Raffaldini Vineyards

A few weekends ago my husband and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon doing a wine and cheese tasting with some friends. One of our stops was Raffaldini. I have to say that this winery boasts the most beautiful view of any in the Yadkin Valley.

It’s likely quite a shock for first time visitors. You find yourself in what seems to be the middle of nowhere in a little corner of Wilkes County. You drive up a gravel road and at the end of it, an Italian villa awaits. You walk through a lovely garden pathway, pass a little fish pond and round the corner of the villa. There you catch a glimpse of the vineyard with a most stunning view of the mountains in the distance.

This vineyard is well-known for its wines as well its scenic views. They frequently have weddings here. Here are a few gorgeous shots from my friend Mary’s wedding.

And now, to the wines! Raffaldini is the only vineyard in our region that produces solely Italian style wines. On our last visit, our tasting host Mikaela described some of the unique processes that are used to produce the wines. The grapes used in the 2013 Montepulciano Riserva are dried slightly before being processed. This is called appassimento, Mikaela explained, and is meant to replicate the drier conditions these grapes actually grow in in Italy.

The Montepulciano Riserva was definitely one of my favorites as was their blend known as Bella Misto. Mikaela suggested pairing the Montepulciano Riserva with a dark chocolate.

Raffaldini boasts a wonderful patio area with fantastic view of the vineyard and mountains beyond. It is definitely a must see if you are planning a visit to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.

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Wine tasting with a dear friend at Raffaldini a few summers ago.

 

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Windsor Run Cellars

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Wine with friends at Windsor Run Cellars

At the risk of repeating myself and always saying how unique our Yadkin Valley wineries are, I just have to say Windsor Run Cellars is so unique. It is fantastic to live in an area with a plethora of wineries (and isn’t it always a good day when you get to use the word “plethora.”) But truly, what is so great about our wine region is that each winery really has its own style and personality.

Windsor Run Cellars is particularly  special as they are the only winery in the area (maybe even the state?) that is also a distillery. Not only can you taste wonderful wines here, you can also sample some brandies as well. I will admit that the fortified beverages are a bit too much for me, but it is still such a neat experience.

Last Sunday we visited Windsor Run during a cheese tasting event and we had such fun. They were serving up samples of a delicious bleu cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Company. 

Two of my favorite wines from Windsor Run are actually not wine-flavored at all. Windsor Run features several really unusual wines and one of those is actually an Apple Mead.They typically serve it chilled during the tasting, but they recommend serving it warm also, especially during the holidays. It is actually a fermented apple drink with spices like cinnamon and clove right in the mix. It literally tastes like autumn.

I found a new favorite while there this weekend. The name of the wine caught my attention immediately, it’s called Island Holiday. Our host for the tasting referred to it as the Jimmy Buffet of wines. I’m a huge parrot-head so I knew I had to try this one.

The nose on this wine (that means how it smells) is literally tanning lotion. That might be a problem for some, but not me. Just a whiff of this wine and it took me back to my teenage years sitting on the shore and coating myself down in Banana Boat or Hawaiian Tropic. I love that smell. I never thought I could drink that smell, but I can and I did and I bought a bottle to go! The wine is a Cabernet Franc blended with pineapple, mango and coconut.

This wine is a vacation in a bottle. This wine would be great to take on vacation, and also great if it’s the middle of winter and you are wishing you were on vacation somewhere tropical!

Another really special thing about all of the wineries in what is known as the Swan Creek region, is that they are smack dab in the middle of Amish Country. It is not unusual to see a horse and buggy going by. We saw just that as we were leaving on Sunday. It’s not a great picture because this guy was moving along at a pretty good clip, but I wanted to share it anyway.

Until next time, wine wishes and sparkly dreams from yours truly!

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A horse and buggy trots down the road near Windsor Run Cellars

 

 

Laurel Gray Vineyards

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Wine tasting fun with friends at Laurel Gray Vineyards

On Sunday my husband and I went wine and cheese tasting with friends and our first stop of the day was Laurel Gray Vineyards.

The vineyards of the Swan Creek area within the Yadkin Valley Wine Region hosted a joint wine and cheese pairing event featuring the Ashe County cheeses.

