396 ft with mean elevation of 2362 ft

Climate:  The mean annual temperature is 55.5 degrees with a growing season that averages 200 – 220 days.

Source:  TTB Website

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #CrestOfTheBlueRidgeHendersonCountyAVA

 

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In the Wine Light – Appalachian High Country AVA

In the Wine Light – Appalachian High Country AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the fifth AVA in North Carolina, the Appalachian High Country.  This is North Carolina’s second AVA shared with another state.  In this case, it’s two states, Tennessee and Virginia.

Linville Falls Winery - Linville Falls, NC

Linville Falls Winery – Linville Falls, NC

The petition for creating the Appalachian High Country AVA originated from Johnnie James, owner of Bethel Valley Farms on behalf of the High Country Wine Growers Association.  The area has been known as the High Country for many years due to the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.

Banner Elk Winery - Banner Elk, NC

Banner Elk Winery – Banner Elk, NC

The Appalachian High Country AVA is distinguished from the surrounding areas and other AVAs due to topography, climate, and soils.  At the time of the petition to establish the AVA, there were 21 vineyards and 10 wineries.

Due to the shorter growing season and cooler climate of the high country, hybrids are popular grape varieties.  Seyval Blanc, Marquette, Marechal Foch, Frontenac, and Vidal Blanc are popular varieties.  You can also find vinifera varieties in smaller quantities such as Riesling and Pinot Noir.

Vineyard at Grandfather Mountain Vineyard  & Winery - Banner Elk, NC

Vineyard at Grandfather Mountain Vineyard & Winery – Banner Elk, NC

Also, most vineyards are planted on slopes with angles of 30 degrees or greater.  This also means vineyards tend to be terraced to prevent erosion.  Due to this harvesting is mostly done by hand.

The High Country is a popular destination in any time of year.  From Christmas tree farms and skiing in the winter to the blooms of late spring and summer to the colorful leaves of fall, there’s plenty to enjoy year round.  Plus, there’s great wine too!

Quick Facts

Name:  Appalachian High Country

Petitioner:  Johnnie James, owner of Bethel Valley Farms on behalf of the High Country Wine Growers Association

Effective Date:  November 28, 2016

Square Miles:  2,400

Counties within boundaries:  All or Portions of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, and Watauga Counties in North Carolina; Carter and Johnson Counties in Tennessee; and Grayson County in Virginia

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 1338 ft to over 6000 ft with most vineyards planted between 2290 ft to 4630 ft

Climate:  The average annual temperature is 51.5 degrees with a growing season that averages 139 days.

Soil:  Derived from igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite and gneiss; Well-drained with a fine, loamy texture

Source:  TTB Website

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #AppalachianHighCountry

 

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In the Wine Light – Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA

In the Wine Light – Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the fourth AVA in North Carolina, the Upper Hiwassee Highlands.

Hiwassee River Basin

Hiwassee River Basin

The petition for creating the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA originated from Eric Carlson, owner of Calaboose Cellars, on behalf of himself and members of the Vineyard and Winery Operators of the Upper Hiwassee River Basin group.

FernCrest Winery Tasting Room - Andrews, NC

FernCrest Winery Tasting Room – Andrews, NC

The Upper Hiwassee Highlands name was chosen due to the AVA’s location along the upper portions of the Hiwassee River, from the river’s headwaters in Towns County, Georgia, to the Hiwassee Dam on Hiwassee Lake in Cherokee County, North Carolina. The portion of the river that flows north of the dam, outside the proposed viticultural area, is often referred to as the “lower” river.  Highlands denotes the high, rugged, regions of the southern portion of the Appalachians and are terms used by businesses and organizations within the AVA.

 
Nottely River Valley Vineyards Tasting Room - Murphy, NC

Nottely River Valley Vineyards Tasting Room – Murphy, NC

Upper Hiwasee Highlands was the first AVA in North Carolina to be shared with another state, in this case, Georgia.  It covers portions of Cherokee and Clay counties in southwestern North Carolina and portions of Town, Union, and Fannin Counties in northern Georgia.

Nottely River Valley Vineyards - Murphy, NC

Nottely River Valley Vineyards – Murphy, NC

At the time of the petition in 2013 there were 26 commercial vineyards located throughout the proposed viticultural area, growing approximately 54 acres of French-American hybrids, American grape varieties, and Vitis vinifera.

Today the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA continues to produce top quality grapes and wines.  From the scenic mountain views to the quaint mountain towns and friendly people, it’s a great wine destination for North Carolina.

Quick Facts

Name:  Upper Hiwassee Highlands

Petitioner:  Eric Carlson, owner of Calaboose Cellars, on behalf of himself and members of the Vineyard and Winery Operators of the Upper Hiwassee River Basin group

Effective Date:  August 14, 2014

Square Miles:  690

Counties within boundaries:  Portions of Cherokee and Clay in North Carolina and Towns, Union, and Fannin in Georgia

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 2000 to 2400 ft which is lower than most of the surrounding area and the AVA boundary approximating the boundary of the watershed for the upper portion of the Hiwassee River

Climate:  Warmer than the surrounding regions to the north, east, and south and slightly cooler than the region to the west with 161 to 168 freeze free days 

Soil:  Deep, moderately to well drained, and moderately fertile

Source:  TTB Website

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #UpperHiwasseeHighlands

 

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In the Wine Light – National Drink Wine Day

In the Wine Light – National Drink Wine Day

National Drink Wine Day 2021

In the Wine Light is National Drink Wine Day.  National Drink Wine Day is celebrated annually on February 18th.  This is not to be confused with National Wine Day which is celebrated annually on May 25th.

According to the the National Drink Wine Day website, the wine holiday is meant “to spread the love and health benefits of wine.”  The site goes on to say, “Wine has played an important role in history, religion and relationships.  We embrace the positive benefits of wine such as new friends, reduced risk of heart disease and the enhancement of food and life.”

National Drink Wine Day was founded by Todd McCalla.  In addition to their website, you can learn more and celebrate by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Some of you could be like us and celebrate this wine holiday regularly.  But give it an extra special try on February 18th!

Support Local #NCWine

And if you want to join the conversation about local North Carolina Wine, join our new Facebook group, Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine!

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #NationalDrinkWineDay #DrinkWineDay

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 1 comment
In the Wine Light – Haw River Valley AVA

In the Wine Light – Haw River Valley AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the third AVA in North Carolina, the Haw River Valley.

Haw River

Haw River

The petition for creating the Haw River Valley AVA originated from Patricia McRitchie on behalf of local grape growers and winemakers.  The Haw River Valley name was chosen because the Haw River.  

Grove Winery - Gibsonville, NC

Grove Winery – Gibsonville, NC

The Haw River’s name is derived from the Sissipahaw Native Americans who once lived in small villages along the river.  The boundaries of the AVA are composed of nearly all of the Haw River’s watershed.  At the time of the petition there were over 60 acres of vineyards and 6 wineries within the proposed boundaries.

Grapes growing at Grove Winery - Gibsonville, NC

Grapes growing at Grove Winery – Gibsonville, NC

Today the Haw River Valley continues to be an important wine growing region for North Carolina.  Situated between the booming Research Triangle and the Piedmont Triad, it’s easily accessible from two of North Carolina’s largest metropolitan areas.

Quick Facts

Name:  Haw River Valley

Petitioner:  Patricia McRitchie on behalf of local grape growers and winemakers

Effective Date:  April 29, 2009

Square Miles:  868

Counties within boundaries:  Portions of Guilford, Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Orange, and Rockingham

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 350 ft in the southeastern corner of the boundary to over 800 ft in the northwestern corner

Climate:  Temperatures are moderate with more precipitation as compared to the surrounding areas. The growing season and frost-free days generally run from April 1 to November 1.

Soil:  Variety of soil types that are deep and well drained;  These tend to be acidic with low fertility.

Source:  TTB Website

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #HawRiverValley

 

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In the Wine Light – Swan Creek AVA

In the Wine Light – Swan Creek AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the second oldest and only AVA to overlap another AVA in North Carolina, the Swan Creek AVA.

Raffaldini Vineyards - Ronda, NC

Raffaldini Vineyards – Ronda, NC

The petition for creating the Swan Creek AVA originated from Raffaldini Vineyards on behalf of the original Vineyards of the Swan Creek trade association.  The Swan Creek name was chosen because the community in the center of the AVA is known as Swan Creek.  Also, East and West Swan Creeks run north from the Brushy Mountains and form Swan Creek which empties into the Yadkin River three miles west of Jonesville.

Merlot growing at Shadow Springs Vineyard - Hamptonville, NC

Merlot growing at Shadow Springs Vineyard – Hamptonville, NC

After the Civil War, farming become a primary focus of the area which continues today.  At the time of the petition in 2006, there were three wineries and 75 acres of vineyard within the proposed AVA’s boundaries.

Budbreak at Laurel Gray Vineyards - Hamptonville, NC

Budbreak at Laurel Gray Vineyards – Hamptonville, NC

Today, the Swan Creek AVA is home many more acres of vineyards with seven tasting rooms.  More tasting rooms, vineyards, and wineries will be opening within the next few years.  Currently, the Swan Creek AVA has the most dense concentration of vineyards and wineries in North Carolina.

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Piccione Vineyards - Ronda, NC

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Piccione Vineyards – Ronda, NC

Quick Facts

Name:  Swan Creek

Petitioner:  Raffaldini Vineyards on behalf of the original Vineyards of Swan Creek Association

Effective Date:  May 27, 2008

Acres:  96,000

Counties within boundaries:  Portions of Wilkes, Yadkin, and Iredell

Overlap with Yadkin Valley:  The northern 60% of the Swan Creek AVA is also a part of the Yadkin Valley AVA.  The lower 40% is outside of the boundaries of the Yadkin Valley.

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 1000 ft to 2000 ft within the AVA boundaries with the Brushy Mountain being a prominent feature

Climate:  Temperatures and precipitation are slightly cooler and less wet than the rest of the Yadkin Valley partly due to the Brushy Mountains

Soil:  Primarily saprolite, a soft, clay-rich soil derived from weathered felsic (acidic) metamorphic rocks of the Inner Piedmont Belt such as granites, schists, and gneisses

Source:  TTB Website

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #SwanCreek

 

 

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In the Wine Light – Yadkin Valley AVA

In the Wine Light – Yadkin Valley AVA

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light we continue our series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Carolina.  Our focus in this post is the oldest and largest AVA in North Carolina, the Yadkin Valley.

Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, NC

The petition for creating the Yadkin Valley AVA originated from Patricia McRitchie on behalf of Shelton Vineyards.  The Yadkin Valley name was chosen because the area had been known as the Yadkin Valley since pre-colonial days with the Yadkin River being a prominent feature of the area.

Vineyard #1 at Westbend Vineyards – The first Vinifera planting in the Yadkin Valley

At the end of the 20th Century, the once thriving tobacco growing region was turning to a new crop, wine grapes.  At the time of the petition there were over 30 growers within the original boundaries of the AVA and 3 bonded wineries.

Cabernet Sauvignon growing at Hanover Park – The second winery in the Yadkin Valley

A petition by Alliston Stubbs of Cedar Ridge Vineyards in Reeds, NC asked to include additional land in Davie and Davidson Counties in the new AVA.  This petition was accepted. Other petitions to expand the area of the AVA were denied.

Yadkin Valley AVA

Boundaries of the Yadkin Valley AVA

Today the Yadkin Valley is home to some of the most premier wineries in North Carolina.  New vineyards are being planted and new wineries are coming online.  The region and AVA are fast becoming a wine tourism destination.

