Friday, June 18, 2021

Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery: North Carolina Winery Visit

What pairs well with a glass of North Carolina wine? How about a good story and a dash of history.

Historic Roots

While Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery in in Elkin, North Carolina, first opened its doors in 2005, it is awash in a deep, captivating history. We recently visited the tasting room and discovered we were in a former stable for Klondike Farms. 

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In the 1920s, John Hanes of Hanes Hosiery purchased a one-room cabin on land surrounding a small stream called Grassy Creek. The rolling hills and creek proved to be the perfect location for prized herds of Golden Guernsey cows reported to produce the world’s best chocolate milk at Klondike Dairy.

The property was eventually purchased by the Chatham family and became the guest lodgings for the Chatham Manufacturing Company. Chatham was a textile company founded in 1877 and at its peak was the largest blanket manufacturer in the world.

Out With The Milk, In With The Vines

The farmland took a turn when former employee Derrill Rice and his wife purchased the historic property and decided to pursue their dream of a vineyard and winery. Jim and Cynthia Douthit joined the Rices in 2003 and planting of vines began that April. Today the varieties include: Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier.

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During our recent visit, we tasted through a selection of estate wines with Cynthia. As it was a rainy day, we focused on the red wines starting with the 2019 Artista Rosé, made with Barbera. The wine is named for a prize-winning Guernsey and provided a bit of sunshine. It’s well-balanced with a touch of watermelon and strawberry.

Chambourcin is one of our favorite North Carolina grapes, so we were eager to plunge into the 2016 vintage. This has a superb taste with the signature raspberry flavor along with plum. It has mild tannins and a bit of earthiness.

We were joined at the table by Tasting Room Manager Wayne Moore who wove a wonderful tale that showed the history of the Klondike Farm. First of all, the history is all around, not only are you sitting in the former stable, but the wine is made in a 10,000-square-foot former dairy barn. The most popular wines are the semi-sweet Klondike Farms Guernsey wines, which are appropriately packaged in milk bottles.

The Tale Of Iceberg

Wayne told us what might be the strangest tale we’ve ever heard in a tasting room. In the fall of 1933, Wayne related, Admiral Richard Byrd asked for three Guernsey cows to take with him on his expedition to the South Pole. One came from Klondike Farms and gave birth to a calf, dubbed Iceberg, during the long sea journey. After the return from Antarctica, Iceberg became a celebrity at one point being displayed in front of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

We appreciate when North Carolina wines get extra aging. No one wants a wine with a vintage date of last Tuesday. A nice example is the 2016 Red Barn Blend, which is 60% Merlot and the remainder Syrah and Sangiovese. This is a wine that’s won its share of awards at competitions. We like the dark fruit flavors, oakiness and touch of earth. It certainly benefits from the additional aging.

The 2017 Barbera was quite impressive. It has a deep wild cherry flavor with baking spice accents. The finish is memorable. It retails for $38.

Cabernet Comparison

We had a surprise to wrap up our visit. Cynthia shared a vertical tasting of the Grassy Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. We compared and contrasted the 2015 and 2016 vintages.

The 2015 has black currant and cherry in a medium-plus body. It should be a great pairing for a steak or grilled pork chop.

No two vintages are the same because rain and weather conditions vary along with the readiness of grapes to harvest. That truth was found in the glass of 2016 Cabernet. We expected it to be mellower and less pronounced in flavor than the 2015 since it’s younger. On the contrary, we thought the 2016 had greater depth of flavor with swirls of blackberry and plum.

Grassy Creek is a great choice for your next North Carolina winery visit. In addition to the winery and tasting room, four nearby rustic Klondike Cabins. Outdoor enthusiasts will also love the access to the Grassy Creek Trail which also allows you to connect to the scenic Carter Falls trail.

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