wine

NC State Fair Wine Competition

NC State Fair Wine Competition

The North Carolina State Fair is held every October at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.  Each year as part of the State Fair, a wine competition is also held.  There are two categories.  One is the Commercial Category.  The other is the Amateur Category.  Changes have been made to competition.  Let’s talk about the Commercial Category specifically!

The first change involves requirements for the entered wine to be at least 75% from North Carolina.  This means wines must be made from grapes, other fruit, or honey of which 75% came from North Carolina.  It is the North Carolina State Fair after all.  The product should reflect the terroir of North Carolina.  Winning wines will have their contents verified by the North Carolina Wine & Grape Council.

The second change is the winning categories.  The new categories are:

  • Best Bunch Grape Wine – This category is for wines made from Vitis Vinifera (wine grapes) and hybrids grapes.
  • Best Muscadine Wine – This category is for wines made from a variety of Muscadine grapes.
  • Best Fruit / Honey Wine – This category is for wines made from non-grape fruits or meads.

Wines will be judged blind using the 20 point American Wine Society scale.  Here’s a break down of the scoring:

  • Appearance – 3 points maximum
  • Aroma / Bouquet – 6 points maximum
  • Taste / Texture – 6 points maximum
  • Aftertaste – 3 points maximum
  • Overall Impression – 2 points maximum

Wines will be served at the correct temperature for each varietal.  Appropriate glassware will also be used as Riedel has graciously donated tasting glasses for the event.

The competition is moving this year.  In most years the competition is held in Raleigh.  This year the competition will be held in Dobson at Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture & Enology at Surry Community College.  The competition begins on Friday, August 18, 2017, with an opening reception and training for the judges.  Wine judging will take place Saturday and Sunday, August 19-20, 2017.

Speaking of judges, that’s where we come in!  We’re very excited to have been invited to judge this year’s competition.  Joining us will be American Wine Society Certified Wine Judges, other area bloggers, and area media.  Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a behind the scenes look at the competition.

Results of the competition will be posted on the NC State Fair‘s website and the NC Wine & Grape Council‘s website.  We’ll, of course, share the results when they are publicly available.

For more details about the competition, see the official rules here.

Thanks for your support of #NCWine!  Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
June, 2017 Visit – Leicester, NC Wineries/Vineyards

June, 2017 Visit – Leicester, NC Wineries/Vineyards

We continue a look back at our mid-June wine visit to the Hendersonville / Asheville area.  Day Two took us northwest of Asheville to Leicester, NC.  Leicester is about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville.  It’s an easy and beautiful drive.  Located in Leicester are Fontaine Vineyards and Addison Farms Vineyard.

Fontaine Vineyards

Stunning View at Fontaine Vineyards

After several wrong turns, we made it to Fontaine Vineyards.  This was our first visit!  Google was a bit confused that morning and had us on a wrong road.  We were glad to finally see the main entrance.  As we drove up and around the vineyard we were awestruck by the view.  Mountains were all around.  The vineyard was small and quaint.

Tasting

Jackie, co-owner with her husband Michel, quickly greeted us upon our arrival.  She gave us a quick overview of their story.  Fontaine is focused on growing European grapes (mostly French) and making small allotments of wine.  They also cater to those looking to get married and function several times a month as a wedding venue particularly in the warmer months.

Tastevin used for Tastings at Fontaine Vineyards

The tastings are done inside the wine cellar.  You won’t find a tasting glass here though.  Instead, Jackie presented us with a metal Tastevin from which to drink.  A tastevin is a metal saucer like cup.  Created by Burgundian winemakers to enable them to judge a wine for clarity and color in a dim wine cellar, the tastevin certainly made for a unique tasting experience.

We tasted the following wines:

  • 2016 Merlot – Dark cherry and plum greeted you on the nose and carried through to the palate.  This wine was somewhat jammy yet quite tannic.  We left with a bottle of this.
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Soft cherry and black currant describe this wine well.  It also had some woodiness on the palate.
  • 2015 Riesling – A floral nose gave way to a fruity palate and just a touch of sweetness.  Soft and delicate also come to mind when describing this wine.