Quick Facts

Name:  Yadkin Valley

Petitioner:  Patricia McRitchie on behalf of Shelton Vineyards

Effective Date:  February 7, 2003

Acres:  1,416,000

Counties within boundaries:  Wilkes, Surry, Yadkin, and portions of Stokes, Forsyth, Davie, and Davidson

Geography:  Elevation ranges from 3800 ft in Northwest Wilkes County to 694 in Northwest Davie County. Latitude is between 36°00′ and 36°30′ N.

Climate:  Temperatures and precipitation are moderate as compared to the surrounding areas. The growing season and frost-dates fall within the optimum range for cultivation of premium vinifera grapes.

Soil:  Soils are mostly clay with clay or fine Loamy subsoils with good drainage.  The tend to be acidic with low fertility.

Source:  Federal Register

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #YadkinValley

 

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In the Wine Light – American Viticultural Areas

In the Wine Light – American Viticultural Areas

AVAs for North Carolina

American Viticultural Areas in North Carolina

In the Wine Light is a new series on American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) with a particular focus on the six AVAs in North Carolina.  Over the next few months, we’ll dive into each of these six North Carolina AVAs.

But we’ll start with what is an AVA.  The Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is the government agency charged with approving and designating new AVAs.  Per their website:

An American Viticultural Area, or AVA, is a specific type of appellation of origin used on wine labels. An AVA is a delimited grape-growing region with specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from the surrounding regions and affect how grapes are grown. Using an AVA designation on a wine label allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers identify wines they may purchase.

So, an AVA is a designated grape-growing region within the United States that has specific geographic features or a unique climate that distinguishes it from other grape growing regions.  Our AVAs are similar to appellation designations in France (AOC/AOP) and Italy (DOC/DOCG) although not as stringent.  For example, American AVAs don’t restrict what grapes can be grown in a given AVA .

An AVA designation allows winemakers to taut the unique terroir of a particular region. Some AVAs come with a level of prestige allowing wines to claim higher selling prices.  A wine with an AVA designation must be made of at least 85% of the grapes in the wine having been grown within the AVA.

According to the TTB’s website, to establish a new AVA, you must have these three things:

  1. A proposed name, as well as evidence showing that the name is currently used to describe the region of the proposed AVA.
  2. A description of the geographic and/or climatic features that distinguish the proposed AVA from the surrounding regions and have an effect on how grapes are grown, along with evidence to support your claims of these distinctive features.
  3. A written description of the proposed AVA boundary and the appropriate U.S.G.S topographic maps with the boundary drawn on it.

The petition undergoes a lengthy review and approval process sometimes taking years.

What would you like to know about AVAs in North Carolina?  Leave us a comment.

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #AVA

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 3 comments
In the Wine Light – A Look Ahead for 2021

In the Wine Light – A Look Ahead for 2021

Happy New Year 2021

In the Wine Light is a look ahead at North Carolina Wine for 2021.  Let’s be honest.  2020 was a dumpster fire of a year.  From COVID-19 to the late spring frosts and freezes that wiped out many spring grape buds and flowers to the seemingly never ending rain, 2020 was a year that we and probably most of the local wine industry is happy to forget.

With the new year, comes the hope of better opportunities and experiences.  Here are few things we’re looking forward to for North Carolina Wine in 2021:

2021 > 2020

  • Improvement of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We missed regularly visiting wineries in 2020.  We hope the pandemic improves which will allow us to visit more often, taste more often, and share more about North Carolina wine.
NC Wine Guys Present Cork Talk

NC Wine Guys Present Cork Talk

  • Season 3 of Cork Talk.  We look forward to bringing you more interviews from winery and vineyard owners, grape growers, winemakers and other industry folks this year.  And Jessica and Jesse from The Wine Mouths will be back to share more wine knowledge, but we would love to hear from about what we should cover.  Head here to take our survey.

Support Local #NCWine

  • Growing our Support Local North Carolina Wine Facebook group.  We started this group in 2020, but we really want to see it take off in 2021.  Head to Facebook and join via this link.

2021 #NCWine Digital Media Summit

  • An In-Person #NCWine Digital Media Summit.  We’ve decided to rename the #NCWine Bloggers Summit to be more inclusive.  The 2020 version was virtual and the 2021 summit may be as well.  Look for more information in the coming months.
  • More 2019 wines to taste, buy, and enjoy.  2019 was a stellar growing season in much of North Carolina.  A number of 2019 whites and rosés have been released as well as a few 2019 reds.  2021 should bring more of them.
  • More sparkling wines and rosés.  Sparkling wines and rosés continue to be popular.  We look forward to more of these appearing in tasting rooms and on store shelves in 2021.

What are you looking forward to in 2021?  Leave us a comment!

#InTheWineLight #NCWine #2021 #NewYear

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In the Wine Light – Festivus 2020 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

In the Wine Light – Festivus 2020 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

In the Wine Light today, December 23, 2020, is the celebration of Festivus.  Created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe and popularized during an episode of the hit TV show, Seinfeld, Festivus is celebrated with Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances.  So, in that spirit, we’re back for the fourth year to air a few wine grievances.  This is our one post a year that’s not entirely positive.  Many of these grievances are the same as last year, but there are a few new ones and some updates.  So, sit back.  Pour a glass and read on!

These are in no particular order:

COVID-19 Meme

  • COVID-19.  Ok, so there is an order at least for #1.  COVID-19 is at the top of our list.  While, thankfully we’re well.  Our families are well.  COVID has seriously cramped our style.  It’s kept us in and kept our wine tasting to a minimum.  And we’re certainly sad for those who have lost loved ones, jobs, and more due to the pandemic.  Here’s hoping COVID doesn’t make the list in 2021.

Wear a Mask

  • Folks who carrying on in 2020 like the pandemic doesn’t exist.  We’ve kept a lower profile in 2020, so our visits to wineries and vineyards have been less than usual.  When we have visited, a number of the visits have been safe and socially distanced.  Folks were wearing masks and staying away from others, but there have been a few occasions where masks were few and far between and personal space was not respected.  Just be mindful of others when you’re out.  And be respectful.  And wear a mask when you’re not eating or drinking!

  • Lack of hashtags in posts on social media about wines, wineries, vineyards.  You see we’re big proponents of hashtags as a way to brand.  So, all you #NCWine folks out there, USE THE DANG HASHTAG!
  • Too many hashtags or using hashtags that don’t apply.  This still gets on our nerves.  You don’t need 14 million hashtags on your post especially if they’re hashtags no one else uses.  And just because you’re drinking wine in a given region, that doesn’t make it a regional wine.  So, don’t post about the Apothic Red you’re drinking in Charlotte and call it #NCWine.  Wine is about a sense of place.  Apothic Red’s place is not in your wine glass.

  • Poor tasting glasses.  We’re still glass snobs.  Please no glasses with the “lip” around the rim.  These just don’t show wines well.  Upgrade the glass and the experience!

Just say no to stemless wine glasses

  • Stemless glasses.  Some people love them.  We hate them.  You’re constantly hold your glass by the bowl and then warming the wine with your hand which can then affect the taste.  Stick with a stemmed glass which brings us to our next grievance.

The Incorrect & Correct Way to Hold a Wine Glass

  • Holding a wine glass improperly.  You should hold the glass by the stem.  We did a whole blog post about it.

  • Too many wines on the list.  We see this all the time.  Wines lists with 10, 15 or even 20 wines.  We feel this is just too many to be able to focus on quality unless you have a large production staff.  So, scale it back.  You don’t need a new wine for every season.
  • “Fruited” wines.  We’re still wondering why do we need pomegranate, green apple, cranberry, cherry, pineapple and umpteen other fruits added to our perfectly fruity grape wines?  Wine grapes produce wines with an abundance of fruit flavors. Let the grapes speak for themselves.  And if you want a fruit wine, then just make it from fruit.

  • Wine slushies.  Seriously, why is this still a thing?  Ok, maybe in the summer then it’s 95 degrees and 10,000% humidity, but wine is already extra calories, do you really need all that extra sugar?

  • Children in at wineries and vineyards especially during a pandemic.  It’s sad that this is still an issue.  This is our #2 grievance (behind COVID) if we had to rank them.  Children can’t drink.  Don’t bring them with you to a winery.  Wining is an adult thing and many of us wish to adult in peace and quiet.  But, please bring your well behaved dogs and cats.  We love pets!

  • Parties of 6 or more in tasting rooms who have not called ahead especially during a pandemic.  This is annoying for tasting room staff and other customers.  If you’re in a group, be courteous!  Call ahead!  And given, the pandemic, it’s not wise to be gathering in big groups anyway.  Save those for later in 2021 or 2022.

  • Farm to fork restaurants who don’t have local wine on their lists.  This is probably #3 on our grievance list right after the kids at wineries.  Don’t call yourself a farm to fork locavore restaurant if you don’t have local wine on this list.  There’s just no excuse!  And make those wines available for pick up for those who don’t want to eat inside a restaurant right now.

So, that’s our list for this year.  And keeping with this theme, leave us your comments of what’s your grievances are.  Just avoid personal attacks.

Cheers and Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

#InTheWineLight #Festivus

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In the Wine Light – Mulled Wine and Cider

In the Wine Light – Mulled Wine and Cider

In the Wine Light and just in time for the holidays is Mulled Wine and Cider!

Mulled Wine and Cider are always favorites in the cooler months of the year.  We often serve Mulled Wine during the holidays or on days with wintry weather.  We have gone through several iterations of recipes.  Most have been made just using red wine as a base with bit of bourbon.  A few years ago, we found a recipe that incorporated wine, cider, bourbon and tawny port.  We have played with it a bit and would like to share it with you.

If you are looking for a warm mulled drink that is just slightly sweet, give this recipe a try.  If you would like a sweeter version, you could always add honey or brown sugar to taste or start with a sweeter wine.

Start with spices.  You will need cardamom, whole cloves, star anise, whole black peppercorns, whole allspice, cinnamon sticks, and a whole nutmeg.

Crack the cardamom pods.  Toast the cracked cardamom pods, star anise, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice berries in a skillet for just a few minutes.  Two – three minutes is all you need.  Stir constantly to prevent burning. The smell will be divine!

Next, make your cheesecloth bundle with sliced ginger, orange peel, and your toasted spices.  Secure with butcher’s twine.

In your slow cooker, pour in your liquid ingredients including the juice of half an orange.  Stir.

Add your cheesecloth bundle, cinnamon sticks, and sprig of rosemary.  Heat on low for two hours.  Then remove cheesecloth and sprig of rosemary.  Grate fresh nutmeg.  Stir.  Heat on low another two hours.  Remove cinnamon sticks and turn setting to warm.  Serve warm.

Here is the full recipe:

INGREDIENTS

3 Whole Star Anise

5 Whole Green Cardamom Pods, Cracked

1 Teaspoon Whole Cloves

1 Teaspoon Whole Allspice Berries

½ Teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns

1 Teaspoon Grated Orange Peel

1.5” Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Sliced Thinly

2 cups Apple Cider

1 bottle Dry Red Wine

1 cup Tawny Port

¼ cup Bourbon

Juice of ½ an Orange

6” Sprig of Rosemary

3 Cinnamon Sticks

Freshly Grated Nutmeg

4 Quart Slow Cooker

Cheesecloth

Butcher’s Twine

METHOD

  1. Heat small non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Once the skillet is hot, add Star Anise, Cardamon, Cloves, Allspice, and Black Peppercorns.
  3. Toast for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  4. Place toasted spices in cheesecloth along with Grated Orange Peel and Ginger.
  5. Secure with Butcher’s Twine.
  6. Pour wine, cider, port, and bourbon into slow cooker.
  7. Add cheesecloth bundle, rosemary sprig, and cinnamon sticks.
  8. Stir.
  9. Set slow cooker to low.
  10. Heat for 2 hours.
  11. Remove rosemary and cheesecloth bundle.
  12. Grate a dash or two of fresh nutmeg.
  13. Stir.
  14. Continue to heat on low for another hour or two. 
  15. Remove cinnamon sticks.
  16.  Set slow cooker to Warm until ready to serve.
  17. Serve warm.

