Drinking Cider in Quebec


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Union Libre1







To say I’ve been busy over the past month is a huge understatement. I interviewed for a new job, was hired and began employment within less than two weeks. Then, I was out of town for a week for training with my job, home for a week and then on the road again.

Despite the blog about North Carolina wine, I wanted to share the details of my trip to Canada. Neither my husband nor I had ever been to Montreal so we figured we’d go visit my brother-in-law who lives there. And our trip would not have been complete without a drive along the Route Des Vins.

Although the leaves were past their peak, there was still quite a bit of fall color. The countryside was beautiful with quaint little towns framed by gold and red. It was quite chilly when we began our day, but by midafternoon it had warmed up enough to enjoy our lunch outdoors. We stopped at Union Libre Cidre & Vin just outside of Dunham, Quebec and parked our car next to a picnic table.

As we were sitting next to the apple trees enjoying our French-inspired lunch of bread, cheese and pate, I spotted a large dot running quickly towards us. I LOVE dogs, but I felt a little alarmed having a strange one coming toward me at such high speed. For a moment I wondered if he wanted to eat me instead of my pate for lunch. I didn’t wonder long. He came over to our table where he politely sat next to me and waited for some food. He was wagging his tail and smiling at me. Dogs just know who is most likely to feed them.

After we finished eating and feeding the dog, he led us inside where we were properly introduced. His name is Jack and he works at the winery. We were also introduced to Union Libre’s ciders, which include Fire, Ice and Sparkling. I loved the Ice cider with its notes of pear and honey; it would pair well with chocolate and desserts. The production process, natural cryoconcentration, is fascinating.

The process occurs by harvesting ripe apples and storing them until December. Then, they are squeezed and the resulting must is left outside to freeze. The water freezes, separating itself from the sugars which allows racking off the cider from the lees to get the concentrated must. Only 30% of the initial must will have the correct concentration and subsequently be fermented.

Our experience at Union Libre Cidre & Vin was both fun and educational. We all enjoyed our visit and I definitely recommend stopping in. Jack said to please remember to bring him a treat when you come.

Jack at the Cider

Stayed tuned for Quebec wines

Pedram and Me Vignoble La Bauge

I can’t believe it has been more than 1 month since I’ve written my last post. This past month has been very busy.

First, I accepted a full-time job offer and began work one week after receiving the offer – not a lot of time to get ready to say the least. My first week on the job was spent touring Oregon and the plants my company has located throughout several cities.

My second week was spent in our office in Charlotte and then next week my husband and I traveled to Montreal to visit my brother-in-law for his birthday. Needless to say, I haven’t had time to write. But, we did visit some wineries in Quebec, so stay tuned for more information.

Thanks Parham Yazdy for the photo!

Owl’s Eye Vineyard and Winery




As someone with a background in Marketing, I am conscious of the branding and messaging for the products and services with which I come in contact. Upon entering the tasting room of the Owl’s Eye Vineyard and Winery in Shelby, NC, I was intrigued by their logo and wondering from where the name came. When we did our tasting, we were told the story behind the brand.

Dr. Hannah, a local Ophthalmologist and his wife owned the piece of property where the vineyard and winery now sits. After deciding to plant vines and build a winery, the Hannah’s daughter told them that people think animals are cute and that they are memorable when used in branding. Naturally, the pairing of the owl and the “eye”, considering Dr. Hannah’s profession, was a natural hit. Dr. Hannah’s grandfather even wore a monocle similar to the one on the Owl in their logo.

The branding carries over to some of the wine names such as the TwEYElight, a merlot and sangiovese blend or the Night Owl, which is 50% Merlot and 50% Petite Verdot. The Night Owl was a full-bodied wine with rich, dark fruits up front, smoke in the middle and a little spice on the finish. Rena, who organizes special events and was working in the tasting room said the wine tasted like “smoking a really good cigar”.

As I’m not much into smoking cigars, the Night Owl wasn’t my favorite. But, I did enjoy the Celebration. It was hot the day of our visit and served chilled, this blend of 75% vidal blanc and 25% cabernet franc was crisp and refreshing with notes of grapefruit and apricot.

My husband and I enjoyed our visit and I would recommend make a stop here if you’re visiting other wineries in the area. Although I love the marketing, as I’m writing this, I realized I forgot to ask if the owl has a name. If he does, I’d love to know what it is. If not, my vote is “Vinnie” – short for vineyard.

Please note: I received an email from the owner and the Owl’s name is Iris.


Grandfather Vineyard Winery


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Tasting room

Although my trip to the North Carolina mountains earlier this week was a short one, less than 24 hours, I did have time for a quick visit to Grandfather Vineyard Winery. The vibe is laid-back and rustic, reflective of the relaxed mountain lifestyle of the region. Prior to moving to Charlotte, I lived in the area for 10 years and that is one of the things I miss most about living there.

Don’t let the turn next to the trash site fool you. Once you cross the bridge over the Watauga River, you see the cabin-style tasting room behind which are the vines growing on neat rows up the side of the mountain. With the Grandfather Mountain profile keeping a watchful eye over this vineyard and winery, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

We got out of our car and walked toward the tasting room where we were greeted by two black Labrador retrievers who work there. They were welcoming to both humans and dogs – my yellow Lab, Colbey, loved them.