Crêpes

Ham & Cheese Crêpe at Fontaine Vineyards

Jackie and Michel make crêpes for their guests.  You can choose from savory or sweet.  We went the savory route and had a delicious ham and cheese crêpe while seated on the patio.  The crêpe was just as you would hope to find from a native French cook.  Jackie gladly poured us a glass of the yet to be release Pinot Noir Rosé.  It turned out to be our favorite wine.   The nose smelled of overripe strawberries while watermelon predominated the palate.  Sadly, we couldn’t take any with us.

As we finished out our glass, Jackie pointed out that in the distance you could see Addison Farms and clearly a storm headed that way.  We wrapped up our visit in hopes of making it to Addison Farms before the storm did.

Addison Farms Vineyard

Addison Farms Road Sign

Addison Farms is only about five minutes away from Fontaine.  However, we did not beat the storm.  Luckily, the rain was not heavy, so we ventured inside.

Tasting

We began our tasting with a couple of unique wines from Alchemy Herbal Wine.  These wines are meads made with honey, herbs, and spices.  Griffin Abee, the meadmaker, works with the fine folks at Addison Farms.  We encourage you to try these refreshing and unique wines!

Alchemy Herbal Wine – Love

Here are our notes for the herbal wines:

  • Love – This mead is made with honey (of course), pomegranate juice, rose petals, ginger, cardamon, vanilla, and damiana.  A floral nose with hints of ginger and cardamon gave way to a slightly sweet and refreshing palate with just a hint of tartness.
  • Prosperity – This mead is made with honey, cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, and allspice.  The nose gave spices with a bit of a woodiness and a good smell of honey.  The palate was tart and woody as well.  We enjoyed both of these.

We then moved on to Addison Farms’ wines to finish the tasting.  Here are our notes:

  • 2015 Crown & Plough Rosé of Sangiovese – We loved this wine.  We came home with a bottle.  A strawberry nose with strawberry and raspberry on the palate make for a delightful rosé.  The palate is also slightly tart with good acidity.
  • 2013 Mischief – Tempranillo – Vanilla, leather, cherry, and a touch of caramel show both on the nose and on the palate.  Pair this with lighter Spanish dishes.
  • 2014 Five Twenty-Nine – Barbera – We adore Barbera and this one is one of the best in NC.  It was part of the NC Fine Wines Case for 2017.  Cocoa and black currant invite you on the nose.  Warm cherry with more cocoa and black currant carry through on the palate.
  • 2013 Coming Home – Cabernet Sauvignon – Notes of pepper and spice show on the nose.  Tart cherry with some leather present on the palate.
  • Smokehouse Red – This is a blend of Chambourcin and Sangiovese.  Cocoa and cherry scents greet you on the nose.  The cherry continues on the palate along with vanilla, caramel, and slight hit of smoke.
  • Gratitude – This port-style wine is made from Chambourcin.  Mocha and raspberry are key descriptors here.  When paired with dark chocolate notes of caramel appear.

Tour with Jeff

Jeff Frisbee, co-owner along with his wife Dianne, arrived in the Tasting Room during our tasting.  He was supposed to give a tour at 2pm, but the tour folks were no shows.  Luckily for us, that meant we got the tour with just ourselves and Jeff.  Also, luckily, the rain had stopped.  We headed out for a walk to the the winery.

Addison Farms is very much a family operation.  Jeff and Dianne started this vineyard as a way to preserve Jeff’s family’s farm which once belonged to his maternal grandparents.  The first acre of vines was planted in 2009.  Another acre and a half was planted in 2010.  Currently, six acres are under vine.  Cabernet Sauvignon was the first planted.  Also, in the vineyard are Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulicano, Petit Verdot, and Petit Manseng.  In addition, they manage two additional acres in Leicester and purchase fruit from other North Carolina growers.

Vineyards at Addison Farms

After the visit to the winery where Jeff walked us through crush, we head to the vineyard.  Jeff strives to make food friendly wines and makes his picking decisions based on acid rather than Brix. He produces around 1000 cases a year.  The business plan calls for having 10 acres under vine.  He says Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are the easiest to deal with in the vineyard.

