Generations of history permeates the walls of Old North State Winery, whispering stories of the 19th century building it calls home and the wines spawned from old family vineyards. The elegant shop showcases its rustic origins in dark wooden floors scattered with barrel coffee tables, plush leather couches, and sleek high-tops shaped in the likeness of Grover Cleveland. A marble-topped bar sprawls across one of the sandstone colored walls, fortified with bottle after bottle of the winery’s own creations.
Though wine is clearly Old North State’s main attraction, the shop also purveys beers and complements sips with a dozen sandwiches from its Downtown Deli. The deli provides for lunchtime cravings and catered events with turkey clubs, homemade meatball sandwiches, and a bar menu of hotdogs and steak nachos.
Lovingly tended by proprietors and master winemakers Tommy and Amie Baudoin, the idyllic fields of Morgan Ridge Vineyards yield delicious, fruity batches of handcrafted vino. Six varieties of grapes sprout from the fertile grounds, including classics such as chardonnay and merlot and rarer fruits such as sangiovese and seyval blanc. Within the newly built winery, stout oak barrels house a harvest of 1,500 cases of wine per year, and a tasting room welcomes guests with warm, comfortable hospitality. Regular tours explore the vineyard’s rolling hills and neat rows of plants before retiring to the tasting room, where patrons sample the fruits of the Baudoin's labor by drinking their wines and trying on their work gloves.
At any given time, the Rioja! WineKeeper's handsome wooden casing houses 12 bottles in a temperature-controlled setting. These conditions keep the wines fresh and result in a full-flavored pour. A quick flick of the tap and a crisp white or bold red streams into Riedel crystal, the only glassware used at Rioja! A Wine Bar. Between these sophisticated pouring and storing methods, and the sheer immensity of the full selection—some 800 wines—Rioja!'s dedication to the appreciation of wine is palpable.
Their tapas menu was designed with elegant pairings in mind and—much like playing "spin the bottle" at the UN—highlights flavors from around the world. Prosciutto bruschetta, stuffed dates, and a chorizo and manchego plate show off the kitchen's Mediterranean leanings. South African-style jerky, on the other hand, indicates a willingness to infuse an Old World dining tradition with New World recipes. The bartenders also keep a healthy selection of craft beers from brewers such as Bell's, Duck Rabbit, and Founders.
Vines sprout from the red soil, twisting along their supports and craning toward the sun. Bunches of native Muscadine grapes weigh these gnarled vines down until they are harvested by a member of the Cauble family. Generations of Caubles have recreated this scene, overseeing 36 acres of land that is watered by natural underground springs. With the native grapes, the Caubles create exquisite varieties––such as the semi-dry Phyllis Ann, the floral Rosetta, and the barely peppery Monroe––to suit any meal or palate. Guests swing by the vineyard for tastings, art exhibits, and yoga classes held amid the vines. Each year, the setting also hosts numerous weddings as well as a concert series featuring local and nationally renowned artists.
Before moving to Charlotte and taking the reins at Old Stone Winery, Darin and Naomi Griffin lived in Germany, where they refined their palates at wine festivals in the Rheingau region. Nowadays, they pass along the fruits of their experience via wines such as their 2007 chambourcin, which won a double gold at the North Carolina State Fair, and their sweet muscadine wine, which won the 2008 Muscadine Cup. The latter was crafted from grapes grown on the winery’s 130-acre estate.
The Griffins strive to use local sources for the rest of their eclectic wine catalog, which encompasses both reds and whites in flavors ranging from sweet to dry.
Nestled on 225 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and operated by two passionate winemaking families, Grassy Creek Vineyard produces and bottles high-quality Yadkin Valley wines. Vineyard visitors, adorned with a pair of matching logo hats, peruse the wide selection of wines, selecting red or white to match gustatory preference or seasonal color coordination. An aromatically complex cabernet sauvignon from 2006 blossoms with a concentrated fruity bouquet of blackberries and plums ($18), and the 2008 chardonnay twinkles with light floral notes and a delicate, peachy disposition ($15). Grapes from Grassy Creek’s distinctive red soil collide in the hearty and chocolaty Red Barn Blend, a rich ambrosial bottle bursting with herby flavors ($16). Two included wine glasses make the perfect accessory for celebrative toasts to newly crowned benevolent despots.