Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nothing to Wine About

Kimberly on the porch at Brandon Hills
Vineyards, near Yadkinville, NC

For the nice lady and I, visiting the multitude of wineries in the region has become one of our favorite leisure activities. It's only been in the past couple of years that I've come to appreciate wine of any variety; a particular incident back in college — something about being on the newspaper staff and going to a staff party, where the sports editor and I got into a race to see who could chug the most Chardonnay — had put me off wine in general (and even now, 35 years later, I can barely stomach most white varieties). However, over time, the dry reds began to grow on me, and both Kimberly and I have enjoyed many of the different varieties produced locally, some of which rate among the most palatable wines I've had anywhere. North Carolina now ranks number ten among wine-producing states, and I suspect it's liable to rank higher as vineyards increasingly replace tobacco farms, which are — quite understandably — no longer as profitable as they used to be. Many of the wineries frequently offer discount deals through Groupon and Living Social, so it's possible to get a good sampling of their wares quite inexpensively. With most tastings, you get a glass to keep, so I doubt that Kimberly and I will need to invest in wine glasses during in this lifetime.

Yesterday, we paid visits to Brandon Hills Vineyard, near Yadkinville, NC, and Hanover Park Vineyard, a short distance away. Brandon Hills is relatively new, with its first harvest in 2007. Their selection of dry reds was limited to a Barbera, a Merlot, and a blend called Raptor Red, but all quite good, particularly the Barbera. They offer more dry and semi-dry whites, a couple of which I found quite palatable, the 2010 Pinot Gris being the best. As with most of the vineyards in the Yadkin River Valley, the setting is picturesque, and they offer plenty of outdoor seating, including an arbor-like gazebo. It was scorching hot out there yesterday, but nice lady and I persevered and enjoyed a glass on the porch. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and very accommodating. They are also avid supporters of the Carolina Raptor Center, which is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey, through education, research, and the rehabilitation of injured and orphan raptors.

From there, we headed to Hanover Park, less than five miles away, and discovered one of the real treasures in the region. The winery was established in 1996, with the retail/tasting area situated in a farmhouse built in 1897, beautifully restored to retain its original character. The owners are clearly accomplished winemakers and have a small but extremely personable staff to take care of visitors. Their wines rate among some of the best I've had in the region, including a couple of reserve blends that were produced under unique conditions and will never come around again. They have several excellent dry reds and only a handful of whites. I was especially taken with their Chambourcin, Mouvedre (quite rare in these parts), and a 2006 blend called Michael's, made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Again, it was almost too hot to enjoy being outdoors, but we braved the oppressive temperatures to enjoy a glass in their very scenic front yard. For sheer character and charm, not to mention quality of product, Hanover Park is one of the best.

To get a nice overview of the wineries in North Carolina, go to

Needless to say, one of the most desirable aspects of visiting wineries is that there are almost always geocaches in the bargain — some, such as Benjamin Vineyards, in Saxapahaw, and Laurel Grey Vineyards, near Hamptonville, have caches on the premises. Grabbed a handful on the trip yesterday, to bring ye total to 4,841 and counting....

Click images to enlarge.
A pair of very happy glasses enjoying the scenery at Brandon Hills Vineyard.
Dude on the porch at Hanover Park. His glass clearly needs some TLC.
Another satisfied customer at Hanover Park Vineyard.

1 comment:

johnpeters said...

Hey, I work done in that neck of the woods. Actually, in Mayberry just up the road from Yadkinville. If you're ever down that way let me know. Don't know that I can help you much in the winery department, but I can treat you to a pork chop sandwich at the famous Snappy Lunch (from the Andy Griffith Show).

And you're correct, the wine industry in North Carolina, particularly in the Yadkin Valley, will continue to grow.