Having a hard time unspooling a grand narrative from last Summer's travels, travails, tastings & reconnections...
let me see if I can, however disjointedly, jot down some impressions, gratitudes, pointers--
Most importantly, I made it to three wineries on my Blue Ridge discovery loop:
Raffaldini Vineyards in North Carolina's Yadkin Valley, & Chateau Morrisette & Villa Appalaccia, about 70 miles Northeast as the crow files across the Virginia state line from Raffaldini, & one mile from each other on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County.
At Raffaldini, Paula Shores led me through the tasting & introduced me to her husband Andy, the winery's vineyard manager. Although Raffaldini emphasizes the family's deep historical roots dating to XIV century Mantua in Italy, the team il Padrone has assembled is very local, very rooted in the North Carolina Piedmont, which seems like a strong positive to me in developing wines with a sense of character & place.
Raffaldini has found some early success with Montepulciano, (One of possibly only three plantings of the varietal in all of North America. Appellation America seems to be short on information on who's growing it, but in Mendocino county, a hunch & a search led me to easily confirm it's Greg Graziano trying his hand at it.) --but their production is so limited their current bottling was already sold out by January of this year, mostly through subscription. Next vintage is scheduled to be released by Thanksgiving & I missed my cue to get down on my knees & beg for the possibility of tasting a barrel sample. Oh well. I've got some pride to let go of, still, to make it in this industry.
Apart from the Montepulciano, the core of the winery's current efforts seem to focus on Sangiovese, and these wines, at least, I had the chance to taste: both bottlings (same vintage for both, 2005, but an extended oak program for the 'Riserva') had subtle but sensuous & well-delineated floral characteristics in the nose-- jasmine tea with some rose notes. In the midpalate, though, they seemed to thin out into an ethereal, somewhat short finish that led me to buy bottles of their bigger, six-grape Bella Misto blend & Vermentino instead. I've ended up feeling a little sorry I didn't get the Sangios-- the Bella's complex blend seems to need more time to integrate. The pour from the bottle I bought, once opened, changed character wildly in the glass over the course of a few days-- sometimes earthier, sometimes a bit tart & acidic-- possibly suffering from 'bottle shock', only recently having been transferred from its 'élévage' in neutral oak? (--a point that was made very strongly to me: no new oak at this winery!) As for the Vermentino, its refreshing but light, lemon zest & citron notes made me wish I'd saved it to pair with some seafood after I got back home.
...See, somewhat impulsively, I decided to make both bottles (along with a bottle of Laurel Glen's special Chévere bottling) part of my 'agri-tourist's' contribution to Maverick Farms' kitchen...this is a project I found a pleasure to support with a couple of shamefully short stints of work. I would urge any & all who have the opportunity to spend one of the most educational, if not the most absolutely enlightening weekend, as far as agricultural economic reality goes, in this setting. Go for a meditative retreat from urban life in Raleigh, go for an experience to share with your family, just go!
A further, posibly more serious, wine-geeky reason I'm deeply sorry I couldn't better time my return drive by Raffaldini so that I could pick up samples of their Sangiovese is that Villa Appalaccia up in Floyd makes a Sangiovese, closer in principle to the traditional Chianti model, co-fermented with 10% Trebbiano & Malvasia (--how much of each??)--that seems on first impression, to this humble nose & palate, something like the flip side of Raffaldini's in character:
the nose was a little oaky at first, cedar box mostly, so that I would guess they're using American oak. Sangiovese varietal 'typicity'-- the expected rose & jasmine tea notes-- are subsumed under a fairly intense herbaceous character that meshes well with the oak as the wine opens up. The midpalate & finish were, if subtle, somewhat more 'grounded' than the Raffaldini efforts-- silky, but long & lingering.
At the risk of changing topics in an abrupt transition to close this posting, I feel I owe a long-overdue, public thank you to Rhonda Muskat, who singlehandedly manages the Villa Appalaccia tasting room when owners Susanne & Stephen are away-- as was the case when I dropped by-- & was extremely generous in turning back from loading an order she had stopped in to pack, on a day when the winery is closed in any case, to give me a full tasting & a star salesperson's attention to ensure I didn't leave empty handed! I hope to write about their wines, & the possibly premature topic of a 'Blue Ridge terroir' at greater length soon. Thank you, again-- to Paula, & to Rhonda, so very much!