#InTheWineLight #MulledWine #MulledCider

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Wine, 1 comment
In the Wine Light – Cabernet Franc Day

In the Wine Light – Cabernet Franc Day

In the Wine Light is Cabernet Franc Day.  This wine holiday is celebrated annually on December 4th.

According to the Cab Franc Day website, Cabernet Franc is believed to have been established in the Libournais region of southwest France sometime in the 17th century, when Cardinal Richelieu transported cuttings of the vine to the Loire Valley.  December 4th is the anniversary of Cardinal Richelieu’s death which is why we celebrate Cab Franc Day on that date.

Cabernet Franc is also the parent grape of at least three other Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère. It is also the parent to an obscure Spanish variety known as Hondarribi Beltza found mostly in the Basque Country.

In addition to its native Basque region in France, Cab Franc is planted elsewhere in France in Bordeaux and most famously in the Loire Valley.  There are also significant plantings in the Italy, Spain, Chile, and the US.

Cabernet Franc has gained a large footing on the East Coast of the US.  It’s popular in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island in New York as well as Virginia.  Cab Franc continues to gain footing in North Carolina as well.  It’s one of our favorite varieties and pairs wonderful with North Carolina BBQ, either Lexington-Style or Eastern-Style.  

One of the largest planting of Cabernet Franc in North Carolina is the six acres at RayLen Vineyards in Mocksville.  We reached out to winemaker Steve Shepard for some thoughts on growing Cab Franc in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. Steve tell us, “Cab Franc has been a work horse for us in that we utilize it in many ways.”

RayLen 2019 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Steve goes on to tell us that RayLen’s vineyard is planted with 3 of the highest rated French clones, 214, 327, and 312. He gave us more detailed information on each clone:

  • Clone 214 is known to express raspberry and violet flavors and recommended not to exceed more than 50% of the planting.  
  • Clone 327 recommended not to exceed 30% of the planting as it produces structured and powerful wines.  Our block is 52% clone 214 and 48% clone 327.  The fruit from these clones are used to produce Cab Franc varietal, and in blends Carolinius, Category 5, Eagle Select.
  • Clone 312 is known as a higher yielding than average so it sets the stage for a Rose.  Our Cab Franc Rose is produced from this block, clone 312.
RayLen 2018 Cabernet Franc

RayLen 2018 Cabernet Franc

Steve mentions that “Generally, Cab Franc in the vineyard preforms better than most other vinifera reds.”  It is more tolerant of heat, wet and disease.  In the winery, on bountiful years, Steve is able to separate the clones throughout the aging process before he establishes the final blend.  He says, “It’s interesting to note the unique characteristics of each and how they knit together.”

In addition to RayLen’s Cabernet Franc varietal, Cab Franc based blends, and Cab Franc rosé, there are many other delightful Cabernet Francs in the state.  Just a few of our favorites include (but not limited to) Cab Francs from Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery, Laurel Gray Vineyards, South Creek Vineyards and Winery, Hanover Park Vineyard, Burntshirt Vineyards, and Childress Vineyards.

Do you have a favorite Cabernet Franc?  How are you celebrating?

#CabFrancDay #CabernetFrancDay #InTheWineLight

 

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In the Wine Light – Sami the Wine Cat

In the Wine Light – Sami the Wine Cat

Sami excited about new wines from Défi Wines by Botanist & Barrel

Sami excited about new wines from Défi Wines by Botanist & Barrel

In the Wine Light is our sweet wine cat, Sami.  Long time followers know Sami as our little photo bomber in our wine photos.  It started by accident, but now, we do try to get her in the shot.  Her fans are sometimes concerned if she’s missing from the photo.

Sami the Wine Cat Relaxing

Sami relaxing before dinner

You’re probably wondering why we’re celebrating Sami this week.  Well, you see, we celebrate Sami’s birthday on November 17th.  We don’t actually know when her birthday is or even how old she is exactly.  Sami is a rescue kitty.  She was saved by the Saving Southern Kitties from a high kill shelter in Greenville, South Carolina.  Her vet records listed November 17th as her birthday, but that might just be the day she was pulled from the shelter.

Sami the Wine Cat loves her boxes

Sami loves her boxes especially when they’re from Chewy.

Saving Southern Kitties is a terrific non-profit organization run by our dear friend, Susan, working to save cats from high kill shelters in the Carolinas.  Based in the Charlotte area, this volunteer organization is top notch and does fantastic work.  Visit their website to find out how to volunteer, donate money, purchase fun kitty merchandise, or see their list of adoptable cats.

Sami the Wine Cat relaxing on the couch

Sami doing on her favorite things – relaxing on the couch

Sami is sweet, a little crazy, and VERY loud.  She always has something to say.  Sami loves laying the sun, sleeping under her blanket on the couch for hours, cardboard boxes, and sitting outside on the patio with her humans.  She adds such joy to our lives.  We hope she has a very happy birthday and a PURR-fect day!

#InTheWineLight #SamiTheWineCat

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In the Wine Light – International Merlot Day

In the Wine Light – International Merlot Day

Merlot Growing at Laurel Gray Vineyards

Merlot Growing at Laurel Gray Vineyards
Photo provided by Kim Myers, Co-Owner, Laurel Gray Vineyards

In the Wine Light is International Merlot Day.  This wine holiday is celebrated annually on November 7th.

Merlot is one of the most widely planted and noble wine grapes in all the world.  It typically is one of first red grapes to bud break, so it sometimes has issues with the late spring frosts we see here in North Carolina.  Due to the earlier bud break, it’s often one of the first red grapes to be harvested.

Merlot hails from Bordeaux and is an offspring of Cabernet Franc making it a sibling to Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Malbec.  It wasn’t until around 2009 that Merlot’s other parent was discovered via DNA testing.  This obscure variety, Merlot’s mother, is formally known as Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.

Sales of Merlot increased in the 1990s along with other red wines following the airing of the 60 Minutes segment on the French Paradox.  Then sales fell nearly 2% following the release of the 2004 movie Sideways which unfairly degraded Merlot.  Merlot has since made a comeback.

Baby Jack Loves Laurel Gray Merlot

Even babies love merlot! This is Baby Jack with merlot from Laurel Gray Vineyards in 2007. These grapes made a 100% estate wine that later won Best in Show at the NC State Fair Wine Competition.
Photo provided by Kim Myers, Co-Owner, Laurel Gray Vineyards

Merlots are often known for being full bodied with medium tannins.  Classic flavors are black cherry, raspberry, and plum.

There are many delightful Merlots in the state.  Just a few of our favorite include (but not limited to) Merlots from Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery, Laurel Gray Vineyards, South Creek Vineyards and Winery, and McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks.

What do you like about Merlot?  How are celebrating this iconic variety?

#MerlotDay #InTheWineLight

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In the Wine Light – Wine Styles for Fall

In the Wine Light – Wine Styles for Fall

In the Wine Light is wine styles for fall.  We don’t know about you, but fall is our favorite season.  Those warms days and cool nights are a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of the long Carolina summer.  

With the change of seasons comes a change in the wines we drink.  Here are some of the favorite kinds of wines we like to enjoy as the days get shorter and the leaves turn their brilliant colors.

Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct around Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Rosés – Rosés are typically associated with the warm days of spring and the sweltering hot days of summer, but rosé is also perfect for Fall.  Whether it’s a warm afternoon in the sun or with your Thanksgiving dinner, rosé is always a perfect pairing.

Sparkling Wine – We’re big fans of sparkling wine anytime of year.  Fall is often about celebration with Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Bubbles are a perfect way to start any celebration or a Tuesday night dinner.

Full Bodied and/or Oaked Whites – As the days get cooler it’s usually good to move from those crisp and cold wines of summer into a more full bodied white wine.  Think Petit Manseng or Viognier.  Add a little oak such is in a nice Chardonnay and you have the perfect pairing with fall foods featuring butternut squash or pumpkin.

Light Reds – Light Oaked or No Oak – The weather can still be quite warm in fall and the food typically isn’t as heavy as in winter, so it’s the perfect time for light reds whether they be oaked or not.  Think a Loire Valley Style Cabernet Franc or a nouveau style wine.  A drier muscadine, Chambourcin or Sangiovese are also good choices.

Cider – Who doesn’t love a good fresh apple in fall?  So, why not enjoy a nice cider?  Many apples can pack some good tannins, so ciders can be heftier than you might think.  Cider also pairs well with Thanksgiving dinner.

Mead – Mead is a perfect fall beverage.  From traditional styles to cysers with apple or pear, mead pairs perfectly with warm days, cool nights, sausages on the grill, Thanksgiving turkey and even pumpkin pie.

What wines do you enjoy in fall?  Do you have a favorite fall food and wine pairing?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #WinesForFall #FallWines

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – North Carolina Cider Week

In the Wine Light – North Carolina Cider Week

Brushy Mountain Limbertwig

Brushy Mountain Limbertwig Apple – This variety is thought to have originated in the Brushy Mountains of NC.

In the Wine Light is North Carolina Cider Week.  We celebrate NC Cider Week annually during October or November.  This year October 19th – 25th has been designated as a week to honor North Carolina Cider!

So, what is cider exactly?  Here, we’re obviously discussing what’s commonly called “hard cider”.  This cider at its most basic level is fermented apple juice.  

Similar to making wine from grapes, cider is made from crushing apples and fermenting the juice.  The sugar content of apples is lower than grapes, so ciders are typically lower in alcohol than wines.  To make apple wine, sugar is typically added in fermentation to allow for wine like alcohol.

Here in North Carolina, many cider apples are sourced from the Hendersonville area and from the Brushy Mountains in Wilkes and Alexander Counties.  Cider producers range from those in the mountains to the southern piedmont to urban areas like Charlotte and Durham.

So, how do you celebrate NC Cider Week?  By drinking a locally grown and produced NC Cider, of course!  You can also celebrate by visiting local cideries and by attending the NC Cider Week Sip and Meet on Saturday, October 24th at the Chatham Beverage District in Pittsboro.  This event will feature cideries from the Piedmont of NC.

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #NCCiderWeek #NCCider

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In the Wine Light – Drink Local Wine Week

In the Wine Light – Drink Local Wine Week

In the Wine Light is Drink Local Wine Week.  Drink Local Wine Week is celebrated annually during the second full week of October, so for 2020, the dates are October 11th – 17th.

This week started in 2008 by the Drink Local Wine organization to encourage wine writers and bloggers to write about and celebrate local wines. The organization has since taken a break, but this week long celebration has continued annually.

Local wine means different things to different people.  Some say a wine is local if it’s sold locally.  Some say it’s local if it’s produced locally.  And still others say it’s local only if it’s both sourced from locally grown products (grapes, other fruits, honey) AND locally produced.  We have some thoughts on that in another post.

Whatever you consider a local wine, celebrate with a local wine or two this week and tell others about it.

Support Local #NCWine

And if you want to join the conversation about local North Carolina Wine, join our new Facebook group, Support Local North Carolina Wine – #NCWine!

