Laurel Gray Vineyards
The Story: The land on which this vineyard sits has been in the Myers family since 1773, when ancestors came from England and were given a plot of land to preserve. Today, owners Kim and Benny Myers do just that, taking advantage of its similar elevation and soil to that of the French countryside, growing all-French vines to produce American made and bottled wines, exclusive to their tasting room and charming country store.
The Sip: The most consistently popular variety is the international award-winning 2010 Scarlet Mountain blend, a smooth palate-pleaser characterized by ripe cherries, blueberries and raspberries with a buttery finish.
The Secret: From vine to bottle, all wines are produced on-site of this boutique winery; even the wine labels are designed and painted by owner Kim Myers, who specializes in watercolor.
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Shadow Springs Vineyard
The Story: Husband and wife pair Chuck and Jamey Johnson converted this old tobacco farm into a picturesque vineyard lined with pristine rows of varietal grapes, producing French viniferous and French-American hybrid wines available at specialty markets such as Weaver Street in Hillsborough, Total Wines in Charlotte and its personal tasting room and wine shop.
The Sip: The vineyard produces over a dozen varieties ranging from the barrel-aged “Best of Class” winner, Chambourcin to Meritage, the Bordeaux blend. But as far as uniqueness, Dark Shadow, a red wine infused with liquid dark chocolate, prevails in popularity.
The Secret: This family-owned operation is pushing boundaries as the only vineyard in North Carolina to fortify wines, adding distilled spirits and barrel aging them, creating port wine. Its sister winery, Windsor Run Cellars, churns out meads, the oldest known fermentable, fortified with 170 proof alcohol.
Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery
The Story: This impressive cypress and oak tree lined winery was founded by first generation Italians whose avid love for food and wine incited a family-owned business to keep their Italian crest and traditions alive. Surprisingly, with no roots in NC, the family chose this piece of land, which they found comparable in latitude to the Chianti region, after a long search of 60 properties across the states.
The Sip: The 2010 Montepulciano, a rich red wine characterized by complementing smoky and earthy flavors won the Winegrower’s Cup for Best in Show at the NC State Fair, where it was up against 471 other wines.
The Secret: This heritage-driven winery is the only winery on the East coast to practice Appasssimento, an ancient process used in Northern Italy that carefully dries red wine grapes to result in a pleasantly rich wine, abounding with fruitiness as well as unique notes of tobacco, chocolate and leather after a brief stint in oak.
The Story: Named after owners Dave and Ester DeFehr, this was the first winery to open in Iredell County, with a barn-style tasting room and property exuding rustic charm through rows of pines, waterfalls and park like paths.
The Sip: The vineyard grows a handful of popular French varietals like Merlot and Chardonnay but also offers distinguishable wines that are rarely grown in NC, such as its Malbec, which won a Bronze Medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in 2011.
The Secret: This winery is the only one in NC and one of a handful in the U.S. to produce Rkatsiteli, a crisp white wine characterized by lime, lilac and honey hailing from Georgia, just outside of Russia.
The Story: NASCAR team owner Richard Childress spent numerous afternoons touring vineyards in California after long racing days with driver Dale Earnhardt, which aptly prepared him to open a vineyard in Lexington, NC. With a reputation for picking racing talent, he hired award-winning Mark Friszolowski, who previously thrived in cultivating the wine industry in Long Island, New York. The Sip: The vineyard produces 12 viniferous varieties, yet its most popular is its Cabernet Franc, which impresses with black cherry and clove notes as well as its double gold Governor’s Cup award and gold medal from the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Wine Competition.
The Secret: Childress looked at multiple properties out West and in New York, deciding on the property in Lexington as it provided terrain similar to Europe and would give offer him the convenience of visiting the grounds often.
The Story: The 35 acres in Monroe in which this vineyard sits on has been in the family for over 200 years. Phil and Dianne Nordan operate the relaxed, family-owned vineyard, with the help of their two children, Phillip and Ashley.
The Sip: The beautifully set winery, surrounded by horses and former rock quarry ponds, makes seven muscadine blends, while adding a Cabernet, Merlot and Riesling to the mix. Sunset Hills, a clean and refreshing red muscadine blend is a consistent best-seller.
The Secret: As its name notions, this vineyard boasts a tree house as a charming accommodation for vineyard visitors and has been utilized by visitors from 10 countries around the world. Long before the vineyard was started, Phil Nordan built an original tree house as a place for him and wife to escape for Friday evening date night, while staying close to home.
Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery
The Story: Owners Barbara and Frank Hannah were wine enthusiasts turned winery owners after they visited the NC Wine Festival in 2010 and were inspired to start growing their own vines.
The Sip: The winery specializes in European-style wines and hybrids, and currently features eight wines in its tasting room. The fan favorite is the “Celebration,” a Vidal Blanc blended with merlot to create a lovely pinkish, sipping wine which is often purchased, for its jovial name, as a wedding, graduation or birthday gift.
The Secret: This serene property looks out over breathtaking views of the South Mountains, making it a popular venue for weddings, engagement parties and other intimate affairs.