Our group decided to do the dry wines tasting. My favorite was the Legacy Zinfandel. With a bit of jammy dark cherry fruit, it also had notes of cocoa and a bit of a peppery finish. The rest of the group decided they liked The Legacy Winemaker’s Blend best. It’s 25% of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Zinfandel. This wine had a nice suppleness to it, dark fruits and a little smoke on the finish.

With a bottle of the Blend for the group and a glass of Zinfandel for me, we headed out to the patio to listen to the live music. Everything was perfect until the band stopped playing. That’s when we heard the most annoying, high-pitched bird call. We tried to ignore it, but it continued. Finally, someone in our group decided to ask an employee if she knew what kind of bird it was. Amusingly, we learned that it wasn’t even a real bird, but was actually a recording played in the vineyard to scare away other birds to keep them from eating the grapes.

Except for our fake bird encounter, the afternoon was perfect. I definitely recommend a stop here during your next visit to Boone, Blowing Rock or Banner Elk.


RayLen Vineyards & Winery – Crushin the Blues Fest


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RayLen Wine & Glass

This past weekend, my husband, some of our friends and I visited RayLen Vineyards & Winery to attend their Crushin’ the Blues Festival. Blending the company of great friends, beautiful scenery, good music and fantastic wine is always a winning combination.

RayLen knows how to throw a party. Overall, the event was well organized and had a great turnout. Attendees set-up their chairs and umbrellas on the lawn between the tasting room and the pavilion. Three blues bands played throughout the day and catered BBQ was available for purchase. The vibe was upbeat, casual and fun as people danced, some even outside in the rain.

Included in our ticket purchase was a glass of our choice; since it was such a large event, they weren’t doing tastings. I selected the Syrah Rose. I LOVE Rose in the summer and this one didn’t disappoint – crisp and refreshing with notes of red berries. Usually, I pair Rose with BBQ chicken or pork.

After everyone finished their initial glass, we drank several bottles of the Category 5. I know why this Bordeaux blend is a favorite. This full-bodied red has dark fruit upfront and is complemented nicely by hints of vanilla.

As the event drew to a close, in my mind I was planning my next visit; I definitely want to come back for the full tasting. RayLen has quite a few upcoming events such as the Grand Premiere Party and the Vinum Wine Tasting Seminar. If they’re half as much fun as this one, count me in.

On a side note – thanks so much to my friends Crystal and Shawn for enabling my “grand” entrance (that’s me in the orange shirt). The ride was awesome!


Elkin Creek Vineyard – A creekside vineyard and winery in Yadkin Valley


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Nestled alongside Elkin Creek, the Elkin Creek Vineyard and winery has some of the most beautiful scenery I have experienced so far during my exploration of North Carolina wineries. What’s left of a more than 100-year-old mill still sits next to the creek. A statue of St. Francis of Assisi watches over the vines which include plantings of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier.

Entering the tasting room, we’re greeted by wood-beam ceilings, dark wood furniture and rustic wood floors, all combined to give a comfortable and European appeal to the space. Also there to welcome us were the Louis Jeroslow and his wife who, with another couple, purchased the vineyard from its previous owners.

In addition to the décor having a European flavor, so do the wines. Varietals include a French Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese single varietal and several blends incorporating the classic Chianti grape. The single varietal has bright cherry and raspberry notes with a touch of earth on the finish. It would pair well with rustic pasta dishes with red sauce and pizza.

Continuing with the European influence, Louis pointed out that the Yadkin Valley AVA shares the same Latitude as Sicily, Italy, which has produced wine for thousands of years. Additionally, the climate of the Yadkin Valley is very similar to that of Bordeaux. With characteristics shared by world-renowned wine producing regions, I’m hopeful that the North Carolina wine industry will continue to grow!


Southern Medley Wine Cellar – A winery inspired by an Antebellum house


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Protective Covenants bottleSo far, one the most interesting parts of writing this blog has been learning the unique stories of what led the owners to open their businesses. Some grew up in winemaking families while others found themselves falling in love with wine during adulthood. Several winemakers have relayed stories of basement beginnings, learning through self-study and trial and error.

The owners of Southern Medley Wine Cellar in Wadesboro, N.C. are no exception. Owners Jeff Oliver, the winemaker who is also a trained chef, and Elizabeth Schafer, an interior designer, purchased a house in Anson County. Originally built in 1837 by the Medley family, the house was renovated by Jeff and Elizabeth and provides inspiration for the names of the wines as well as the winery itself – “Medley.”

Wines include Needs TLC, a Malbec named for the fact that the house needed renovating, the Antebellum, a Cabernet Franc named for the period in which the house was originally built and the White Dog, a Riesling named for the dog who was included in the purchase of the house.

My favorite wine was the Antebellum. Aged in stainless steel, this wine was smooth and supple with red berries and a touch of earth. I would pair it with a fig and manchego appetizer or pork tenderloin with a berry sauce.