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight #DrinkLocalWineWeek #DrinkLocal

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – Orange Wine Week

In the Wine Light – Orange Wine Week

Orange Wine Flavors Courtesy of Wine Folly

Orange Wine Flavors Courtesy of Wine Folly

In the Wine Light is Virtual Orange Wine Week.  This day was originally started by Amanda Clair Goodwin (known at The Real Housewine) in 2018 as National Orange Wine Day to be celebrated annually on October 6th.  This year it has been expanded to a whole week to be celebrated from October 5th – 10th.

The goal of National Orange Wine Day and now Virtual Orange Wine Week is to according to the day’s website, “bring greater awareness to this beautiful, yet lesser-known style of wine in a way that is nonjudgmental, unintimidating, and inclusive.” 

So, you may be thinking what is Orange Wine?  No, we’re not talking wine made from oranges.  We’re talking about a white wine made from white grapes.  With orange wine, unlike traditional white wine where the skins are removed, the pressed juice remains on the skins to ferment for days to weeks or even months.  This gives the resulting wine an orange hue.

Orange wines are more bold and complex than many white wines.  They might have flavors not typically associated with white wine.  Also, they can be more tannic due to the contact with the grape skins.  Orange wines are thought of have originated in what is now the country of Georgia.

Have you had an orange wine?  Some past and current producers of orange wine in North Carolina are Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg, McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks in Thurmond, DéFi Wines (Botanist & Barrel) in Cedar Grove, and Lazy Elm Vineyard & Winery in Mocksville.

#InTheWineLight #NationalOrangeWineDay #VirtualOrangeWineWeek

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In the Wine Light – Virginia Wine Month

In the Wine Light – Virginia Wine Month

RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, VA

RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, VA

In the Wine Light is Virginia Wine Month.  October is designated as Virginia Wine Month.  Outside of North Carolina, Virginia is one of favorite American wine regions.

Virginia’s wine history dates back nearly 400 years.  Just 12 years after the first English settlement at Jamestown, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed “Acte 12”.  This act required each male colonist to plant and tend to grapevines.  Later in 1773, the Virginia Wine Company formed and devoted nearly 2,000 acres of land to start a vineyard and winery near Monticello.  (Source:  VirginiaWine.org)

Today Virginia boasts over 300 wineries, 8 American Viticultural Areas (with two shared with other states), and nearly 3000 acres under vine.  Plantings include Vinifera, hybrids, and native American grapes.  Much like North Carolina, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc do well in Virginia. Albariño is also another up and coming variety that is getting more attention in Virginia.

We look forward to highlighting a few Virginia wines this month.  Do you have a favorite Virginia wine?

#InTheWineLight #VAWine #VAWineMonth

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – How to Hold A Wine Glass

In the Wine Light – How to Hold A Wine Glass

The Incorrect & Correct Way to Hold a Wine Glass

In the Wine Light is the proper way to hold a wine glass.  Yeah.  We know.  You’re probably thinking, “There’s a right way to hold a wine glass?”  The answer is absolutely YES!

You should always hold your wine glass by the stem near the base.  There are two main reasons why this is true.

  1.  You won’t get greasy finger prints on the bowl of your glass.
  2. The most important reason though is that your wine will stay cooler longer if you don’t put your warm hands on the bowl.

There may be cases where you do want to warm up your wine.  Perhaps you’re drinking an oaked chardonnay that’s been in the refrigerator.  A few good swirls with your hands cupping the bowl can certainly make your wine taste better.  But as a general rule the stem is the way to go.

So, now you’re probably thinking, “What about stemless glasses?”  Well, in our opinion, they make lovely water glasses but terrible wine glasses.  So, stick to the stemmed glass!  

Cheers!

#InTheWineLight

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – National Honey Month

In the Wine Light – National Honey Month

Honeybees

In the Wine Light is National Honey Month.  September is National Honey Month.  Started in 1989 by the National Honey Board, National Honey Month celebrates all things honey.  September was chosen because honey collection typically concludes in September as honey bees are readying their hives for winter.

You’re probably wondering –  what does this have to do with wine?  Well, honey can be fermented into wine by adding water and yeast.  That’s the traditional recipe for mead.  Mead is a fantastic addition to your wine collection whether just to enjoy or to pair with your favorite foods. 

Mead is made in a variety of styles from traditional to melomel (a mead that  contains fruit) to braggot (a mead made with hops or malt) to cyser (a mead make with apple juice or cider) to pyment (a mead made with grapes or grape juice) and many more.  While many people assume mead is always sweet since honey is so sweet, that’s not always the case.  Meads range from dry to off-dry to sweet.  Alcohol content can range from under 4% to nearly 18% ABV.

NC Mead Alliance

We’re fortunate to have many great mead producers in North Carolina.  So, check out the NC Mead Alliance to learn more about mead, and be sure to go visit a local meadery!

#InTheWineLight #NationalHoneyMonth #NCMead

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Mead, 0 comments
In the Wine Light

In the Wine Light

An Introduction

In an effort to provide more content to our readers, we’re introducing a new regular feature to our website called “In the Wine Light”. The aim to provide regular wine related content in short posts.

With “In the Wine Light” we will discuss a variety of wine related topics from grape varieties to wine styles to wine and food pairings to wine holidays and more! We’ll also feature the people and places of the local wine scene here in North Carolina.

Let us know what you would like to see In the Wine Light!

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, 0 comments
NC Muscadines Delight the Taste Buds

NC Muscadines Delight the Taste Buds

August is now North Carolina Grape Month.  To celebrate, the North Carolina Muscadine Association recently hosted a virtual tasting of muscadine grapes and wine with local media, bloggers, and social media influencers.  We were fortunate enough to take part on the second day of this event.

The Mothervine on Roanoke Island in Manteo, NC

The Mothervine on Roanoke Island in Manteo, NC

Native Grape

Muscadines are the indigenous grape variety of the southeast.  The oldest known cultivated grape vine in the United States is a scuppernong vine on Roanoke Island in Manteo known as The Mothervine.  Scuppernong is a muscadine variety that’s also the state fruit of North Carolina.

The association sent a package that contained seven different muscadine grapes varieties along with a bottle of muscadine wine.  The grapes included fresh market as well as wine grapes.  Fresh market grapes are grown for eating.  Wine grapes are obviously grown for wine.  Fresh market grapes tend to be sweeter and less acidic than wine grapes.

Grape Tasting

The tasting was led by Kristen Baughman Taber of Tabletop Media Group and Debby Wechsler, Executive Secretary of the Muscadine Association.  Debby walked us through the proper way to eat a muscadine grape.  You place the stem scar facing your mouth.  Then you squeeze or bite the grape. Next, you decide to chew the skins and seeds or spit them out.

We then tasted through five fresh market grapes.  Three were white/bronze grapes:  Triumph, Tara, and Hall.  Two were red grapes:  Supreme and Lane.  These fresh market grapes had been sourced from Hinnant Family Vineyards in Pine Level, NC.  While all had a common grapey flavor, there were subtle differences particularly when chewing with the skins.

We finished by tasting the two main muscadine wine grapes, Carlos, a white/bronze grape, and Noble, a black/red grape.  Carlos is the most widely planted muscadine variety in North Carolina.  Both grapes have smaller berries than any of the fresh market varieties we tasted.  The wine grapes came from LuMil Vineyard in Elizabethtown, NC.

 

Wine Tasting

After the grape tasting, we moved on to our favorite part, the wine tasting.  Winemaker Nadia Hetzel of Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram, NC led us through a tasting of the off dry muscadine wine, Livy Estate.  Livy is 100% Carlos and is a beautiful wine.  The nose is similar to a Riesling as well as the palate.  It is nicely acidic and a joy to drink.

Muscadine Grape Extract Research

Following the wine tasting, Dr. Patricia Gallagher of Wake Forest University School of Medicine talked to us about the research into the potential health benefits of muscadine grape extract.  It’s exciting research and holds great promise in helping those with cancer.  To learn more about it, visit this link.

Thanks again to the North Carolina Muscadine Association, Tabletop Media Group, Hinnant Family Vineyards, LuMil Vineyards, and Cypress Bend Vineyards for a great tasting and celebration of North Carolina Grape Month!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night – NC Wine Month 2020 Edition

Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night – NC Wine Month 2020 Edition

We hosted our first ever Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night on April 4, 2020 to celebrate our local wine industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

The pandemic is still affecting all of our daily lives and the livelihood of the local wine industry.  In addition, May is now North Carolina Wine Month.  It was previously in September.  So, to celebrate we’re hosting a second Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night.

So, join us on Saturday, May 2, 2020 for this special North Carolina Wine Month edition of Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night, we’re celebrating our local wine industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic and celebrating all that we love about North Carolina Wine.

So how can you particpate?

  1. Select a bottle of North Carolina Wine, Mead, or Cider.
  2. Open it on the evening of May 2, 2020.
  3. Take a picture and post on social media.
  4. Share why you chose that bottle, who you shared it with, and more.
  5. Tag the winery, vineyard, meadery, or cidery and tag us too @NCWineGuys.
  6. And use #NCWineNight and #NCWineMonth on your posts!  

Also, look for another livestream on our Facebook page on the evening of May 2nd.

If you need to purchase wines, mead, or cider, head to our COVID 19 database to find out how.  Many businesses are offering discounts and/or free shipping.

Stay safe during this challenging time!

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 1 comment
Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night

Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night

We’re stealing a great idea from our friend, Frank Morgan, in Virginia.  Frank, of the Drink What You Like wine blog, is organizing an Open that Bottle of Virginia Wine Night on March 28, 2020.  This is a take on the annual Open that Bottle Night first organized in 2000 by two Wall Street Journal columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher.  The goal of Open that Bottle Night is finally drink that bottle you’ve been saving.  

In addition to supporting Virginia on March 28th, we want to support North Carolina too!  So, join us on Saturday, April 4, 2020!  With this special Open that Bottle of North Carolina Wine Night, we’re celebrating our local wine industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

So how can you particpate?

  1. Select a bottle of North Carolina Wine, Mead or Cider.
  2. Open it on the evening of April 4, 2020.
  3. Take a picture and post on social media.
  4. Share why you chose that bottle, who you shared it with, and more.
  5. Tag the winery, vineyard, meadery, or cidery and tag us too @NCWineGuys.
  6. And use #NCWineNight on your posts!  

If you need to purchase wines, mead, or cider, head to our COVID 19 database to find out how.  Many businesses are offering discounts and/or free shipping.

Stay safe during this challenging time!

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 1 comment
Festivus 2019 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Festivus 2019 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Today, December 23, 2019, is the celebration of Festivus.  Created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe and popularized during an episode of the hit TV show, Seinfeld, Festivus is celebrated with Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances.  So, in that spirit, we’re back for the third year to air a few wine grievances.  This is our one post a year that’s not entirely positive.  Many of these grievances are the same as last year, but there are a few new ones and some updates.  So, sit back.  Pour a glass and read on!

These are in no particular order:

  • Wines that you can taste but you can’t buy.  Why do you allow someone to taste a wine if it’s not for sale to the general public?  Of course that’s the wine we want to buy, but we can’t commit to another wine club.  Just don’t offer it unless someone does join your wine club.

  • Lack of hashtags in posts on social media about wines, wineries, vineyards.  You see we’re big proponents of hashtags as a way to brand.  So, all you #NCWine folks out there, USE THE DANG HASHTAG!
  • Too many hashtags or using hashtags that don’t apply.  You don’t need 14 million hashtags on your post especially if they’re hashtags no one else uses.  And just because you’re drinking wine in a given region, that doesn’t make it a regional wine.  So, don’t post about the Apothic Red you’re drinking in Charlotte and call it #NCWine.  Wine is about a sense of place.  Apothic Red’s place is not in your wine glass.