Barrels in the Barrel Room at Addison Farms

We ended our tour in the barrel room which sits under the tasting room.  The barrel room has space for 50-60 barrels while another 25 or so are in the winery itself.

We finished the tour and returned to the tasting room to make our purchases and say our goodbyes.

The next time you’re in the Asheville area, be sure to carve out time to visit Leicester and these unique vineyards.  Tell them we sent you.

You can find details of our day one adventures to Burntshirt Vineyards and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards on our blog.  Cheers!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
June, 2017 – Visit to Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards

June, 2017 – Visit to Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards

We continue a look back at our mid-June wine visit to the Hendersonville / Asheville area.  Our second stop was Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.

Saint Paul Mountain is located in Hendersonville.  Luckily for us, it’s also near our first stop of the day, Burntshirt Vineyards.  This made for a quick trip.

As we drove by the old family barn, the future home of Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Ciders, we saw a bustle of activity and hoped to be able to get a tour of the progress.  We parked at Saint Paul Mountain just as Barbara, the tasting room manager, was about to leave.  Luckily for us, she stopped when she saw us.  We chatted for a bit and then started walking over to the barn.

 

Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Ciders

Appalachian Ridge is a new cider bar that will be opening soon.  Not only will it have artisan hard ciders, it will also have some artisan spirits including their take on Calvados, an Apple Brandy.  We toured the main bar area upstairs.  Then we went downstairs to see some private rooms that have been created from old stables.  Finally, we headed back outside to the new deck.  The large deck contains a full covered bar and has a beautiful view of the orchard.

Hundreds of newly planted apple tree from Normandy

The orchard itself is undergoing a bit of transformation with the addition of hundreds of apple trees from Normandy.  Like vinifera grape vines, these European apple trees are grafted onto American rootstock to allow them to thrive in the North Carolina soil.

The restoration of the barn and the changes since our last visit are amazing.  Keep your eyes out for the Grand Opening announcement.  You won’t want to miss it!

 

Tasting with Fran

We finally reached the tasting room and took a seat.  We were glad to find our favorite band teacher / wine taster working that day.  We met Fran a couple of years ago at the North Carolina Winegrowers Association Conference.  Fran has a bubbly personality and quick wit that will keep you in stitches.  She lead us through a full tasting.  Below are some of our notes.

White Wines and Dry Cider

  • 2015 Chardonnay – This stainless steel aged Chardonnay presented crisp and clean with notes of apple and pineapple.
  • 2015 Barrel Aged Chardonnay – This Chardonnay spent 10 months in French oak.  It had a buttered apple nose with notes of apple, pear, and light oak on the palate.
  • 2015 Vidal Blanc – This wine had a nice acidity with notes of orange and lemon along with tart green apple.
  • 2015 Laurel Hill – This is also a Vidal Blanc, but it has just a touch (2%) of residual sugar.  The nose showed pure orange peel.  The palate gave Meyer lemon and key lime.
  • 2016 Centennial Farm Heritage – This dry Riesling had a classic Riesling nose with a hint of petrol, commonly found with Riesling.  The palate presented big grapefruit.  Nicely tart, this was our favorite white.
  • 2016 Lower Vineyard – Another Riesling but this one had just a touch of residual sugar (1.5%).  The nose was floral with lots of citrus.  The flavors of sweet peach and honeysuckle predominated.
  • 2015 Rosarie – This slightly effervescent rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon had notes of strawberry and a hint of caramel.
  • Wallace #1 Artisan Hard Cider – The original hard cider produced by Saint Paul Mountain is made from seven different varieties of apple with strong apple flavors from nose to palate.