Laurel Gray is such a sweet little place. It’s a lovely little cottage surrounded by rose bushes and a duck pond. Of course, in early March those roses have yet to bloom, but it’s still a wonderful experience to sample wines there.

 

Do a Virtual wine tasting at Laurel Gray!

Though not typically a white wine drinker, I do love their Viognier and came home with a bottle. This is just a lovely light, crisp and clean wine that would be perfect for sipping on the front porch this summer.

All of the dry reds at Laurel Gray are extremely good as well. Perhaps one of the most unique wines they offer is called Encore. Encore is a dessert wine that is actually infused with black raspberries and chocolate! Need I say more?

Another thing I love about Laurel Gray is they have entire line of dips and sauces. As you do the wine tasting you are also given little samples of the dips and sauces to try. It really makes for such a neat experience.

If you’re ever in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina, I highly recommend a stop in at Laurel Gray Vineyards!

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Super cute tea towel at Laurel Gray Vineyards

A wine and cheese adventure

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A wine (and cheese) tasting adventure in the Yadkin Valley

I love where I live. One of the very best things about it is that we are right in the heart of the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. There are around 40 wineries within a 20-mile radius of my home, and many more that are practically in my back yard.

Wine tasting is a favorite weekend hobby of ours. Since my husband works at a winery now, we haven’t been out wine tasting quite as often. We were so thrilled, however, that we are able to go wine (and cheese tasting) with our friends Ben and Allison over the weekend.

The wineries of the Swan Creek Appellation often hosts group events and this past weekend it was a wine and cheese pairing. We visited five wineries in the Swan Creek area and each had a special cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Company paired with one of their wines.

It was a perfect sunny early spring day in the Yadkin Valley and an ideal day to spend sipping wine with friends. The cheeses were also wonderful. Our favorite, and one that Allison raved about the entire day, was a cheese called Juusto which is served warmed. It was delicious.

The wonderful thing about living in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region is that all of the wineries are so unique and special. I’ll be posting soon with more details of each winery we visited and our favorite wines.

To top of a most delightful day, we saw an amazing sunset. Check back soon for more on our adventures at the wineries!

Wine Review: Apothic Dark

DSC_0652I feel like Apothic wines are the new “it” wines. I hear a lot of people talking about them, and with good reason. They are great wines. Last night for dinner my husband made a delicious red wine braised roast which we served with Apothic Dark.

I am a red wine drinker, but I admit I was a little bit intimated by this wine. The label is dark, the font is very dramatic and Gothic, the wine itself is a dramatically dark purpley red. I was a bit afraid that this wine was going to very heavy. It is not. It is very drinkable.

There are some berry notes, a little coffee, a little chocolate. It is dark and dry, but it is extremely DSC_0657smooth. I would definitely recommend it to serve with a good hearty meal like a steak or roast, but you also won’t mind having a glass just on its own as well.

Apothic Dark is definitely a keeper. And the black cork is pretty fancy too.

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Wine Review: Smoking Loon Pinot Noir

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Pinot Noir | Photo Credit: Morgan Harrison

I love a Pinot Noir. It’s one of my favorite varietals. I have had the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir before, but it’s been several years ago. I remembered liking it and I was not disappointed.

This wine is fruity and light, but with a nice smoky texture to the finish. It’s also a very smooth and easily drinkable wine. I would sit and have a glass of this wine just on its own, though it also pairs well with food.

My husband and I enjoyed it with a spicy chicken pasta dish and it was a great contrast to the meal.

In the $8 to $9 range at our local grocery store, this was a good wine for us and one we will certainly enjoy again.

I fell in more in love with the wine when I read the intriguing label. I feel like this is supposed to be a continuing story and I need to collect all the bottles to keep reading more about the mysterious Smoking Loon.

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Smoking Loon Pinot Noir | Photo Credit: Morgan Harrison

 

 

Wine festival fun

The Lush's Blush blogEleven years ago I attended my first Yadkin Valley Wine Festival. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be there. I worked as a reporter for The Elkin Tribune for about six months the year I graduated from college and by default I inherited the role of wine reporter. I had never had wine before that and it was a bit of an acquired taste. I was the reporter on duty that weekend and had other places I would much rather have been than working on a Saturday.