  • Poor tasting glasses.  We’ll admit it.  We’re glass snobs.  Please no glasses with the “lip” around the rim.  These just don’t show wines well.  Upgrade the glass and the experience!

  • Untrained tasting room staff.  There’s nothing worse than tasting room staff who know nothing about the wines they are pouring.  We understand that getting good help can be difficult, but a poor experience affects your brand.
  • Too many wines on the list.  We see this all the time.  Wines lists with 10, 15 or even 20 wines.  We feel this is just too many to be able to focus on quality unless you have a large production staff.  So, scale it back.  You don’t need a new wine for every season.
  • “Fruited” wines.  Why do we need pomegranate, green apple, cranberry, cherry, pineapple and umpteen other fruits added to our perfectly fruity grape wines?  Wine grapes produce wines with an abundance of fruit flavors. Let the grapes speak for themselves.

  • Wine slushies.  Seriously, why is this a thing?  Ok, maybe in the summer then it’s 95 degrees and 10,000% humidity, but wine is already extra calories, do you really need all that extra sugar?
  • Wineries who aren’t forthcoming in where the grapes for their wine are sourced.  We like to know what we’re tasting and where it was sourced.  If you’re not using local fruit, admit it.  Don’t try to hide it.

  • Perfume, cologne, or other powerful scents in the tasting room.  Nothing spoils a wine tasting more than someone who’s bathed in perfume or cologne.  A majority of the what you taste in a wine is from what you smell.  If you can’t smell the wine, it’s likely not going to taste very good.

  • Children in tasting rooms.  It’s sad that this is still an issue.  This is our #1 grievance if we had to rank them.  Children can’t drink.  Don’t bring them with you to a winery.  Wining is an adult thing and many of us wish to adult in peace and quiet.

  • Parties of 6 or more in tasting rooms who have not called ahead.  This is annoying for tasting room staff and other customers.  If you’re in a group, be courteous!  Call ahead!

  • People who think cider is more akin to beer.  Repeat after us!  Cider is NOT brewed!  It’s fermented!  Thus, it is like wine!  Just because you often see is on tap doesn’t mean it’s beer.  Wine can be served on tap too.  We’d like to see more of that by the way!

  • Farm to fork restaurants who don’t have local wine on their lists.  This is probably #2 on our grievance list right after the kids at wineries.  Don’t call yourself a farm to fork locavore restaurant if you don’t have local wine on this list.  There’s just no excuse!

So, that’s our list for this year.  And keeping with this theme, leave us your comments of what’s your grievances are.  Just avoid personal attacks.

Cheers and Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments

Davesté Vineyards Rkatsiteli Vertical Tasting

Davesté Vineyards’ Tasting Room

We recently held a vertical tasting of Rkatsiteli from Davesté Vineyards in Troutman, NC.  We first reviewed Davesté’s Rkatsiteli several years ago (Previous Review).  Davesté produces the only known single variety Rkatsiteli in North Carolina.  It’s become their signature wine.

Davesté opened in September, 2007.  The grapes were first planted in 2005.  Owners Dave and Ester DeFehr, whose combined first names are the inspiration for the Davesté’s name, first began plans for the vineyard and winery in 2003.  Land was purchased in 2004.  Today, in addition to Rkatsiteli, Davesté grows Traminette and Chambourcin.  Most other fruit is sourced locally within North Carolina with some coming from Virginia and California.  

Rkatsiteli grapes nearly ready for harvest at Davesté Vineyards

Rkatsiteli is thought of have originated in the country of Georgia and is believed to be one of oldest vinifera varieties.  It’s typically known for producing high acid wines.  It’s gaining popularity in the Finger Lakes region of New York and in Virginia.  

We inquired how Rkatsiteli does here in North Carolina.  Winemaker Leslie Johnson tells us, “In the vineyard, Rkatsiteli is pretty easy to manage. It likes to grow straight up instead of sprawling like a hybrid. The main disease we fight every year is downy mildew for this varietal. We like to harvest these grapes a bit earlier than others to help retain the acidity.”  

She added, “In the past, all of our Rkatsiteli has been fermented and aged in stainless steel. With our increased yields in 2019, we currently have some Rkatsiteli aging in French oak barrels to try something new.”  We can’t wait to taste a barrel aged Rkasiteli!

We tasted the 2015 – 2018 vintages of Rkatsiteli from Davesté.  Here are our notes and information about each wine.

2015

  • 100% Rkatsiteli
  • 12.5% Alcohol
  • Bronze Medal Winner at the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition
  • Nose:  Pear, lemon rind, and honey
  • Palate:  Bruised pear, preserved lemon rind, pithy
  • Finish:  Medium

2016

  • 100% Rkatsiteli
  • 13.5% Alcohol
  • Nose:  Faint pear and light honey; Delicate and refined
  • Palate:  Fresh pear and zesty lemon
  • Finish:  Medium+
  • Favorite overall

2017

  • 100% Rkatsiteli
  • 12.8% Alcohol
  • Double Gold Medal Winner at the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition and Silver Medal Winner at NC State Fair
  • Nose:  Floral, minerally, and honeysuckle
  • Palate: Minerally with notes of lemon
  • Finish:  Short and tart

2018

  • 100% Rkatsiteli
  • 12.8% Alcohol
  • Silver Medal Winner at the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition and Double Gold Medal Winner at NC State Fair
  • Nose:  Perfumy, pronounced honeysuckle, sweet pear
  • Palate:  Rose petals, lemon, lime, fresh and vibrant
  • Finish:  Medium+

Davesté suggests pairing their Rkatsiteli with pad Thai, shrimp scampi, or chèvre.  We had spinach pie, roasted vegetables with a lemon tahini sauce and various cheeses.  Rkatsiteli should do well with most vegetables and seafood.

If you’ve ever in the Troutman / Lake Norman area, stop by and visit Davesté.  Their beautiful grounds are the perfect place to relax.  In addition to wine, Davesté produces beer and has many live music events throughout the year, but be sure to pick up a bottle of Rkatsiteli while you’re there!

Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments

Jones von Drehle Petit Manseng Revisited

We have been big fans of Petit Manseng since the first time we tasted it at Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery some years ago.  This small grape can produce a full bodied high alcohol wine.  It’s often called the red drinker’s white wine.

We did a Spotlight on Petit Manseng in North Carolina in July, 2017.  In that post, we had tasted through the 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages of Petit Manseng from Jones von Drehle in addition to giving a bit of information about Petit Manseng itself.  This time around, we were fortunate enough to add the 2012 vintage, the first vintage, and the 2016 vintage to the mix, so we tasted 2012 – 2016.  And we should note, all bottles were purchased for this tasting.

We decided to change things up this time.  We did this tasting blind.  We also added a wine from the Southwest of France to the mix.  This wine was a 2011 iLori Les Jonquilles from Domaine Brana.  Made from fruit grown in the Irouleguy appellation, it is a blend of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, and Petit Corbu.  Bottles were covered in foil by one of us.  The other randomly assigned a number.  Friends arrived and the tasting began.

We used a chalk board to record feedback on the wines.  We discussed the nose, palate, and finish.  We tried to guess the year or whether the wine was the French one.  We didn’t do so well on the guesses of the vintages, but the last wine was clearly different than the others.  This was a big clue that it was not solely Petit Manseng.  Interestingly enough, that wine was by far the least favorite of the group.  Our impressions of it did improve when we paired it with a savory tomato cobbler.

Our group thought wine 1 was young with notes of apricot, citrus, and pineapple.  We guessed it might be the 2016 vintage.  It turned out to be the 2013.  It seems this wine might have a few years to go.

Wine 2 had more notes of pineapple and apricot.  We found banana and an herbaceous note along with a hint of minerality.  We incorrectly guessed this to be the 2014.  It was in fact the 2012.  This wine is still showing beautifully.

Wine 3 had a subtle nose.  The palate gave us mandarin orange and pineapple.  We found the finish was hot.  We thought, for that reason, it might be the 2015 which clocked in at 15.6% alcohol.  It was in fact the 2016.  

We missed numbering wine 4 on the chalk board.  This one was different than the others.  There was lots of stewed stone fruit notes.  Think peaches or nectarines.  Someone got a crème brûlée note on the finish.  A few thought this might be the French wine, but we weren’t so sure.  It turned out to be the 2014.

Wine 5 presented a yeasty note with pear and green apple.  It was silky and soft.  We thought it might be the 2012.  It turned out to be the 2015.  We were surprised by this.  We didn’t feel it was hot at all which is surprising given that 15.6% alcohol.  This one was a definite favorite.

We finally made it to the last wine, #6.  This one was clearly different.  It was green and seemed old.  The finish was astringent.  We were pretty sure this was indeed the French wine.  And we were right.  This was the least favorite of the group.

Once we finished tasting through all the wines, we did the reveals and then enjoyed some food and a bit more of our favorites.

We look forward to exploring more Petit Manseng in the future!  

To learn more about Jones von Drehle, check out our first episode of Cork Talk where we sat down with Chuck and Diana Jones.

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Sensoria Food and Wine Festival 2019

Sensoria Food and Wine Festival 2019

We recently were invited to attend the Sensoria Food and Wine Festival.  This festival was a one day event to conclude “Sensoria:  A Celebration of Literature and the Arts” at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.  The food and wine festival was presented by the Piedmont Culinary Guild with sponsorships from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s #GotToBeNC Program and Springer Mountain Farms.

The day featured classes ranging from Riedel glass seminars to turning wine into vinegar to blind tastings just to name a few.  Another part of the event was a food and wine pairing.  Food from Charlotte area chefs was paired with North Carolina wine!

Here is a slideshow of photos from the event.  We appreciate the complimentary tickets for this event!

This event was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Festivus 2018 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Festivus 2018 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Today, December 23, 2018, is the celebration of Festivus.  Created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe and popularized during an episode of the hit TV show, Seinfeld, Festivus is celebrated with Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances.  So, in that spirit, we’re back for the second year to air a few wine grievances.  This is our one post a year that’s not entirely positive.  Many of these grievances are the same as last year, but there are a few new ones and some updates.  So, sit back.  Pour a glass and read on!

These are in no particular order:

  • Wines that you can taste but you can’t buy.  Why do you allow someone to taste a wine if it’s not for sale to the general public?  Of course that’s the wine we want to buy, but we can’t commit to another wine club.  Just don’t offer it unless someone does join your wine club.

  • Lack of hashtags in posts on social media about wines, wineries, vineyards.  You see we’re big proponents of hashtags as a way to brand.  So, all you #NCWine folks out there, USE THE DANG HASHTAG!  And don’t put an ‘S’ on it!  Be consistent with most other wine regions!  The ‘S’ is not necessary!

  • Poor tasting glasses.  We’ll admit it.  We’re glass snobs.  Please no glasses with the “lip” around the rim.  These just don’t show wines well.  Upgrade the glass and the experience!

  • Untrained tasting room staff.  There’s nothing worse than tasting room staff who know nothing about the wines they are pouring.  We understand that getting good help can be difficult, but a poor experience affects your brand.
  • Too many wines on the list.  We see this all the time.  Wines lists with 10, 15 or even 20 wines.  We feel this is just too many to be able to focus on quality unless you have a large production staff.  So, scale it back.  You don’t need a new wine for every season.
  • “Fruited” wines.  Why do we need pomegranate, green apple, cranberry, cherry, pineapple and umpteen other fruits added to our perfectly fruity grape wines?  Wine grapes produce wines with an abundance of fruit flavors. Let the grapes speak for themselves.
  • Wineries who aren’t forthcoming in where the grapes for their wine are sourced.  We like to know what we’re tasting and where it was sourced.  If you’re not using local fruit, admit it.  Don’t try to hide it.

