Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Carolina Wine Trail

Just back from a great little road trip down to Raleigh, North Carolina and wineries in the Yadkin Valley. Designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2003, the Yadkin Valley borders the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northwestern North Carolina, near Winston-Salem. With its clay-loam soils and temperate climate, the area seems quite suited to growing vinifera, especially Viognier, which outshined most other varietals tasted.

Here is a recap spots tasted:

Chatham Hill Winery

The first stop on the wine hunt. Located off I-40 in Cary, NC in an industrial park. The winery sources grapes from other growers in North Carolina, California and Virginia.

2005 Pinot Grigio, California
--made from Lodi, California fruit. Very floral nose, honeysuckle notes. Crisp. Was this acidified? Last time I checked, Lodi is a pretty hot growing area and not necessarily known for its crisp white wines.

2005 Viognier, North Carolina--spicy, peach aromas on the notes. Thin body for a Viognier. Seems watered down.

2001 Cabernet Franc, Virginia--spicy pepper aromas, plum and cherry notes. Thin finish.

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Carolina--smells like Cabernet Franc. Spicy pepper notes, plum and black cherry aromas. Light bodied. Not bad if you like very light red wines. Best in Category at the 2006 Atlantic Seaboard Competition. (I think this means that Cabernet Sauvignon probably should not be grown on the East Coast--I guess I am like Robert Parker and I like my Cabs big and juicy.)

2003 Zinfandel, California
--Another wine made with Lodi fruit. Spicy aromas but where is the big, juicy Zinfandel fruit? Bitter finish.

NV Christmas White
--blend of Chardonnay and French Colombard. Big, intense peach and melon aromas. Made in the style of an off-dry Riesling. Tasty!

NV Pomegranate Wine--This is a fun wine. Pom juice added to a dry white wine after fermentation? The winery would not disclose exactly how this wine is made. Fruity aromas with distinct Pomegranate flavor. Off-dry. This would be a good wine for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Hanover Park Vineyard

My first stop in the Yadkin Valley. Hanover Park has roughly 5.5 acres under vine and conducts tastings in a lovely farmhouse circa 1897.

2003 Chardonnay
--fermented in stainless steel. Crisp green apple and citrus notes. Refreshing. Lingering finish.

2003 Viognier
--intense pineapple and apricot aromas. Melon and honeysuckle flavors. Fairly light bodied. A tad bit of residual sugar on the finish.

2002 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
--aged in Hungarian Oak. Savory oak and toasted vanilla noted followed by baked apple flavors. Medium bodied. Crisp finish.

2003 Mourvedre--blend of Mourvedre and Syrah. Spicy aromas. Almost tastes like a Cab Franc. Light bodied, light tannins. Lingering cherry spice finish.

2004 Chambourcin
--sweet tart cherry aromas followed by spicy white. Light bodied with light tannins.

2001 Cabernet Franc
--spicy green pepper aromas. Light bodied with light tannins.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon--aromas of black currant and cherry spice. Medium body, fairly light tannins.

2002 Michael's Blend
--Blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah. Aromas of dried red fruits and spice. Medium bodied. Fairly easy tannins.

Flint Hill Vineyards

After two seemingly lack luster tastings, I happened upon a little spot called Flint Hill. I was blown away by their 2005 Viognier--that just MIGHT be better than the famed Chrysalis vineyards Viognier from Virginia.

2005 Viognier--intoxicating floral, peach and apricot notes followed by juicy tropical fruit. Well-balanced fruit and alcohol. Simply fabulous!

2005 Chardonnay
--green apple notes with slight oak undertones. Aged in neutral oak for three months. Crisp. Refreshing.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
--notes of spice and blackberry. Medium body with light tannins.

2005 Olde Yattken
--off dry blend of Chardonnay and Viognier (Why are they using the fab Viognier in this blend??). Apricot and peach notes. Fairly refreshing. Not cloying.

2005 Crushed Velvet
--Made from the Chambourcin grape. Sweet spice notes followed by black cherry and raspberry notes. Definitely a must with chocolate desserts.

RagApple Lassie Vineyards

The last stop on the tour before the drive home to Virginia yielded a few interesting finds, like the 'Boonville Blanc' off-dry Viognier, a perfect wine to sip with fresh fruit based desserts.

2005 Pinot Gris
--notes of fresh figs, honey and pineapple. Medium bodied. A bit dull.

2004 Viognier
--classic floral and honeysuckle notes. Medium bodied. Tad flat and thin on the finish.

2004 Chardonnay
--toasted oak and baked apple aromas. A tad buttery. Barrel-fermented and sue lie aged. Another flat finish.

2003 Merlot--cherry and anise notes with a hint of spice. Light and a bit thin.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon--a hint of dried fruit with underripe fruit notes. Light. Thin.

2004 Syrah--spice and black pepper notes. Light. Thin.

2004 Zinfandel
--juicy red fruit aromas with a hint of chocolate. But where is the big robust classic Zinfandel fruit? Light body, light tannins.

First Blush NV--I try to steer clear of wines with the word "blush" in the title, but this was kinda fun. A blend of Traminette, Marsanne, Semillon and Malbec. Slight salmon color. Rose and lychee notes. Medium body. Citrus on the finish. Off-dry.

Rockford Red NV--blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Zinfandel. Red fruit aromas followed by chocolate-covered cherries. Medium body. Semi-sweet.

Boonville Blanc NV
--made from 100% Viognier. Orange blossom and apricot notes followed by a hint of pear. Medium bodied. Semi-sweet. An interesting use of the Viognier grape.

Evening Sunset NV
--made from the Symphony grape. Rich and intense with fresh grape, lychee and muscat-like aromas. Not overly cloying. Good dessert wine.

So my first jaunt into the wilds of North Carolina wine country uncovered a few finds, some great scenery and left me looking for some better red wine. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to grab any of the barbecue, which I hear is quite good. I bet those thin reds would pair quite nicely with a pulled-pork sandwich smothered in tangy Carolina barbecue sauce.


Amanda said...

Promise next time you'll get some barbecue! ; )

Andrew said...

Oh dont worry. I wanted to get some, but the barbecue joint in Booneville was closed on Sundays! Can you believe that?

Von Flaggenpfefferhollenstein said...

Ha! I laughed when I saw your picture of the office park winery, because I recognized it from a recent trip to NC. My wife had laid out plans for us to visit a number of charming little wineries in the Raleigh area. This was our first experience with NC wine. Needless to say, we were a little disappointed by the ambiance at this one.

Andrew said...

I agree with you...the idea of wine tasting often does not involve office park ambience...but the winery staff did tell me they plan to move out to a more 'bucolic' site sometime soon. Next time make sure you head west toward Winston-Salem...thats where all the wineries and vineyards are located...West of Raleigh.

Anonymous said...

The best wineries are indeed just outside of Winston-Salem. Wineries such as Westbend, Raylen, Shelton and Childress have a long list of varietals and feature a better ambiance than an office park!