So what happens when it seems like the end of the world is coming in the middle of a wine festival? You take cover in the Little River Winery “tasting room on wheels” and continue to drink! And when the power goes out and it begins to hail? You continue to drink wine, but a little more cautiously. This was our experience at the Great Grapes festival in Cary this past weekend.
Though I don’t take all the destruction from the storm in the surrounding areas lightly, I am certainly thankful for the storm almost missing Cary. Especially, because the event staff told people to go to their cars and a good hundred plus people were just standing under the awning! I would hope next time the staff will direct us towards the fully cemented, no window bathrooms.
Either way, my partners in crime (father and sister), helped me to get through a good couple hours of tasting wine from all over the good state of North Carolina. I only wrote down some of my favorites along with some of the weird/interesting ones, so we’ll jump right in. (Be prepared, it’s a long post)
The wineries will be listed by name and location. They will have a brief description and then the wines I liked the best and their respective prices. The tasting notes are mostly the specific wineries’ description taken directly from their websites. (Each Title can be clicked on to direct you to the Vineyard or Winery homepage)
Grove Winery & Vineyards – Guildford County, NC
Prior to the festival, I volunteered to pour for one of the wineries. Just doing my civil duty! No mention of the fact that I got free admission! 🙂 So I poured and tasted all their wines to accurately describe them to tasters. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the people from Grove. I was surprised by how great their wine was and they were vocally surprised at how knowledgeable I was and how well I could talk about their wine. The winery’s retired winemaker, Bob, was so nice and busy discovering new wines. Hint: Blend the Nebbiolo and the Cabernet Sauvignon for a well-balanced, robust, full of flavor red. Everyone was wonderful and the wine was great. Seriously! Visit them!
NEBBIOLO Award Winning $17.99
Big, robust red, light in color, flavor was powerful.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON Award Winning $17.99
Black cherry, tobacco and coffee, firm tannins. I would describe as smoky and like no Cab I’ve ever tasted.
ROSE Award Winning $14.99
100% Sangiovese, aged in oak. Dry European style Rose, far from a too sweet White Zin.
Southern Charm Winery – Lincolnton, NC
Southern Charm Winery was just that, charming. The guy pouring the wine was awesome and even when it was pouring and thundering he continued to pour us delicious wine. I started dancing in the rain beside their tent with Amarone in hand! The wine didn’t melt and neither did I. Here for you a nice white, a fantastic version of a Northern Italian style red and a fruit blend.
DOGWOOD CLASSIC Bronze Medal, Southeastern Regional Wine Competition $14.00
A classic semi-dry Riesling, this wine offers a mild citrus body, with a clean and slightly tart finish.
RED TAIL HAWK $26.00
Our interpretation of a traditional Amarone, this is a full-bodied dry wine. Flavors of dried fruits, cocoa and vanilla blend together for an unbelievably smooth finish. Truly, a wine like no other.
EDISTO BLACK Gold Medal, Southeastern Regional Wine Competition $13.00
You get the taste of fresh, sweet blackberries blended with our rich Merlot for a smooth, flavorful wine.
Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery – USDA Organic – Blue Ridge Mountains (Yadkin Valley)
People from North Carolina must really find pride in really sweet wines. Each tent we visited, people were hesitant to give me their favorite because it was usually a dark red. They must have taken one good look at me and thought, “Oh that girl looks so nice and sweet, let’s try and give her some scuppernong!” These wines were interesting as I’ve never tasted Cynthiana before. I am probably the biggest “North Carolina rocks!” advocate around, but this Native American grape didn’t really do it for me. Back to old world grapes for me.
2009 CHAMBOURCIN $10.00
Dry red wine made from Chambourcin (French-American hybrid) grapes, which grow well in the Yadkin Valley and produce excellent red wines, rich in color and tannins.
2009 CHAMBOURCIN-CYNTHIANA BLEND 1st Place at 2009 NC State Fair $10.00
Dry red wine made from a blend of Chambourcin and Cynthiana/Norton (native American) grapes. Rich red dry with fruity, nutty.
Little River Vineyards
Our saving grace! Little River had the coolest semi-truck tasting room on wheels I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s the only one I’ve ever see, so I can honestly say it’s the best. I think the guy pouring got fed up with us for coming so often, but we HAD to take shelter somewhere and they were still pouring. This Winery has got big things happening; their winemaker Antonini from Frescobaldi has established an impressive reputation for his Italian winemaking skillz (with a z!) There were two girls gushing over his name and Frescobaldi’s name when they found out Antonini was Little River’s winemaker. (the next Bieber for adults??)