  • Perfume, cologne, or other powerful scents in the tasting room.  Nothing spoils a wine tasting more than someone who’s bathed in perfume or cologne.  A majority of the what you taste in a wine is from what you smell.  If you can’t smell the wine, it’s likely not going to taste very good.

  • Children in tasting rooms.  This is probably our #1 grievance if we had to rank them.  Children can’t drink.  Don’t bring them with you to a winery.  Wining is an adult thing and many of us wish to adult in peace and quiet.

  • Parties of 6 or more in tasting rooms who have not called ahead.  This is annoying for tasting room staff and other customers.  If you’re in a group, be courteous!  Call ahead!

  • People who think cider is more akin to beer.  Repeat after us!  Cider is NOT brewed!  It’s fermented!  Thus, it is like wine!  Just because you often see is on tap doesn’t mean it’s beer.  Wine can be served on tap too.  We’d like to see more of that by the way!

  • Farm to fork restaurants who don’t have local wine on their lists.  This is probably #2 on our grievance list right after the kids at wineries.  Don’t call yourself a farm to fork locavore restaurant if you don’t have local wine on this list.  There’s just no excuse!

So, that’s our list for this year.  And keeping with this theme, leave us your comments of what’s your grievances are.  Just avoid personal attacks.

Cheers and Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 1 comment
North Carolina Wines for Your 2018 Holiday Table

North Carolina Wines for Your 2018 Holiday Table

The holidays are here! It’s a time for celebration with family and friends which often means good food and good drink. With a growing industry and higher quality of wines, it is time to consider adding North Carolina wine to your holiday table. But where do you start?  What should you pair with classic holiday foods?  We’re back this year with some updated suggestions!

Biltmore Estate 2015 Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs

Appetizers – Start your holiday meal with an array of appetizers.  What pairs best with appetizers?  Sparkling wine!  Sparkling wine is a versatile wine choice that pairs with just about anything.  We suggest the 2015 Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs from Biltmore Estate Winery in Asheville.  It’s a beautiful wine full of tropical notes with a yeasty undertone.

McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks 2016 Muscat Blanc

Winter Salad with Oranges – Oranges and spicy greens are perfect this time of year.  Add some feta cheese, walnuts and a tangy vinaigrette and you have magic!  To further that magic, pair the salad with the 2016 Muscat Blanc from McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks in Thurmond.  Made in the Alsatian style this wine is dry with notes of citrus and honeysuckle.

Ham – Ham is a classic main course for any holiday. We love ham studded with cloves and topped with pineapple and brown sugar.  We have two recommendations.

  • The first is the 2015 Viognier from Junius Lindsay Vineyard in Welcome.  White peach, tropical fruits and a clean, crisp finish pair beautifully with ham.
  • The second is Christina’s Magnolia Estate from Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram.  This dry Magnolia wine has a grassy undertone with nice citrus notes.

Overmountain Vineyards King’s Mountain Rosé

Turkey – Roast turkey is versatile. You can pair with a white wine or a lighter red wine, but rosé is the classic pairing.  This is especially true if you have your turkey with cranberry sauce.  We recommend the 2017 King’s Mountain Rosé from Overmountain Vineyards in Tyron.  This wine is bright and crisp with notes of strawberry, watermelon, and lime.

Dover Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc

Duck – Ah, duck! It is poultry that has the umph of a steak! Classically you would pair duck with a Pinot Noir. This year we’re going with the 2015 Cabernet Franc from Dover Vineyards in Concord.  Spicy and peppery, pair this wine with duck breast seasoned with salt and pepper with an onion marmalade.

Roast Beef – Roast beef is another holiday classic. Of course, this calls for a hearty red wine!  We have two best in show winners for you!

  • The first recommendation is the 2015 Double Barrel from Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg.  A blend of Petit Verdot and Tannat, this wine definitely meets the qualifications of a hearty red.  It wine was Best in Show at the 2018 NC Fine Wines Competition.
  • The second recommendation is the 2013 Steel & Stone from Jones von Drehle in Thurmond.  This is a blend of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s lush and rich with notes of fig, blueberry, and blackberry and was 2018’s Bunch Grape Wine Best in Show at the NC State Fair.

Laurel Gray Vineyards Barrel Fermented Chardonnay

Seafood Lasagna, Roast Chicken or Roasted Vegetables – Any of these dishes make for a great additions to your holiday table.  For pairing with all of these, we recommend the 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay from Laurel Gray Vineyards in Hamptonville.  This wine is oaky and buttery yet retains good fruit.

Piccione Vineyards 2014 Sangiovese

Any Tomato Based Dish – Are you having a dish with tomato sauce and maybe a little spice?  We recommend the 2014 Sangiovese from Piccione Vineyards in Ronda.  This wine has notes of oak, caramel, vanilla, and bright red cherry with balanced acidity.

Lazy Elm Vineyard and Winery 2013 Selfish Port

Chocolate Desserts – Decadent chocolate desserts call for port-style wines. They are perfect with rich chocolate or just by themselves on a cold night. We recommend the 2013 Selfish from Lazy Elm Vineyard and Winery in Mocksville. This fortified wine is made from Cabernet Franc.  It’s rich and decadent and pairs perfectly with chocolate!

Parker Binns 2017 Petit Manseng Dessert Wine

Pumpkin, Apple, or Pecan Pie – Fruit or nut pies pair wonderfully with white dessert wines.  We recommend the 2017 Late Harvest Petit Manseng from Parker-Binns Vineyard in Mill Spring.  This wine is warm and rich with notes of pear.  At 18.5% alcohol, a little bit is all you need.

These are our recommendations for 2018.  We’d love to hear your recommendations, so leave us a comment!

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 1 comment
#NCWine Bloggers Visit the Tryon Foothills

#NCWine Bloggers Visit the Tryon Foothills

We had the opportunity to close out North Carolina Wine and Grape Month 2018 with some of our fellow wine bloggers on a tour of three wineries/vineyards in the Tryon Foothills of Polk County.  Our transportation was graciously provided by Ryan and Terri Watts of the Van In Black.  The Van in Black is THE way to tour wine country.  We highly recommend Ryan.  He is the ultimate professional and takes great care of his guests.

Now on the the main event, wine tasting with fellow bloggers.  Rather than a normal wordy blog, we’re going to let the photos do more of the talking.  Some photos were provided by Ryan Watts.  Ryan also runs Ryan Watts Photography.  We appreciate the use of these photos.  

Our first stop was Overmountain Vineyards where we had the pleasure of a tasting and tour with Sofia Lilly.  Sofia is the one of the winemakers at Overmountain along with her father Frank.  Frank stopped by to visit with us as well.  Sofia also manages the vineyard and the social media presence for Overmountain.  In addition to delicious wine, we also had delicious food from Olive Catering Company.

Our next stop took us to Mountain Brook Vineyards for a tasting with owners Jonathan and Vickie Redgrave and winemaker Liz Pickett.  Mountain Brook has just completed extensive expansions to its grounds.  

We ended the day with Sunday Funday at Parker-Binns Vineyard.  Kelly Binns was holding down the fort as owners, Bob Binns and Karen Parker-Binns, were on a well-deserved vacation.  In addition to the great wines, we enjoyed wood-fired pizza.  And since we were in a for hire vehicle with a designated driver, we did enjoy some Parker-Binns Rosé on the way back home. 

Thanks to the Wine Mouths, Winery Escapades, and HD Carolina for joining us on this tour.  We look forward to our next adventure with our fellow bloggers!

We forgot a take a shot before Winery Escapades left us.  Ryan, Terri (HD Carolina), Us (NC Wine Guys), Jessica and Jessica (The Wine Mouths)

Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Summer 2018 Visit to Blenheim Vineyards

Summer 2018 Visit to Blenheim Vineyards

Our group with Kirsty Harmon at Blenheim Vineyards

We recently had the pleasure of traveling to Charlottesville, VA.  We met up with fellow bloggers, wine tourists, and oenophiles, Brian and Dax Yost.  Brian and Dax are known for Wine Tourist Magazine.  Brian also writes The Virginia Grape wine blog.  Both are big advocates for East Coast wines.

Brian was able to arrange some tours for us.  We started with a visit to Blenheim Vineyards.  We had the pleasure of meeting Blenheim’s winemaker and General Operations Manager, Kirsty Harmon.  Kirsty is a respected Virginia winemaker.  She describes her wine style as fruit forward and approachable.

Blenheim does have a famous owner.  Singer Dave Matthews who has ties the Charlottesville area owns Blenheim.  Dave and Kirsty have an agreement.  She sticks to the wine and he sticks to the music.  Dave does provide artwork for some of Blenheim’s wine labels.  Otherwise, Kirsty has pretty much free reign to create the wine she wants.

Blenheim is unique in that all of its wines come in bottles with screw caps rather than the traditional corks.  Some folks turn their noses up to screw cap wine, but it has a much lower failure rate than traditional corks.

A view of Blenheim’s Vineyards from the back deck

Blenheim is a 30 acre estate with 17.5 acres under vine.  They produce around 8,000 cases of wine a year.

Kirsty picks her grapes for acidity rather than sugar.  This is typically between 21 and 22 Brix.  She also makes picking decisions by tasting the grapes.

No wine is overly oaked.  Ten months or so is about all a particular wine might spend in oak.  Kirsty uses a combination of French, American, and Hungarian barrels.

Grapes are harvested by hand.  They’re also sorted by hand.  A sorting table is used to find the best berries for wine making.  The 3 ton bladder press is used to press the juice from the grapes.  Kirsty using punch downs during fermentation.  The winery sits just below the tasting room.  Glass enclosures allow for a bird’s eye view of the activity of the winery.

 

Tanks in the Winery at Blenheim Vineyards

Kirsty let us taste a number of wines from the 2016 and 2017 harvests.  Stand outs were the 2017 Albariño and 2016 Painted White.

The Albariño was whole cluster pressed, fermented and then filtered. It had notes of peach and pear.  The nose was soft and floral.

The Painted White whose label features a painting by Dave Matthews is a blend of 59% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Viognier, and 10% Chardonnay.  It spent 10 months in predominately French oak.  It had notes of peach and honey with just a touch of oak.  The finish was crisp and clean.

We highly recommend a trip to Blenheim anytime you’re in the Charlottesville area.  They’re always one our of favorite stops.

Thanks to Kirsty for taking the time to show us around and taste some great wines!  We look forward to visiting again soon!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
McRitchie 2017 Pétillant Naturel Wines

McRitchie 2017 Pétillant Naturel Wines

We recently hosted a wine tasting with friends.  Late last year McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks released two Pétillant Naturel wines for the first time.  We had heard of Pét Nats, as they’re sometimes called, but we had never tasted one before.  Curious and big fans of McRitchie, we purchased a bottle of each and decided to share them with friends.

When we purchased these wines, we were advised to store them upright and serve them very well chilled.  We were also advised to be very careful when opening these wines and to have something to catch any wine that might come rushing out.

We reached out to McRitchie for more technical information about the wines.  The Petit Manseng was harvested at 26° Brix on September 7, 2017.  The Petit Verdot was harvested at 21° Brix on September 27, 2017.  In both cases, the grapes were whole cluster pressed, settled and racked with no filtration or added carbon dioxide.  Both were bottled with residual sugar.  The Petit Verdot had skin contact but there was no barrel aging.  Both wines are off dry to dry with high acidity.  The Petit Manseng is a bit higher in acidity at 8 grams/Liter vs 7.8 grams/Liter for the Petit Verdot.  Thirty-three cases of the Petit Manseng were produced.  While forty-five cases of the Petit Verdot were produced.  The Petit Manseng was bottled on September 30, 2017.  The Petit Verdot was a little later on October 10, 2017. Both wines were released on November 18, 2017.  We’ll cover tasting notes later in this post.

