Wine Tasting In The NC Piedmont

Not long ago I was traveling through North Carolina.  Having stopped in at Iron Gate Vineyards a little over a year ago (where I had my first Chambourcin), I knew that the Piedmont region of NC is dotted with wineries.  Taking a look at my route and the online listings of wineries in the State, I found that Childress Vineyards was a short detour and open during my trip.  Yup.  No brainer!  Clearly, I was going to have to drop by to see what they are up to.

The facility at Childress is an attractive, impressive, full-service enterprise akin to many of the popular wineries in California – including a tasting bar, a gift shop, and a restaurant.  When I arrived I made straight for the tasting room/bar  where I learned that I had options.  I could taste one selection free – a Sauvignon Blanc that particular day; I could take advantage of a “Cellar Select Tasting” of 8 predominantly off-dry wines for $12; or I could go with their “Barrel Select Tasting” of 8 Barrel Select, Reserve or Signature wines for $15.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I went with the third option.

The eight wines they were pouring on my visit included a Reserve Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Reserve Cabernet Franc, a red blend called Pinnacle, their Signature Merlot, and a dessert wine called Starbound.  Below are my impressions in brief.  Please understand these aren’t complete tasting notes, just quickly scribbled thoughts.

1.  Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – plenty of lemon and grapefruit with a silky mouthfeel.

2.  Pinnacle – a non-vintage blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec – this was their 5th release of this wine (c. 2013).  I found it earthy with lots of buoyant fruit flavors.  13% alcohol.

3.  Merlot 2009 – with almost a brownish tinge to it’s color, this Merlot struck me as smokey and peppery.  13.4% alcohol.

4.  Cabernet Franc 2010 – copious berry flavors and nice medium tannins with a noticeable grip.

5.  Reserve Chardonnay 2010 – a bigger style Chardonnay with plentiful citrus flavor as well.

6.  Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 – made from estate-grown grapes.  14.2% alcohol.  tannins are lighter than in the previous Cabernet Franc selection, and flavors were subtler with a little less focus on fruit.

7.  Signature Merlot 2009 – another nicely smokey Merlot but with a more complex flavor profile.

8.  Starbound – a non-vintage blueberry dessert wine in the port style.  this was the last selection tasted.  thought it was very blueberry and very sweet.  for me, could probably make an interesting drizzle over ice cream or pound cake.

The staffer who poured for me was very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  I had a very good time sampling their wares and discussing the Childress wines with her.  She was even kind enough to include a bonus taste of their 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot.  This was a first for me, tasting a varietal wine made from Petit Verdot.  I found it lightly earthy with nice blueberry fruit flavor and pepper as well as some green herbals on the finish.

Having finished tasting all this vino, the question came as to what I might want to carry home with me.  Oh my!  Decisions, decisions!  But then I noticed they had a Sangiovese among their full list of selections.  They weren’t pouring it that day at the tasting bar, but it was available for purchase by the bottle.  Well, then, given my ongoing exploration of Sangiovese, you know what I drove away with.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable tasting experience.  It’s a nice facility in a pretty setting with helpful staff and plenty of wine selections to sample.  It’s just a tad off the beaten path, but not far.  What’s not to like?

 

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A Little Winery Down B’ham Way

That’s B’ham as in Birmingham, Alabama.  Not what you were expecting?  Me neither!

On a road trip awhile back I had the time for a quick stop at the Vizzini Farms Winery in Calera, AL just south of Birmingham.  It’s conveniently close to I-65 – just around the bend.

First, let me say that the staff are very friendly and helpful.  In addition, the winery building has a relaxed coziness to it.  Like many wineries these days, they have a little in-house bistro with indoor and outdoor seating.  Seems like it must be pretty popular, because there were several occupied tables when I arrived in the mid-afternoon on a Monday.  Since I was on a schedule, I didn’t have the time to linger and try their dishes.  But I was able to belly up over at the wine bar where I tasted a few of their products.  They make a full line of wines there but grow only their Muscadine grapes on site.

For the quick tasting I tried their Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Great White (Muscadine).  It was an interesting group of selections.  I didn’t take detailed notes.  I was on a road trip, after all.  Still, I did get definite impressions of several.  For instance, I was fascinated by the intense viscosity and smokiness present in their Muscadine selection.  The label indicates it’s made from Scuppernong grapes.  In addition, I thought the Pinot Grigio and Viognier were very much in keeping with what I understand to be typical varietal characteristics.  I was personally a little disappointed in the Pinot Noir.  It wasn’t terrible, but it struck me as a bit weak and lacking in character.  As for the Sangiovese, I bought a bottle so that I could ponder it at my leisure.  They were willing to waive the $6 tasting fee if I bought something.  So, of course, I did!  I’ll be posting my tasting notes on that bottle soon.

Overall, it was a nice visit.  I do wish I’d had more time to relax and enjoy their hospitality.  Maybe next time I’m that far south I can drop in again.  On the other hand, there are a number of other wineries on the Alabama Wine Trail.