Light and refreshing with a hint of gooseberries on the nose. Our Sauvignon Blanc has a delicate acidity and flavors of kiwi, lime and white peach on the mid-palate. The finish is long and delicate.
INFUSION SPECIAL RESERVE RED BLEND
A blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (50/50) Our wine makers have crafted a soft and rounded wine with rich flavors of currant and cherry. Notes of mint and touch of vanilla on the palate – long elegant finish.
SYNERGY SPECIAL RESERVE BLEND
This wine is so new that the website has yet to give it a description. This wine was similar to the Infusion, just a 60/40 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon instead. I asked for the pourer’s favorite and he gave me this. I am now a believer. Smoky, smooth, full and elegant, it was terrific.
Cypress Bend Vineyards – Wagram, NC
Muscadine is a difficult grape to make wine from and wine that tastes good at that. Cypress Bend did very well with the Riverton Reserve. Unlike other Muscadine wines, the Riverton Reserve wasn’t abundantly sweet and really proved itself with what they stated as “fresh and lively character,” it’s true! Even better was the Livy. I took one look at Livy’s simple description and it really was as great as it sounded. The way I would describe this wine would be a mix between a Pinot Grigio’s lightness and a Viognier’s crispness. It was one of my favorites of the day.
RIVERTON RESERVE $12.00
A dry white premium Muscadine wine with beautiful balance and an abundance of fruitiness to keep its rich character fresh and lively. Its bright full aromas bend to a full round palate and velvety finish.
Semi dry white, crisp and zesty.
Skull Camp Wines
I love these wines! I love them all! Each of these wines has all won some kind of award. These guys are awesome and their table was full of cool people all taking the “I am badass” approach to winemaking. Each wine had a fun name like indulgence, anticipation, euphoria, confusion, infatuation, flirtation, etc. I couldn’t choose just one.
INDULGENCE Bronze Medal, Mid-Atlantic $13.00
A ‘port-style’ fortified red wine. 100% Cabernet Franc, barrel aged for over 3-4 years. Black cherry aromas with a hint of spice.
ANTICIPATION Bronze Medal, Mid-Atlantic $13.00
Light & refreshing semi-dry white table wine. Citrus, apple and pear with just a slight bit of sweetness.
EUPHORIA Gold Medal, Mt. Airy and Gold Medal, NC State Fair $13.00
It’s what comes after anticipation! Slightly sweeter white, with grapefruit and pear aromas.
CONFUSION Silver Medal, Mt. Airy & Rated perfect “5 bottles” by NCWinetv! $13.00
Refreshing Rose’ semi-dry table wine. Tropical fruit, red apple, and cherry. 100% Cabernet Franc grapes.
INFATUATION Bronze Medal, Mid-Atlantic Wine Competition $13.00
A semi-dry red wine with aromas of cherry and ripe plum that yields a perfect balance between the sweetness, tannins and oak.
Allison Oaks Vineyards – Yadkin Valley
It was a must to visit this tent because of my friend Alison. Really, that was the only reason. This reasoning is comparable to any girl’s reasoning on which sports team to like. (Pretty uniforms, brother went to the school, cute mascot). Glad I did though, they had this red blend that I really liked.
PROPRIETOR’S BLEND Gold Medal $16.00
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel. Very bright red cherry color that carries through on the nose and palate. Complex fruit flavors of berry and stone fruits. Peppery finish with notes of licorice and cocoa.
Shadow Springs Vineyard – Hamptonville, NC
The website says that Dark Shadow tastes like chocolate covered cherries, but mix these two together to get chocolate covered strawberries. It is dessert and romance in a glass, forget all those calories, and drink up!
DARK SHADOW $18.00
This strawberry wine is light and refreshing. With 11% alcohol and a sweet taste, it is the perfect summer wine any time of year.
Chatham Hill Winery – Raleigh, NC
Chatham Hill Winery does many things right and has a beautiful tasting room, but there is one area in which they excel. Chatham Hill’s fruit flavored wines can NOT be topped. This winery uses Chardonnay instead of Muscadine in its flavored wines and it makes all the difference. Try any and all, alone or in sangria – they might just change your life. Flavors include peach, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, strawberry and my new favorite, pomegranate. At about $11 a bottle, you can buy enough for all your friends.
$30 for an already purchased festival ticket. $5 on gas. Learning, tasting wine and loving life for 5 hours straight? Priceless. All I can say is: Do it.
And hooray for making it to the end! If you do, tell me, I’ll buy you a bottle of something you like as a thank you. 🙂