So, just how are Pét Nats made?  These wines are naturally sparkling.  The wine is bottled before the primary fermentation has finished.  Unlike méthode champenoise, no additional yeasts or sugars are added.  Since fermentation is still on-going, carbon dioxide is produced by the sugars that remain. This method is referred to as méthode ancestrale or ancient method.  It produces a more simple sparkling wine that isn’t filtered.  Thus the wine is usually cloudy.  Pét Nats are also usually bottled with a cap rather than a cork.

Pét Nats are believed to have originated in southern France.  Monks in the early 16th Century near Limoux are thought to be first producers of these type wines.  (Source – Vine Pair)

Not having tasted these wines before, we also reached out to Patricia McRitchie for suggestions on pairings.  She suggested pairing the Petit Manseng with salty or creamy foods.  For the Petit Verdot, she suggested anything that you might pair with a Nouveau or Sparkling Rosé such as charcuterie, turkey, dishes with a little heat, or foods with a some creaminess or nuttiness.  We settled on creamy artichoke dip and brie with the Petit Manseng and spicy cured sausage with the Petit Verdot.

Now for our tasting notes, we really did enjoy both of these and have since purchased replacement bottles to enjoy them again.  Both were funky and interesting and a delight to drink.

2017 Petit Manseng Pétillant Naturel

The nose was yeasty but was unmistakably Petit Manseng.  The palate was also yeasty along with tangy.  There was a light pineapple and grapefruit undertone.

The character was wild.  It paired nicely with the creamy artichoke dip, but with brie, it was a match made in heaven!  This wine tasted better with food than without.

The wine was definitely cloudy as you can see from the picture.  The color reminded us of pineapple juice.

Sean McRitchie provided his tasting notes too.  Sean says the flavor profile is honey and acid.  It reminds him of Mountain Dew.  The texture is rich with fun bubbles.  The acid balance contributes to a general rich fruit dimension.

2017 Petit Verdot Pétillant Naturel

This wine’s nose was light strawberry.  It was dry and sour.  Some said it reminded them of a sour beer. The palate was funky and gave more strawberry flavors.

It paired nicely with the cured sausage, but it was even better without food.

This wine was also cloudy.  The color was pink but nearly red.  There was much more sediment with this one than the Petit Manseng.

Sean McRitchie says this wine has a flavor profile of sour candy and bright cherry.  It’s foamy with high acid.  There is some yeast grit as the lees are stirred.  This is a fun wine that is good with an intense cheese.

We look forward to opening our second bottles of these wines.  McRitchie still has a few bottles left, so if you’re interested, you should hurry to the tasting room and pick them up.  They sell for $25 each.  Hopefully there will be new vintages coming out later this year from the 2018 harvest!

Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Sensoria Food and Wine Festival 2018

Sensoria Food and Wine Festival 2018

We recently were invited to attend the Sensoria Food and Wine Festival.  This festival was a one day event to conclude “Sensoria:  A Celebration of Literature and the Arts” at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.  The food and wine festival was presented by the Piedmont Culinary Guild with sponsorships from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s #GotToBeNC Program and Springer Mountain Farms.

The day featured classes ranging from Riedel glass seminars to turning wine into vinegar to blind tastings just to name a few.  Another part of the event was a food and wine pairing.  Food from Charlotte area chefs was paired with North Carolina wine!

Below are photos from the event.  We hope this event is held again next year!  We also appreciate the complimentary tickets for this event!

From Wine to Vinegar Class – We learned about the science behind how vinegar is made.  We also got to taste a variety of wines and vinegars made by the instructor.  The fennel vinegar and carrot wine were very interesting!

Wine Line Up / A Blind Tasting – We blind tasted Chardonnays and Cabernet Franc.  This lineup included the Jones von Drehle‘s Steel Chardonnay and Dover Vineyards‘ Cabernet Franc!

The highlight of the festival was food and wine pairing featuring Charlotte area chefs and North Carolina wines!  Photos below show all over the beautiful and tasty creations!

Our first pairing turned out to be the winner of the votes for best pairing.  It featured Chef Greg Collier of the The Yolk in Rock Hill, SC paired with Biltmore Estate.  Chef Greg’s cornbread toast, smoked trout and apple salad, meyer lemon hollandaise, and charred strawberry espelette spice was paired with Biltmore’s 2015 North Carolina Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling.

Next up was Chef Chris Coleman of Stoke.  His smoked and fried chicken wing with spicy peach and jalapeño chow-chow was paired with Laurel Gray Vineyards‘ 2015 Viognier!

Duck pâté en croûte from Chef David Quintana of dot dot dot was our next bite.  This was paired with Shelton Vineyards‘ 2016 Reisling.

Chef Justin Solomon from Foxcroft Wine Company paired cured salmon with celeriac remoulade, fennel chutney and duqqa with Shelton Vineyards‘ 2016 Bin 17 Unoaked Chardonnay.

Surry Cellars‘ debut Albariño was paired with beef heart carpaccio, apricot mustard, pickled green strawberries, beet and petite greens from Chef Matthew Krenz of The Asbury.

Chef Joe Kindred of Kindred was next on our list.  His pasta with green garlic, spring greens and lamb was paired with the 2016 Rosé from Dover Vineyards.

Jones von Drehle‘s 2014 Cabernet Franc was our first red.  It was paired with rabbit-mushroom bolognese, grits and green garlic from Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom.

Chef Bruce Moffett of Stagioni was next up with his prosecro-battered crab-stuffed squash blossom, ramp aioli and red pepper agro-dolce paired with Piccione Vineyards‘ 2014 red blend, L’Ottimo.

Fahrenheit Chef Dave Feimster paired his kalua pork and pickled cabbage slider with RayLen Vineyards‘ 2016 Category 5 red blend.

RayLen was up again with their 2016 Petit Verdot paired with a cherry-smoked chicken thigh croquette with green chili mole, spring asparagus, and aji amarillo from Chef Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining and Wine Room.

Last but not least was Childress Vineyards‘ 2012 Finish Line Cabernet Sauvignon port-style wine paired with dark chocolate crémeux, coffee crunch, hibiscus and port gelée from Chef Ashley Boyd of 300 East!

This event was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Prior to the first ever #NCWine Bloggers Summit, Thomas Salley of Raffaldini Vineyards offered to host a behind the scenes tour and tasting for bloggers who were attending the event.  We graciously accepted Thomas’ offer.  This led to additional tastings that day in the Swan Creek AVA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Raffaldini tour began on a cold Sunday morning at Raffaldini’s winery.  There was a bit of snow on the ground from the night before.  The mountains of the Blue Ridge were covered in snow.

Thomas walked us through some of the history of the estate.

  • The site was an abandoned farm and was one of around 60 sites looked at by the Raffaldini family during their search for vineyard land.
  • The data collected from scouting the land was used in the case for the creation of the Swan Creek AVA.
  • The estate includes 120 acres with about 36 currently under vine.
  • Over 30 different varieties have been planted over the year.
  • The current estate grapes are Vermentino, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Petit Verdot and Nero D’Avola.

Small Drying Room

Large Drying Room

Racks used for Drying Fruit

It was appropriate that our tour began outside of the Fruttaio Grande.  Raffaldini’s is known for the Appassimento process for drying fruit to concentrate flavors.  This leads to more complex and structured wines.

The racks used for drying were self made and each holds about 5 pounds of grapes.  The grapes are laid in a single layer.  The room is pre-heated to 85 Degrees with about 20% humidity.  Four to five days of drying removes about 30% of water from the fruit.  In a typical year, around half of the harvest is dried.  Raffaldini is one of the largest winery dryer of fruit in the US.

Large Tanks Inside the Winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raffaldini also uses a sorting table to sort the fruit harvested.  This helps remove green berry and other undesirable items.

Production at Raffaldini is around 6500 cases per year.

Large Oak Fermenter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raffaldini is one of the first wineries in the state to us a large oak fermenter.  Currently grapes/juice spend about 30 days in the fermenter before moving to a barrel.  Eventually this will change as barrels are phased out for the more cost effective oak fermenter.

Large Barrel Room

Smaller Barrel Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all of this information, it was time to taste wine!  The first sample was the base wine for Raffaldini’s upcoming sparkling wine, Auguri (Cheers/Best Wishes in Italian).  This wine will be made in the traditional method, but it will use encapsulated yeast yeast during the second fermentation.  This means the traditional riddling method will not be required.  This wine is set to be released in August, 2018.

We then moved to the barrel room. We first visiting the larger room and then moved to a second room to finish our tastings.  We sampled 2017 Sagrantino with a bit of Nero D’Avola which had big gripping tannins.  Next was a co-fermented 2017 Petit Verdot and Montepulciano which was inky and dark as well as tannic.  Finally, we tasting a 2017 appassimento Petit Verdot.  It was stunning already!  Dark fig, cocoa and tart blueberry were the flavors.

Bottling Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ended the winery portion of the visit with a look at the bottling line.  Then we moved to the villa.  We made a quick visit out to the edge of the vineyard for a discussion of growing degree days and soil types.  Growing degree days is a measure that predicts when fruit will be ripe.  Raffaldini practices leaf pulling after bloom to provide as much sunlight for the grapes as possible.  This is common throughout bunch grape growers in the state.  Finally, we took a look at rocks in the vineyard.  The soil consists of schist mica and granite with a loam topsoil.  This is ideal for grape growing.

We concluded our visit with a private lunch and a tasting of current releases in the upstairs of the villa.  We want to thank Thomas and the whole Raffaldini team for hosting our group and providing this in depth tour and tasting.  It was much appreciated!

Be sure to go visit Raffaldini and see for yourself!

Cheers!

 

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Top Pick Winery, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Takeaways from First #NCWine Bloggers Summit

Takeaways from First #NCWine Bloggers Summit

Networking at Lunch during the First #NCWine Bloggers Summit

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, we held the first ever #NCWine Bloggers Summit at Hanover Park Vineyard.  Around 30 folks attended.  This included bloggers, winery owners / representatives and wine industry folks.  It was a great day of discussion, networking and excitement.

In reflecting back on the summit, we have a few takeaways what we would like to share.  Here they are:

  1. We should haven’t have waited until 2018 to hold this event for the first time. – Many wineries know bloggers exist, but often they don’t completely understand how we can help.  We as bloggers had not had a chance to collaborate and make connections in person.  This event was invaluable for this.
  2. We should hold the next summit on a Monday. – While most bloggers have day jobs and work on Mondays, we would have better participation from wineries if we did not hold the summit on the weekend.  Look for next year’s date soon so folks can plan.
  3. Sunday Wine Tours for bloggers need to be a staple of the event. Thomas Salley at Raffaldini Vineyards offered to host a tour for bloggers following the summit.  This spiraled into an whole afternoon of visits in the Swan Creek AVA.  We want to thank Thomas for this idea and for his hospitality.  We also want to thank Hailey Klepcyk at Piccione Vineyards for hosting us for a tasting.  We ended the day with a joint tasting at Laurel Gray Vineyards hosted by Benny and Kim Myers.  We would like to thank Benny and Kim along with Chuck and Jamey Johnson of Shadow Springs Vineyard and Windsor Run Cellars and Charles King of Dobbins Creek Vineyards for sharing their wines with us!
  4. We need other bloggers to present content. – We did a lot of talking this year.  Next year, we would like to break that up and have other bloggers present content.  Look for a call for content a few months before the next summit.
  5. A panel discussion would be a great way to break up the day. – A panel could provide unique opportunities for conservation and the sharing of ideas.  This could include wineries, bloggers and industry insiders.
  6. Wineries should utilize bloggers more.  We are influencers with followers who can impact a winery’s business. – Wineries can engage bloggers to help to tell their stories and to assist with sharing events on social media.  Many bloggers are also open to volunteer opportunities to learn more about wine.  Also, bloggers are open to attending events and/or receiving story ideas.  Just reach out!  Finally, wineries can share our content to their followers as long as it is consistent with their brand.  If it isn’t, please tell us.
  7. We should make a larger effort to invite bloggers from other states. – After the summit posts got shared through social media and several folks commented how that want to be included in the next event.  This will be a great way to expand North Carolina Wine‘s reach.
  8. We need a few sponsors for next year’s event. – To control costs for attendees and/or allow for new options, funding from sponsors would be helpful.
  9. We need an official press release about the event. – A press release could be used by local media to inform their consumers of the event.  It would also be a great way to get press for any sponsors for next year.

