The News & Record, Greensboro
December 2007

North Carolina vineyards produce
great wines for holiday time

By Ed Williams

This time of year I’m pestered incessantly: “So what are you drinking that’s good?”

“Whatever you’re pouring,” I answer.

They press on: “No, what wine should we serve with holiday meals?“

“Whatever wine you like,” I answer.

I can’t satisfy anyone with this, even when I embellish:

The holiday table—resplendent with many flavors and textures—is nearly impossible to match with any one wine.

If you even come close to matching the weight and body of the wine with the weight and body of the food (or just as importantly, the sauce or spice that preps said food product), then you’re golden.

The whole food-wine matching debate has launched a thousand books, and still no Trojan horse has emerged as fix. Even if you discovered a trick, who takes a bite, immediately washes it down with wine, then takes another bite, then takes another sip of wine and so on and so on? What automaton consumes like that?

Parting thought: Your very favorite wine is not likely to significantly detract from the meal.

With that in mind, here’s some very favorite wine of mine for the holiday season. Most run between $12 and $18 retail.


What top-flight Chard is all about. Apple, pear, pineapple, vanilla are all in balance. Nuanced, yet there’s lingering finish. Voted “Best in Show” at this year’s N.C. State Fair. This Thurmond, N.C. winery is new to the scene, but winemaker Sean McRitchie isn’t. He’s put his stamp on many North Carolina wines over the years.

2006 ELKIN CREEK PINOT GRIGIO: Crisp apple, apricot, melon and mineral are all there, yet there is a surprisingly creamy texture reminiscent of a French Pinot Gris style. Elegant and beguiling.

2006 BUCK SHOALS VIOGNIER: Peach, pear, and some mango flavors and a floral aroma. This Yadkin Valley winery has a nice touch with this grape.

2005 WESTBEND VINEYARDS BARREL FERMENTED CHARDONNAY: A tropical fruit medley kissed with sweet oak. This dry white is among North Carolina’s top Chards.

2006 SHELTON BIN 17 CHARDONNAY: Shelton produces a range of Chards and this one has dodged the oak, vanilla and toast that comes from barrel exposure. This is pure apple, melon, and peach fruit—Chardonnay in its naughty buff.

2006 RAFFALDINI VERMENTINO: Only a handful of American wineries grow this Italian grape. Raffaldini takes a bold chance with Vermentino, a dazzling crisp wine with pear, apple and lemon-lime flavors.

2006 GROVE HAW RIVER WHITE: A playful blend of hybrid Chardonel and Chardonnay delivers a crisp wine with melon ball, pear, and lemon flavors. A wine for early arriving guests.

2006 SURRY CELLARS CHARDONEL: The winemakers-in-training at Surry Community College’s viticultural program have recorded some hits, foul balls and spectacular misses. But this delicately-structured white—a cross between Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay—is a home run.

2006 SHELTON VINEYARDS YADKIN VALLEY RIESLING: Riesling is probably the most meal friendly wine on the planet. Shelton has again crafted a wine that balances soft apple, pear and melon fruit against good acid.

2005 CHILDRESS VINEYARDS CABERNET FRANC: Black cherry dances with chocolate hints. A juicy, medium-bodied red with nice fruit and light tannin.


CALHOUN SPECIALTIES BREW BAR: 113 West Mcgee St., GSO. This intimate venue, owned by Michael Heyward, specializes in coffees, imported herbal teas and a great selection of imported beers. The perfect place for an intimate conversation and a slice of Junior Cheesecake straight out of Brooklyn, N.Y. Call 336.691.9994. M-W, 7am-8pm; Th.-Sat., extended hours.

2005 RAYLEN VINEYARDS CATEGORY: So named because this Cabernet Sauvignon—dominated red hosts four friends: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. It’s dangerously close to French Bordeaux formula. This powerfully jammy red has enough girth to cellar a year or so. But why wait?

WESTBEND VINTNER’S SIGNATURE: Westbend winemaker Mark Terry puts his stamp on this Cabernet Franc-based (68 percent) red. He weaves in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to round it out. Medium-bodied cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and plum assert their flavors.

2006 BLACK WOLF CHAMBOURCIN: For all the talk of Cabernet and Merlot, Chambourcin makes a flirtatious red that grows right buxom on the East Coast. And Black Wolf has shown a deft hand with the grape in recent years. Juicy red berry flavors with some earth and spice.

2005 ROUND PEAK MERLOT: Nice berry fruit and a soft texture—it’s what red wine lovers love about the silky softness of Mare-low.

2005 CHILDRESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON: Many North Carolina wineries struggle to get the complexity this grape can deliver. But Childress has consistently—year after year—turned out one of the best Cabs on the East Coast. This explodes with currant, plum, black cherry, and chocolate.

2002 HANOVER PARK VINEYARDS 1897: Hanover’s winemaker Michael Helton is a Cabernet Franc fan. For this reserve blend, he lays a Cab Franc foundation and layers Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Helton likes his reds aged before release. Fans of mature red should snap this up.

2005 BENJAMIN VINEYARDS & WINERY BARREL RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON: This Saxapahaw producer dabbles in vinifera and Muscadine. Here’s a medium-bodied red with dark berry fruit, smooth tannins and a hint of sweet oak.

2005 RAFFALDINI SANGIOVESE RESERVE: When you stake yourself out as the Italian-style winery in the Carolinas, you’d better make good Sangiovese—the grape that made Chianti famous. And this reserve lives up to its billing. Dark cherry, blackberry and solid tannins.

2006 round peak vineyards sangiovese reserve: Crafted from the Brunello clone of the grape - what many consider a superior clone—here’s Sangiovese with heart and heft. Round Peak’s regular softer-styled Sangiovese has always been a crowd favorite. But the reserve bottling goes it one better.


NV BOOGER SWAMP WHITE BLEND: Couldn’t help picking this. From the Brushy Mountain Winery in Elkin comes a Riesling and Niagara marriage. An easy-sipping white with apple, peach and a big nose—uh, make that aroma—that only the Niagara grape can conjure.

BP'S BLUSH: Benny Parsons Rendezvous Ridge in Wilkesboro, founded by the late and great race driver, offers a twist on blush: 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Muscadine. A fun quaff.

NV GROVE WINERY STRAWBERRY: Fruit fans will be blown away by this Guilford County offering so redolent of the berry. This is dessert in a bottle.

NV DUPLIN WINERY MAGNOLIA: Among Duplin’s best selling Muscadine white wines, it was a Three-Pete Double Gold at the N.C. State Fair. For three years in a row, judges flipped for this. If you dig off-dry (think sweeter Riesling or Chenin Blanc), here’s delicately-nuanced Muscadine. Those in-laws who like a sweeter-styled wine will like you for serving this. Vinifera fans might very well like it as well.

Ed Williams, Brand Marketing Manager for the News & Record in Greensboro, has written about the wine industry since 1990. His column “Uncorked” appears monthly in the News & Record. Williams’ reporting, writing and editing have received state and national awards over the last 20 years.