Choosing my favorite wine, since I enjoyed almost all of them, was a little more difficult than choosing my favorite story Jeff and Elizabeth told us about their house. After they purchased it, several neighbors stopped by to tell them the house was haunted and that they had seen a figure dressed in Civil War era clothing on the property. It seems the house not only came with a dog but also a Guardian Angel, which happens to be the name of their Chardonnay blend.

winery bar

Morgan Ridge Vineyard – 2008 Chambourcin


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morgan ridge chambourcin

I first visited Morgan Ridge Vineyards, located in Gold Hill, N.C., in 2010.  The tasting room had just recently opened and luckily for us, owners Tommy and Amie Baudoin were available to chat with us while we did our tasting.

The vineyard is planted on land left to Amie by her father. Not having a background in wine, the pair learned as they went and worked for almost 10 years before their first wine was released. Tommy led us on a tour of the winery which even included a stop in the barrel room.

Since our first visit was a few years ago, I honestly don’t remember what we tasted. But, we did bring home a bottle of 2008 Chambourcin. In case you haven’t heard of this grape, it’s a French-American hybrid and is planted in the Loire Valley today – for use in Vin de Table wines, which is the only category French wine laws allow it to be used. Chambourcin performs particularly well in North Carolina.

This past weekend while visiting some friends out-of-state, we opened the bottle allowing them to have their first taste of NC wine. This medium-bodied wine was a beautiful dark red color with good acidity. With raspberry, black cherry and spice the tannins were well balanced. I would pair it with grilled pork tenderloin or roast chicken.

My friends and I all enjoyed this wine. I’m glad I was with them for their first taste from NC and I hope they come visit me soon so that I can show them more of what my state has to offer!

MenaRick Vineyard and Winery – A taste of the Old World in the Yadkin Valley


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Focusing on Portuguese and Spanish varietals, owners Mena and Rick Wampler have brought a bit of the Old Country to Yadkin Valley. Mena was born in Portugal and grew up around her family’s vineyard while Rick grew up in California in a winemaking family.

Both Mena and Rick were in the tasting room during our visit and we enjoyed hearing their stories about cleaning up the land before planting, their respective backgrounds and most notably, their passion about wine.

As another group of tasters arrived, Rick took over as our wine guide while we tasted the flight. Making our way through the lineup, we came to a Tempranillo which is to be released in September 2013. Luckily, Rick had extracted some from the barrel, so we were able to taste it. With dark fruits up front, the wine was well-balanced, smooth and not too tannic. Both my husband and I agreed we could see ourselves having a glass while relaxing in front of our fire pit on a cool fall evening.

Apparently, we weren’t the only fans of the Tempranillo. My husband asked if they had deer on the property. Rick said yes and that the Tempranillo grapes were their favorite to eat – even the leaves.

Lastly we tasted the Blackberry. Although I don’t normally enjoy sweet fruit wines, it was really good. Not overly sweet, it tasted like fresh-picked berries – sweet with a little tartness. When we happened to mention that we loved Sangria, Rick told us he had surprise for us and walked away from the bar. When he returned, he squeezed a wedge of lemon into each of our glasses and added a bit of the blackberry wine. Reminiscent of sangria, the lemon cut a bit of the sweetness.

We concluded our visit with a stroll through the eight acres under vine including Albarino, Tempranillo, Tinta Roriz, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay.

If you’re looking for a taste of Portugal or Spain in Yadkin Valley, definitely stop in to MenaRick.

Daveste’ Vineyards – Pairing wine with art


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vineyard driveway

A group of friends and I met on a recent Sunday afternoon at Daveste’ Vineyards, which is located near the Lake Norman area outside of Charlotte, in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The vineyard features live music on Sunday afternoons under their covered pavilion and was a perfect way to relax with friends and drink some wine.

When we arrived, several friends and I tasted the featured flight, during which we learned the vineyard grows chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and chambourcin on the property. Also, we were told that all of the labels feature art from local artists, including the 2007 cab that featured a painting done by the owner’s wife. The tasting room walls also feature local artwork.

Although it wasn’t part of the tasting flight, my favorite of the day was the Silhouette. This wine is a blend of 90% chambourcin, which is a French-American hybrid varietal and tends to perform well in North Carolina and 10% cab franc. A medium-bodied red, this wine had good acidity with flavors of cherry, raspberry and a touch of spice. It had an Old World charm and reminded me of a Chianti. So, I’d drink it with spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or salami and Scamorza (a smoked mozzarella) or smoked Gouda. Salute!

After we finished the tasting flight, we moved outside to explore the grounds. We walked to the pond and waterfall, where there was a butterfly bush next to a footbridge with at least a dozen monarch butterflies.

We decided to head to the pavilion to hear the music and we all enjoyed a bottle of the Riesling. It was perfect for a warm afternoon and everyone at the table liked it. Ripe with peach flavors, it had nice acidity and only a touch of sweetness. It went perfectly with the spicy buffalo chicken dip we brought in our picnic basket.

The beautiful setting, music and art paired perfectly with hanging out with friends and enjoying some wine. Daveste’ offers a varied selection and has something for those who enjoy sweet or dry, red or white.North Carolina Wine