Raffaldini & Childress Vineyards – Wines of the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina
Either give me more wine or leave me alone. ~ Rumi
We recently returned from Germany where we had the opportunity to experience the wines of the Rhine (Rhein) where Riesling is king. Last year we toured Friuli in northeastern Italy where Friulano and Pinot Grigio are the stars of the region. When we travel to France, we enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah which have achieved noble status. It seems that wherever we travel there are vineyards and each with a unique character. As a matter of fact, in the United States, all 50 states are now producing wine; yes, even Alaska has two vineyards.
Now, lets be honest, all grapes are not equal in terms of producing quality wine and all soil and sun will not support every grape to noble rule. So, each vineyard must search for the grape that works best in the terroir (soil and sun) where it’s to be grown.
Earlier this year we led a culinary adventure to Virginia where we served a number of the Virginia wines to our guests, including several varieties from award-winning Barboursville Vineyards, and two different Viogniers from renowned winemakers Gabriele Rausse and Michael Shaps (Virginia Wineworks). Thomas Jefferson was enthusiastic to introduce wine to Virginia and would be elated at the quality of wine that is produced there today: beautiful wines with depth and a character all their own.
Just a canon shot away from Jefferson’s Virginia begins North Carolina’s wine country. With a terroir similar, but not the same, as Charlottesville, Virginia, ambitious winemakers are converting Appalachian hillsides and former tobacco fields into vineyards.
During a recent trip to Winston-Salem, we traveled to the Yadkin Valley of the Piedmont region (central North Carolina) to learn more about this emerging wine region. Visiting and touring Raffaldini Vineyards and Childress Vineyards, we spent some time with their winemakers to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in producing quality wine in the Tar Heel State.
Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery is situated on a beautiful 40-acre vineyard reminiscent of a Tuscan farm. Owner Jay Raffaldini initially planted more than thirty different grape varieties and clones to understand what varieties would thrive in this unique macro and micro-climate. Vines not capable of expressing their true character were replanted with other varieties. Ultimately, it was the Sangiovese grape, the same grape that the Rafalldini family cultivates in Italy, that has evolved in to their premier wine. Still a young vineyard with vines mostly 5 to 10 years old, other varietals are sure to evolve.
As with any vineyard, finding the best grape for the soil and environment takes testing with trial and error. Winemaker B. Kiley Evans, who came to Raffaldini from Southern Oregon in July, 2011, continues to refine the technique to extract the best from this vineyard. (Wine notes to follow.)