Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wineries of the Triangle

By Jen | Sept 30, 2015
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

Did you know that September is N.C. Wine and Grape Month? According to, North Carolina is home to more than 100 wineries throughout the state, from the coast to the mountains and everywhere in between. We set out on a quest just a couple of years ago to visit as many of the wineries North Carolina has to offer as possible. At last count, and following this blog, we would have visited 40 wineries in the state. Looks like we have some work to do if we want to visit all the state has to offer.

To celebrate N.C. Wine Month, we recently decided to explore the wineries right here in our own backyard – with wineries within 30-minutes of downtown Raleigh. The wineries that fall within this category belong to the "Piedmont" region. The other regions to explore are the "Mountains," "Coast," "Yadkin Valley/Swan Creek" and "Haw River Valley."

North Carolina is best known for the muscadine grape and the European-style vinifera grape. A typical muscadine wine is sweet and sometimes considered a dessert wine whereas the vinifera grape produces varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, to name a few.  The wineries mentioned in this blog that are located in the Piedmont region tend to be more prevalent with the sweet muscadine than the drier wines, but we found a nice balance of both.

As all tastes differ, we will not be "critiquing" the wines per se, but the experience and what you can expect with a visit of your own and so close to home for a simple day-trip. During our quest to find wineries within a 30-minute drive from downtown Raleigh, we found four wineries. Typically we would be heading out for a day trip or weekend getaway to the Yadkin Valley and never knew what lurked in our own backyard.

Ranking by distance from downtown Raleigh Marriott City Center:

Chatham Hill Winery

8245 Chapel Hill Road, Cary NC 27513

11 miles from downtown Raleigh / 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday:  Closed
  • Tuesday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Friday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Tours Available: Daily

Tastings Available: Daily

Wine tastings and tours typically are $10 per person and include samples of 8 wines, a souvenir wine glass and tour.

Prices range from $12 - $19 a bottle

Varietals include:  Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Rose'

Sweet Varietals include: Sweet Carolina White, Sweet Carolina Red, Sweet Carolina Pomegranate, Sweet Carolina Mango, etc.

Established in 1999, Chatham Hill Winery is considered an "urban" winery and is the first of its kind in the Triangle. The wines are made on-site using grapes produced from the Yadkin Valley.

We visited Chatham Hill Winery on a Friday evening for WineAway Friday. Friday evenings take on more of a wine bar atmosphere with live jazz music and make for a great date night. They do not do tastings on Fridays but rather Wine Bridge samples for $12. 

We decided on two samplers, a white and a red, each containing four samples. The wines we tried included a Viognier, Rosé, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Trinity – a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The favorite of the evening was the Trinity.  Whatever your taste ... Chatham Hill delivers.

Adams Vineyards and Winery

3390 John Adams Rd, Willow Spring NC  27592

14.5 miles from downtown Raleigh / 25 minutes from downtown Raleigh

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday:  Closed
  • Tuesday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Tours Available: No

Tastings Available: Daily

Tastings are $5 for a selection of 8 wines to sample. 

Prices range from $8 - $15 a bottle

Varietals include:  Beulah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadine, Fruit Wines

Adams Vineyards is located in Willow Spring just about 30-minutes from downtown Raleigh. Similar to many vineyards in the state, Adams began as a tobacco and cotton farm back in the 1700s, but now grows the muscadine grape, prevalent to North Carolina.

We visited Adams Vineyards on a Sunday afternoon to sample the wines they have to offer. With a group of five of us, they graciously made room for our group at a table where we embarked on this new tasting adventure. The tasting consists of a selection of 8 wines to choose from.The majority of their wines are made from the muscadine grape, however, the Beulah, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc are made from the vinifera grape of the Yadkin Valley. 

The favorite of the day was the Beulah, a dry white wine. Adams Vineyards top sellers are the Winter Sunset and the Clara Breeze, both described as sweet wines.

Cloer Family Vineyards
8624 Castleberry Rd, Apex NC 27523

20.4 miles from downtown Raleigh / 27 minutes from downtown Raleigh

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday - Thursday:  Closed
  • Friday:  12 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tours Available:  Yes, Self-Guided

Tastings Available: Daily

Tastings are $5 for all 5 of their wines to sample. 

Prices range from $14 - $18 a bottle

Varietals include:  Riesling, Merlot, Muscadine

Cloer Family Vineyards, located in Apex, opened in 2010 and is the second family-owned farm in the Triangle to grow its own grapes and produce wines on-site. Like many wineries in this area, Cloer grows the muscadine grape.

We visited Cloer Family Vineyards on a Saturday afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised to arrive at this winery so close to home, yet felt like we were in the Yadkin Valley. The owners at Cloer Vineyards were very welcoming. 

We did the tasting which consisted of all five of their wines with our favorite being the Matador, the house Merlot. We decided to buy a bottle of the Matador and venture out to the picnic area to enjoy the day. We will definitely be going back to this winery in the near future.

Gregory Vineyards

275 Bowling Spring Drive, Angier NC  27501

25.7 miles from downtown Raleigh / 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday - Tuesday:  11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
  • Sunday:  1 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Tours Available:  Yes, Wednesday - Sunday (see web page for details and times)

Tastings Available: Daily

Tastings are $5  

Prices range from $10 - $16.50 a bottle

Varietals include:  Muscadine, fortified wines and wine slushies

Gregory Vineyards is located in Angier and not only features a winery but also a distillery and restaurant, Lane's Seafood & Steak House. Gregory is one of two wineries in the state that also have a distillery, with the other being Windsor Run in Hamptonville, which is part of the Swan Creek AVA.

