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NC Wine-Fueled

Blog Post 5/3/2013: Vineyards at Southpoint, Durham, NC

Last Saturday I partook in a wonderful experience at Vineyards at Southpoint, a local winery in Durham. We did one hour of yoga in the vineyard, followed by a wine, cheese and chocolate tasting. The first wine they served was a sauvignon blanc served with goat cheese and dill pesto. I could detect citrusy and floral flavors in the wine, even though the dill pesto was overwhelmingly good. I need to make myself some of that. The wine was also very good, one of the better whites that I've sampled. The next wine was a chardonnay served with Lindt coconut chocolate. I'm not really a chardonnay fan...I was talking to the owner of the vineyard after the tasting was finished and he told me, "Oh, so you're part of the ABC Club too?" Which apparently means "Anything But Chardonnay." He told me that he also belongs there...

The third wine was by far my favorite. It was a chambourcin, served with pepper jack cheese and a chile pepper chocolate. I enjoyed the spicy undertones of the chambourcin by itself, but when I paired it with the more powerful spices of pepper jack and chile powder, I kind of lost that peppery kick in the wine. But I bought two bottles of it anyway!

Chambourcin

The fourth wine was a cabernet franc, which I really expected to like. However, the owner let us know that when he calls it "mellow," he means it is a sweeter wine. I could detect some berry flavors (don't know what they were; honestly, it is hard for me to not taste a wine and say, "hmmm...detect a strong fermented grape flavor!"). I believe this one was served with a cheddar and a milk chocolate. I honestly prefer cheese to chocolate when I drink wine, I have learned. 

The last wine was a raspberry wine. It was crazy sweet, and even I couldn't miss the intense raspberry flavor. I didn't finish it because I feared a sugar coma; it was served with more chocolate. 

After the tasting was finished, my friends and I were the last ones left. The owner was very nice and talked to us for a while. He told us about an elderberry port that they had crafted, and of course we all wanted to try it, so he poured us a sample. Now, I could really taste elderberry in this because I used to buy this crazy expensive elderberry cough syrup that is literally elderberry syrup and honey. It is SO good though, not like your typical cough syrup. This port wine took me back to that flavor...BUT I don't know if I could have placed where I'd had that flavor before if the owner hadn't already told me it was elderberry. So my taste references are probably too disorganized for me to really label the specific flavors in both wines. Must work on that...more on that in a minute.

As we talked to the owner, I asked if this year would be considered a good year for wine, since it has been so cold for so long. He surprised me by saying that so far, it has been a very good year. Apparently the dates April 7 and 9, 2007, are forever burned into his memory as the year that he lost about $50,000 of almost 3-year-old grape vines to frost. Especially bad, he said, because crops can only be insured once they reach 3 years of age. I was floored that a vineyard and winery could lose so much in one or two nights and just keep going. But I'm glad they did, because they make some very good wines! I signed up for their mailing list because they want to start a yoga and wine club at the vineyard. He wants people to come and connect over yoga and sit outside and connect even further over wine. 

More about working on taste references: I am reading a book called "The Four Hour Chef" by Tim Ferriss. It's an awesome read, it's really about how you can learn to do literally anything if you understand the more "meta" knowledge about learning itself. He chose to teach people how to cook. What I'm taking from this re: wine is that I need to find many different berries, fruits, earthy spices, etc., and find a recipe for each flavor that really puts it at the forefront of the dish. Then write down the name of the dish, have it a few times, and really savor and make a deliberate memory of that flavor. Then, when I smell or taste that flavor anywhere else, I will have a cognitive process to relate that flavor to a previous experience that I have significantly put into my memory, instead of just casually sampled. 

The Beginnings

I went on my first wine tour of Yadkin Valley last year when searching for wines to serve at my wedding. By far my favorite winery was Hutton Vineyards, owned by a lovely woman named Heidi; I believe she was from Argentina. She poured wine for our tasting herself, and was happy to chat with us and hear that I was looking to serve wine to 100 people soon.

Not being much of a white wine drinker, I asked her if I should serve her Chardonnay at the wedding since it is such a well-known variety of white. She actually made a disgusted face, and begged me not to serve her Chardonnay to 100 people, as those grapes had not done well recently. You can imagine my pleasant surprise to hear the owner herself warn me away from wine that she wasn't proud to serve. Heidi did serve us a wonderful viogner, which I ended up loving. I still have a few bottles left and plan to open some soon. 

We also hit up RagApple Lassie, Sander's Ridge, and Stony Knoll Vineyards. However, Heidi had probably served me almost a full bottle's volume of wine on my first stop, so I wasn't quite as clear-headed for the these three vineyards... I do recall that in all the wineries, cabernet francs were consistently my favorites. Each winery in that region had a great cab franc! I was mostly a zinfandel girl up until this trip...today I enjoy quite the variety of reds.

Some advice I learned about picking out wines for a wedding or any large party: Pick 2-3 reds and 1 or mayyybe 2 whites. I ended up with 3 reds: Hutton Vineyards Cabernet Franc '08, Hutton's Heidi's Red (blend), and Hutton's Barbera. I chose Hutton Viogner as my white. Can you guess the next piece of advice? If you are picking local wines for a large party, it is awesome to pick a favorite winery and feature it, rather than have a varietal or blend from one vineyard, another varietal from a separate vineyard, etc. There is typically a case discount, too!

We actually bought a bottle or 3 of wine from each vineyard, and had my stepdad and uncle (non-wine drinkers) pour us blind taste-tests about a month after our tour. It was a really cool way to separate the taste of the wine from the "label" of the wine and get a good comparison without being biased by things like how pretty the bottle was, or how much it cost, or how much we liked the look of the vineyard. 

Intro

Drinking wines (mostly reds) in the Triangle area of North Carolina. I enjoy many wines from the Yadkin Valley area, and used Hutton Vineyards wines for my wedding last year. I hope to continue sampling and sharing NC wines with the rest of the class, but of course, can't say no to wines from anywhere else. 

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