Red Wines

  • 2015 Queen – A Cabernet Franc which spent 6 months in oak, presented cherry and vanilla on the nose with cherry flavors carrying through to the palate.
  • 2014 Chestnut East Reserve – A red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Sirah, leather and oak showed on the nose.  The palate had flavors of cherry, plum, and caramel.  This was our favorite wine overall.
  • Jasper – Another red blend but this one has Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Notes of plum, vanilla, and cherry showed on the nose.  The cherry and vanilla carried over the palate with a smooth finish.
  • 2013 Petit Verdot – This was another favorite of the reds.  With a caramel nose and smooth dark plum on the palate, it kept us wanting more.

Dessert Wines

  • Chestnut Gap Cottage – Our first dessert wine and made from 100% blackberries.  It showed those blackberries from nose to palate.  The pairing with dark chocolate just intensified the blackberry flavor.
  • Home Place – This is another 100% blackberry wine, but unlike the previous one, this one has been back-sweetened.  The blackberry was more pronounced on the nose than the Chestnut Gap Cottage and obviously the palate was more sweet.
  • Vin Chocolate Du Barrista – This was our favorite dessert wine.  The wine begins with a Merlot base that is infused with coffee, white chocolate, and vanilla.  Coffee predominates on the nose.  The palate is a playful dance between coffee and cherry.

Visit with Alan

Following our tasting with Fran, we took a minute to visit with Alan Ward.  He is the owner and visionary of both Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Ciders.   We discussed a variety of wine, cider and spirit topics.  Alan has a great vision for growing his business and the North Carolina Wine, Cider, and Spirits industry.  Those industries are fortunate to have someone like Alan!

Vineyards outside Saint Paul Mountain’s Tasting Room

We said our goodbyes and headed to the see Fran once more to purchase some wine to take back with us.  This concluded our day in Hendersonville, and we headed for Asheville.  Stay tuned next week for the final blog on this trip!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Introduction to North Carolina Wine

Introduction to North Carolina Wine

This post originally appeared on craftcarolina.com (http://www.craftcarolina.com/2016/07/12/introduction-to-nc-wine-by-the-nc-wine-guys/).  It has been modified for posting here.

North Carolina Wine has a long and storied history. We’re home to the oldest cultivated grapevine in the country, the Mothervine as it’s known. Located on Roanoke Island near Manteo, cultivation of this massive scuppernong vine, a variety of muscadine, began around 1584. By the beginning of the 20th Century, North Carolina led the nation in wine production. Then prohibition happened crushing the wine industry. The wine industry grew very slowly over the next several decades until the mid 2000s when the industry exploded. There are now nearly 200 wineries in the state. They range from the largest commercial winery on the East Coast, Duplin, to the most visited winery in America, Biltmore, to small family run wineries only producing a few hundred cases a year.

North Carolina vineyards produce many of the grapes used by North Carolina wineries. Primarily two species of grapes are used for winemaking in the state. These are the native Vitis rotundifolia which are muscadine varieties and the European Vitis vinifera . The popularly grown muscadine grapes are Carlos, Magnolia and Scuppernong. The popularly grown vinifera varieties are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Viognier. Hybrid grape varieties are also popular. Those include Chambourcin, Traminette, and Chardonnel.

North Carolina is also home to five American Viticulture Areas (AVAs).   AVAs are designated wine grape growing areas within the US so designated for their distinctive geographic features. The boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) which is part of the United States Department of the Treasury.

The five AVAs are:

  • Yadkin Valley – Established in 2003. It is located in Wilkes, Yadkin and Surry Counties along with parts of Davie, Davidson, Forsyth and Stokes Counties.
  • Swan Creek – Established in 2008. It overlaps the Yadkin Valley AVA in parts of Wilkes and Yadkin Counties. A small part is also located in Northern Iredell County.
  • Haw River Valley – Established in 2009. It is located in Alamance County and parts of Caswell, Chatham, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham Counties.
  • Upper Hiwassee Highlands – Established in 2014 and shared with Georgia. It is located in parts of Cherokee and Clay Counties in NC.
  • Appalachian High Country – Established in 2016 and shared with Virginia and Tennessee.  It is located in Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga, and Avery Counties in NC.

A new AVA has been proposed for parts of the Southern Mountains in North Carolina.  If approved it will be known as the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA. It will include Henderson County in North Carolina.

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments