Raffaldini & Childress Vineyards – Wines of the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina
Childress Vineyards is the passion of NASCAR owner Richard Childress. A long time wine enthusiast, Childress hired award-winning winemaker Mark Friszolowski from Long Island, N.Y. to oversee the winemaking at this pictorial vineyard. Mark planted a large variety of grapes, beginning in 2004, most of which mirror the noble grapes of France ( Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier) and the jewels of Italy (Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Vermentino and Barbera). (Wine notes to follow.)
A few notes about the wines and the vineyards. These are young vineyards. It took more than twenty years for winemakers like Lucca Paschinia at Barboursville wines in Virginia to nurture the grapes, experiment with the location and varieties, and squeeze the best wine from the maturing vines. The vineyards of North Carolina are still juvenile in comparison. Rough on some edges and missing the elegance of older vines, there is no denying that these vineyards are maturing and have a bright future ahead.
The biggest challenge is balancing the tannins and acidity of the wines. The hillsides of the Piedmont experience warm days and somewhat cool nights. The grapes are harvested when the pH and sugars achieve optimal level at the vineyard. For North Carolina, this means lower acidity which creates a different flavor profile for the finished wine than the wine growing regions of France, Italy or California. The key, as these winemakers know, is to work with the terroir and allow it to shine through, not try to create a California, French or Italian wine, but an expressive North Carolina wine.
To my palate, for both vineyards, Sangiovese is the grape to watch. While different in style and taste from its Tuscan heritage, each vineyard has produced a wonderful wine with the Sangiovese grape that offers up the unique nature of this climate and soil. Don’t drink these wines to compare them to your favorite Super Tuscan, instead enjoy them for their own natural style.
Both of these vineyards are picturesque, situated in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the owners have invested in the facilities to showcase the natural beauty of the property. Each property has tasting rooms and stores that sell associated items, including food and with a full dining room at Childress Vineyards.