Friday, August 5, 2022

Quartet Of Wineries Featured in #NC Wine Summit Tour

It hardly seems possible. I just attended the Fifth Annual #NC Wine Digital Media Summit. I attended the summit back in 2019 and had a blast. The last two have been virtual, and while it was a good program, there’s just no replacing a face-to-face meeting with real, live people.

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For me, the highlight of the event, organized by the NC Wine Guys, is the pre-summit winery tours exploring North Carolina wine. This year we visited Shelton Vineyards, Hidden Vineyard, Haze Gray Vineyards, and finished off with a dinner at Golden Road Vineyard. We were transported in style by Van In Black.

Shelton Vineyards

Shelton’s vineyard is one of the largest on the East Coast. There are 10 varieties grown at Shelton and heading to the tasting room, we passed row upon row of carefully pruned vines. Grapes grown on the 1,000-acre estate are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng.

We were treated to a spectacular tasting of their reserve wines in the tank room. Winemaker Ethan Brown led us through the tasting of seven different wines that ranged from sparkling rosé to Yadkin Valley Port. The range of their wines is dazzling, with more than 20 different wines available. Of special note are the Petite Manseng, Sparkling Rosé, Franklin, and Yadkin Valley Riesling. The Petite Manseng is one of the best white wines in North Carolina and this one has vibrant tropical flavors with limestone and acidity. The Franklin is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Tannat. The Tannat gives Franklin a kick in the pants with robust dark fruit, oak, and cherry flavors. We capped our visit with a delicious lunch in the intimate setting of the barrel room.

Shelton is one of the leaders of the North Carolina wine industry and with good reason.

Hidden Vineyard

From one of the largest wineries in the state, we next traveled to one of the smaller ones. Hidden Vineyard has a well-tended nine-acre vineyard that yields eight different grapes including some of our favs: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Chambourcin. Located between Dobson and Pilot Mountain, this secluded boutique winery is well worth finding.

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The tasting room was built in the industrial farmhouse design with stylish contemporary touches as well as barnwood. It is compact, but if it fills up, there is plenty of seating and picnic areas outside. You can also stroll down Pilot Path amongst the vines. The path is so named because you get a perfect view of Pilot Mountain during your walk. The vineyard and tasting room are on the site of a former tobacco farm and a restored tobacco barn is now available to rent as a cabin.

Owners Tim and Lisa Sherman aim to produce quality Bordeaux-style wines and we tasted some outstanding ones. The wines have whimsical names and Lunchbox is a tasty barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Call Me A Cab is Cabernet Franc with tart berry notes, earthiness, and some herbaceousness. 131 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot aged in French Oak. Claus is barrel-aged Chambourcin that has flavors of vanilla, cocoa, and black cherry. A first-time visit for us and we’ll certainly be back.

Haze Gray Vineyards

I’ve heard the name Haze Gray Vineyards many times. Uneducated person that I am, I assumed Haze Gray was a person, perhaps an early settler of Yadkin Valley. But no, turns out that haze gray is the color of US Navy ships. Haze Gray is a veteran-owned and operated vineyard and winery that displays the Homegrown by Heroes brand. It certifies ranchers, farmers, and fishermen of all military eras to sell their products as veteran-owned and produced. Owners Deane and Becky Muhlenberg both were raised in military families and Deane served for 30 years in the US Navy as a flight officer.

The tasting room opened in 2019. One of the focal points inside is a wall that features a large wooden propeller and dozens of photos of veterans. Photos from veterans or family members are welcome to be displayed in this area, just one way Haze Gray salutes veterans. Their nine acres of grapes produce some outstanding wines, including Aviator Red. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Tannat and Chambourcin. It qualifies as a “party in your mouth” and one dollar from each bottle sold is contributed to the USO.

As far as white wines go, three are offered: a stainless steel Chardonnay, a barrel-fermented Chard, and a dry Traminette. The 2019 Stainless Steel Chardonnay has crisp flavors of pear and apples. Another excellent wine is the 2021 Dry Traminette. Traminette is related to Gewürztraminer and is an aromatic wine with floral scents and apricot and stone fruit flavors. Beautifully done!

Golden Road Vineyards

Golden Road is another Homegrown Heroes winery. It’s owned and operated by Chad and Christa Guebert. Chad served as a submarine officer in the US Navy and became interested in wine while stationed in Italy. They purchased Golden Road in 2017 to convert a vineyard that sold grapes to other wineries into one that produced its own wine. The tasting room opened in 2019. As part of the pre-summit activities, we enjoyed a rollicking good catered dinner at the winery paired with some wonderful wines.

We first tried the Emergency Blow sparkling Traminette. I was first introduced to this by my good friend Arthur Barham. I wondered about the name, but it turns out that it’s a submarine maneuver that forces compressed air into the ballast tanks to blow out the water. This causes a rapid rise to the surface. Emergency Blow is the first sparkling Traminette that I’ve tasted. It’s light, lovely, and packed with flavor.

The tasting room is small and beautifully furnished. One wall is finished with wine barrel staves. Outside there are comfortable chairs with a perfect view of sunsets. Our favorite red was the 2018 Go With The Flo’, which is a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Petit Verdot grapes were harvested under the gray clouds from Hurricane Florence. This is rich, smooth, and flavorful.

And this only covers the action-packed day before the #NCWine Digital Media Summit began. the summit itself, held at the Surry Community College NC Viticultural Center, was stuffed with great educational sessions, networking, food and – yes – wine. Many thanks to the sponsors, speakers, and Matt and Joe of NC Wine Guys (our organizers).

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