But, there I was, roaming around taking pictures and getting comments about the wines from folks. I remember two people who stood out. The first was a man who hailed from New Zealand, but worked at a winery in northern Italy. How he found his way to our little festival in Elkin, I can’t recall. It was a fledgling industry at that point and I’m sure a hard comparison to the wines he was used to, but he gave a very diplomatic comment about everyone having a lot of enthusiasm for the new viticulture industry here. He was also intrigued by the sweeter wines made from our native muscadine and scuppernong grapes.theThe second person I remember was a little lady who brought up the fact that some in the area were against the wine industry. She quickly reminded me that wine is mentioned in the Bible, quoting specifically the passage from I Timothy that says “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake…” She said she thought the new up and coming wine region was a good thing.After I finished with my work that day, I decided to try a little wine myself. Needless to say, by the end of the afternoon I was no longer so grumpy about having had to work that day.I have attended the festival every year since then and have become a huge proponent of our wine region. I tell everyone I meet about it. Wine may not be the beverage of choice for everyone, but as a Yadkin County native, it thrills me that we have found such a unique way to continue the agricultural tradition of our region and bring visitors here.As our wine region has grown and matured, so has my palette expanded greatly since taking those first sips of wine more than 10 years ago. I began drinking the very sweetest wines made from muscadine or similar varietals. Now, I prefer the deep dry reds, with the occasional chilled dry white wine for nice summer days.The Lush's Blush blogI think each of our area wineries have such lovely and distinct venues and all boast wonderful wines. While I know some who are wine snobs and prefer vintages that hail from Italy or California, I have become a Yadkin Valley wine snob. I prefer to drink wines that hail from my hometown area.I am an even bigger snob about our area wine festival. I turn up my nose and frown if anyone suggests attending other wine festivals, which seem to be bigger and crowded and just not as much fun or as relaxing and enjoyable as our Yadkin Valley Wine Festival.

This year’s festival was extremely special as many of my friends came with me as a celebration of my upcoming nuptials. I was so proud to show off the Yadkin Valley Wine region to friends who had never been. We had a wonderful day sampling wines, enjoying food from the vendors and dancing to the great music.The Lush's Blush blogThe Lush's Blush blog

Wine for dinner

I’m sure this never happens to my food blogger idols like the Pioneer Woman, but sometimes supper just doesn’t work out like you hoped it would. There are some nights you plan to go home and get into your pjs straight after work and have wine or perhaps a can of icing for supper, but some days it’s just a last resort.

My Dad (bless his heart) tried to make hamburgers in a basket for our supper tonight and it was a dismal failure. Perhaps dismal is too strong a word. It really wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t good but we are apparently food snobs in my family and refused to eat it. Hamburgers in a basket is sort of a 70’s fabulous dinner item that is an old favorite of ours. We haven’t had it in quite awhile and Daddy thought it was a good idea to break out an old favorite.

The recipe is simple. You put a hamburger patty in a packet made of tin foil and top it with sliced potatoes, onions, carrots and green pepper. Season it all well and put it in the oven for about an hour. The secret is in the seasoning. My Dad always accuses Mamma and me of over salting everything. The secret to the recipe really is in the seasoning though. You have to coat this stuff down with salt, pepper, seasoned salt and Worcestershire.

***We interrupt this blog post with a message from Mamma***

“Why are you putting that recipe in a blog. I’ve always hated that recipe. It’s not good. The potatoes don’t cook up crispy enough in that foil,” says Mamma.

Well, clearly after all these years Mom has decided to confess her hatred of hamburgers in a basket. I agree with her that the potatoes don’t get crispy. However, if it is seasoned correctly I still think this is a fast and easy weeknight menu item. One pot (or packet of foil, as the case may be) meals are always good for busy week nights.

Unfortunately, Daddy seems to have a seasoning phobia and failed to put enough salt, pepper, seasoned salt or even Worcestershire sauce on the burgers in a basket. Flavorless meat and veggies are just a major bummer. If you decide to try burgers in a basket, salt, pepper and season till your heart’s content. I promise it will be good. I think some Tony Cachere’s would be great on it! Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Sadly, tonight’s supper was a failure so we ended up eating cheese, crackers, olives and wine for supper.

Really the only downside to having large amounts of wine and cheese as a meal on a Tuesday night is that it may make you feel like crying at random commercials like the University Phoenix of Commercial. Are they really using Amazing Grace as the background music?