We visited Gregory Vineyards on a Sunday afternoon as part of a group of seven. We had a private table tasting consisting of approximately 13 wine samples for $5. Not being a huge fan of sweet wines or the muscadine grape, we do always enjoy trying these wines nonetheless and the wines produced by Gregory may be one of my favorites of this grape type. We walked away with a couple of bottles of Popaw's Apple, a fortified coming in at 20% ABV. Another favorite of the day was the Sly Fox, a dry red muscadine wine. We enjoyed hearing the stories behind each wine and look forward to visiting Gregory Vineyards again and perhaps take in a tour that we missed out on this time.

In October, we'll be exploring some of the Wineries & Breweries of the NC High Country.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Going Local with NC Wines and Raleigh Beers

By Jen & Dathan
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

In celebration of NC Wine & Grape month we decided to share NC wines with our local wine and beer club for our September monthly gathering. Better yet, we added in a couple of local Raleigh beers to help kick off Raleigh Beer Week, which begins on Sunday, Sept. 20. 

We decided on 5 wines – all which are distributed here in the Triangle, with the exception of Laurel Gray's Encore, which we shared from a previous trip to the Yadkin Valley.

As the guests arrived, they were greeted with a tasting of Fish Hippie Bare Bones, a blend of Chardonnay and Videl Blanc. This winery is located in downtown Mt. Airy, opened in 2002 and is ranked as one of the larger wineries in the state. We would consider this winery to be classified more as an "urban" winery due to its location in a downtown area. But don't let that fool you! They do grow their own grapes on two vineyards. Interesting fact about this winery – the building is known to be haunted thereby naming one of its wines Restless Soul.

Childress Vineyards

Our official tasting began with Cellar Select Three - White Table Wine. Childress is located in Lexington, which is roughly 20 miles south of Winston-Salem. Childress first opened its doors in 2004 and is owned by NASCAR driver Richard Childress. This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris with aromas of grapefruit and lemongrass with a slight almond finish. The wine is named in honor of Childress and his No. 3 car he drove. This is an easy drinking white wine that would pair nicely with shrimp cocktail.

Jones von Drehl

Next we went with a 2012 Estate Rosé Wine, Dulcimer. Jones von Drehl is located in Thurmond. We visited this winery for the first time this year and fell in love. The name, Jones von Drehl, derives from the blending of the two owners names. They began cultivating the land, which is situated in the scenic North Carolina mountains near the Virginia border, back in 2007. This wine is light-bodied with hints of fruit and effervescence. We believe there were some mixed reviews from our guests, yet several asked for a second taste.

Hutton Vineyards

The third wine of the evening was Hutton Vineyards' Heidi's Red. This is the only wine that we tasted where we had not visited the winery nor tried the wine prior to this club event. Hutton Vineyards is located in Dobson and started growing vines back in 2002 when its owners sold their beach house and moved to the mountains to live the dream we all have – to start a winery! This winery is one of the newest in the Yadkin Valley with over 45 acres of grapes on its land. Hutton is home to 11 different wines, with Heidi's Red being a red blend and part of its Estate series. 

To shake things up a bit, we decided to have the next wine be a blind taste test and ask members to guess the varietal. The only clue was that it was an N.C. red wine. The reveal? A Cabernet Sauvignon from Biltmore Estate. Who has not heard of Biltmore Estate, located in the picturesque mountains in Asheville. Biltmore Estate is one of the most visited wineries in the country and has been greeting guests since 1895. This was a solid Cabernet.

Raleigh Beer Week

Next, we decided to move on to Raleigh Beer Week and try some local brews. Raleigh Beer Week begins on Sunday, Sept. 20 with a calendar full of events at breweries, restaurants, and bottle shops hosting rare tastings, beer dinners and new releases. Raleigh is currently home to 13 breweries, soon to be 12 as one of our newest breweries, Blackjack, will be moving to the beach and making Wilmington its new home.

Gizmo Brew Works

The first beer we decided to share was the Deep Blue Saison. Gizmo has been around for about two years and is located off Hwy-70 in Raleigh. This beer is a twist on Gizmo's farmhouse classics, blended with blueberry. We've tried several blueberry beers and this one is one of our favorites! This beer comes in at 6.4% ABV.

Raleigh Brewing Company

Next was Raleigh Brewing Co.'s Hidden Pipe Coffee Porter. Raleigh Brewing Co. is located off Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. All of their canned beers come with a story about Raleigh. The Hidden Pipe dates back to the Civil War, when Thomas Briggs hid his money from Union troops by stuffing his money in pipes and burying them underground. After the war, he went back and dug up the pipes and opened a thriving hardware store. This porter contains cocoa, creamed coffee, expresso, molasses and a hint of blackberries.

The Encore

Laurel Gray Vineyards

Lastly, and most appropriately, we ended the night with Encore, a red dessert wine with black raspberry flavor, meant for sipping. We paired this wine with dark chocolate from Raleigh's Videri Chocolate Factory. Laurel Gray is located Hamptonville and is part of the Swan Creek AVA.

To recap, this turned out to be a fabulous theme to celebrate our great state of North Carolina by Going Local. Next, Triangle Around Town heads back to Gregory Vineyards for their 2015 Grape Stomp Festival on Sunday, Sept. 20, and are planning another trip to the Yadkin Valley. And if that wasn't enough, we'll be heading up to the High Country in a couple of weeks to pay a visit to Banner Elk Winery and Grandfather Winery.