We want to thank our fellow bloggers who participated:

Wines available for Sharing!

Finally, we would like to thank the wineries and wine industry folks who participated:

Notes from the event can be found here.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the date of next year’s summit and thanks for your support of #NCWine!

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 4 comments
McRitchie Winery – Ring of Fire Vertical Tasting

McRitchie Winery – Ring of Fire Vertical Tasting

Ah!  McRitchie Winery‘s Ring of Fire, a highly regarded red blend in the North Carolina wine world.  Some have called it North Carolina’s Octogon.  Octogon is the highly acclaimed red blend from Virgina’s Barboursville Vineyards.  We’re certainly not going to disagree with that assessment.

Ring of Fire is consistently a great wine.  And, that name, an homage to the classic song by Johnny Cash, makes for a memorable wine too.  Although, the wine itself doesn’t burn, burn, burn.  Well, perhaps, it does burn a memory.  A memory of the first North Carolina wine that captured my attention near the time of the first vintage which was in 2006.  It’s since become a favorite of Matt’s too.  So, when we heard that Sean and Patricia McRitchie were planning a vertical tasting as part of their winery’s 10th Anniversary, we just couldn’t miss it!

Table Setting at Ring of Fire Vertical Tasting

The tasting was limited to about 25 or so people.  We were seated at tables throughout the tasting room.  The tables were beautifully set.  The first wines poured were the 2013, 2012, and 2011.  Before we began tasting, Sean and Patricia welcomed us.

Sean and Patricia McRitchie Welcoming Guests

Sean and Patricia thanked us for attending.  Patricia apologized for not having their first two vintages, the 2006 and 2007, of Ring of Fire.  They never imagined the success of it and didn’t consider keeping a few cases for an event such as this until a few years into making it.  Patricia mentioned how proud she was of Sean and his winemaking.  Sean talked about the “unique opportunity to taste from one label, from one winery, and from one winemaker.”  He told us to expect subtle differences in each vintage.  Patricia mentioned that Ring of Fire was the first North Carolina Wine offered by the glass at the storied Grove Park Inn in Asheville and the Umstead Resort in Cary.  Sean said he keeps varietals separate until just before bottling.  Then he blends them with the goal of making “consistent serious red table wine in a Bordeaux style.”

Tasting Note Sheet at Ring of Fire Vertical

Now, it was time to taste!  We began with the 2013 and worked our way backwards.  The first round allowed us to taste the 2013, 2012, and 2011.  Each was served in a different glass.  Later, we were served the 2010, 2009, and 2008.

To continue the similarities with Octogon from Barboursville, Ring of Fire is also predominately Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a bit of Petit Verdot.  Only two vintages differ. The 2012 is Merlot, Sangiovese, and Petit Verdot.  The 2011 is Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot.

In addition to the wine, food was served.  Some items were intended to pair with the wine.  Other items were there to prove a point that some food and wine pairings just don’t work.  The first plate consisted of apricots topped with blue cheese, a pecan, and rosemary along with a skewer of tortellini tossed in pesto with artichoke, mozzarella, and basil.  The second plate consisted of meatballs made with Ring of Fire, BBQ sandwiches with a mustard sauce and a more traditional sauce along with a few shrimp. Our favorites were the apricots and the BBQ.

Here are our tasting notes:

  • 2013 – The nose was woody with nice cherry aromas.  The palate presented rich cherry and oak with smooth tannins.  This wine is still very young.
  • 2012 – An earthy yet softly floral nose led to a lush palate of cherry and oak.  We preferred this one over the 2013.
  • 2011 – A floral nose with notes of plum and dried herbs made way to a tannic palate of dark fruits, cedar, and vanilla. The tannins of this vintage surprised us.
  • 2010 – Very old world in style, the nose had notes of spice with dark cherry.  The palate gave us dried berries with soft tannins.  This was our favorite of the lineup.
  • 2009 – Spice and oak on the nose along with cherry and vanilla on the palate, this vintage really showed the Merlot.  There was also good acid.  The boldness of this vintage surprised us.
  • 2008 – Sean hinted that one vintage was different.  When we got to the 2008, we knew it was this one.  The nose was floral and woody with a hint of sawdust.  The palate was wild with dark fruits.  There was something off.  We suspected brettanomoyces.

Sean and Patricia Recap the Event

Following our tasting, Sean and Patricia spoke once more.  Sean mentioned that blending is a way to deal with the difficult North Carolina weather.  It allows you to control the winemaking a bit and make adjustments as necessary.  His winemaking style is that of experiences.  He thinks of what will pair with the wine.  The desire with Ring of Fire is pair it with a steak from a Chicago steakhouse.  Given that, Ring of Fire has more acid than a red blend from Napa making it better accompaniment with food.

Sean also provided his tasting notes.  Here are some highlights:

  • 2013 – This vintage is fresh with the most straight forward fruit.  It will age very well.
  • 2012 – Sean’s second favorite of the group, this vintage has notes of clay and earth.  It reminds him of a terra cotta pot.
  • 2011 – He found this vintage to have aggressive spice with notes of fresh flower.  Complex and young with good berry and tannins, he feels this wine will be better in three or more years.
  • 2010 – Sean’s number one standout features red fruits and light earth.  Other descriptors are wet clay and stone.  The tannins are balanced.  This is very old world like.
  • 2009 – Patricia’s favorite features bright fruits with tighter acid and tannins.  It’s still excellent.
  • 2008 – This wine still looks young with dark berry color.  Cherry and anise are on the nose, but the wine is faulted.  Brettanomyces is indeed the issue, but we had several folks who loved it.  After this vintage, Sean purchased an ozone machine to clean barrels in the winery to prevent brett in future vintages.

Sean then finished with a few more remarks.  He gave a preview of the 2014 Ring of Fire which has been bottled and will be released soon.  He says, “I like that a lot.”  It meets the Chicago steakhouse criteria.  Sean purchases fruit by taste rather than brix.  He added that he was pleased with the consistency of the each vintage of Ring of Fire and notes, “I feel like I passed.”  He’s pleasantly surprised how well he liked the lineup.  We agree!

Sean also mentioned that Patricia makes him keep a library of wines.  We thank her for that.  They also mentioned that reserve sit-down tastings of library wines might be offered soon!  Sign us up!

We thoroughly enjoyed this experience.  We thank Sean and Patricia for all they do for North Carolina Wine and Cider and look forward to the next vertical tasting!  Go visit them and see for yourself!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Festivus 2017 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Festivus 2017 – Airing of Wine Grievances!

Today, December 23, 2017, is the celebration of Festivus.  Created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe and popularized during an episode of the hit TV show, Seinfeld, Festivus is celebrated with Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances.  So, in that spirit, we’re here to air a few wine grievances.  We’re looking to make this our one post a year that’s not entirely positive.  So, sit back.  Pour a glass and read on!

These are in no particular order:

  • Lack of hashtags in posts on social media about wines, wineries, vineyards.  You see we’re big proponents of hashtags as a way to brand.  So, all you #NCWine folks out there, USE THE DANG HASHTAG!
  • Untrained tasting room staff.  There’s nothing worse than a tasting room staff who know nothing about the wines they are pouring.  We understand that getting good help can be difficult, but a poor experience affects your brand.
  • Poor tasting glasses.  We’ll admit it.  We’re glass snobs.  Please no glasses with the “lip” around the rim.  These just don’t show wines well.  Upgrade the glass and the experience!
  • Too many wines on the list.  We see this all the time.  Wines lists with 10, 15 or even 20 wines.  We feel this is just too many to be able to focus on quality unless you have a large production staff.  So, scale it back.  You don’t need a new wine for every season.
  • Wineries who aren’t forthcoming in where the grapes for their wine are sourced.  We like to know what we’re tasting and where it was sourced.  If you’re not using local fruit, admit it.  Don’t try to hide it.

  • Children in tasting rooms.  This is probably our #1 grievance if we had to rank them.  Children can’t drink.  Don’t bring them with you to a winery.  Wining is an adult thing and many of us wish to adult in peace and quiet.
  • Parties of 6 or more in tasting rooms who have not called ahead.  This is annoying for tasting room staff and other customers.  If you’re in a group, be courteous!  Call ahead!
  • People who only drink dry wine.  You’re missing out on some really great sweeter wines.
  • People who only drink sweet wine.  Again, most of the wine world is not sweet.  You’re missing out on a lot more than those who only drink dry wine.

  • People who only drink Chardonnay or Cabernet or Merlot.  Give us a break!  We’ll try pretty much anything.  We’re all into to food and wine pairings.  Chardonnay with steak isn’t exactly the best match.  A big, bold Cab with sea bass probably doesn’t work so well either.  So, keep an open mind and try something different!
  • People who constantly bash muscadine wine.  We get it.  Muscadine wine is different.  There’s a distinctive foxy quality in a lot of muscadine.  We’re not big fans of red muscadine, but we won’t turn up our noses at it.  You shouldn’t either.  Find some that are well made.  Maybe one that isn’t so sweet and try it.  You might be surprised!
  • People who think all US wine comes from California.  Yes, California is responsible for 85% of the wine produced in the US, but if you’re only drinking Napa Cab, you truly are missing out!

  • People who think cider is more akin to beer.  Repeat after us!  Cider is NOT brewed!  It’s fermented!  Thus, it is like wine!  Just because you often see is on tap doesn’t mean it’s beer.  Wine can be served on tap too.  We’d like to see more of that!
  • People who think mead is more akin to beer.  Mead is honey WINE!  It’s fermented.  It’s typically bottled in WINE bottles.  If you’re drinking mead, you’re drinking WINE!
  • People who think all cider is sweet.  Cider can go the range from super sweet to super dry.  Again, don’t be afraid to try even if you don’t think you’ll like!
  • People who think all mead is sweet.  Just because mead is made from honey doesn’t mead that it’s all sweet.  Yes, it will almost always have a flavor of honey, but that’s different than sweet.

  • Farm to fork restaurants who don’t have local wine on their lists.  This is probably #2 on our grievance list right after the kids at wineries.  Don’t call yourself a farm to fork locavore restaurant if you don’t have local wine on this list.  There’s just no excuse!
  • 2017 wines that are already out for sale.  Harvest just happened a few months ago.  There are a few exceptions to this, but as a general rule, wine needs time to age, even white wines.  Don’t rush it out!
  • Shiny black labels on a wine bottle.  They look great, but they’re very difficult when it comes to taking a picture of the bottle.  There are too many glares and reflections.  Matte is the way to go!

So, that’s our list for this year.  Here’s hoping next years list is shorter!  And keeping with this theme, leave us your comments of what’s your grievances are.  Just avoid personal attacks.

Cheers and Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 6 comments