Monday, November 14, 2016

Traminette grape starts to gain popularity in N.C. with Yadkin Valley winemakers

Medaloni Cellars' owner/winemaker, Joey Medaloni, addresses the crowd during a meet and greet tasting.

By Dathan Kazsuk | November 14, 2016
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A couple weeks ago, while on a wine run in North Carolina's Yadkin Valley, we paid visit to Lewisville's Medaloni Cellars to enjoy a glass of wine before making the drive back home to Raleigh. While enjoying the crisp evening with a bottle of Entourage red, Madaloni's owner/winemaker, Joey Medaloni, approached us to ask if we were enjoying the wine.

With the fall breeze coming in through the tasting room, along with the vibrant light of the setting sun – it made for a perfect evening. We told Joey that all was well as he informed us about a meet and greet at the winery on November 5 to sample the latest release from him and Lodi, California winemaker, Markus Niggli.

Known as the Flight Series – this was the third release between Medaloni and Niggli. And since it was falling on the same weekend as our wine pickup party at Jones von Drehle Vineyards, we decided to take him up on his offer.

So on that chilly evening of November 5, we once again paid visit to Medaloni Cellars for this special event. The sun was slowly setting as we made our way to the outdoor tasting patio. The smell of burning wood filled the air as we checked near the fire pit in the middle of the patio. Joey greeted the two of us, thanking us for attending the event, which played host to around 40 attendees – most of which were already enjoying a bottle or two on the patio.

Slowly, as everyone settled in, Joey made his presence known, as he introduced himself to the crowd, standing behind a cart of labeled and unlabeled wines, which we all knew we'd soon be tasting.

Personally, I wasn't sure what to expect. I've been to other winemaker events in the past, where someone pours the wine while the winemaker makes his or her way around the room asking your thoughts on their creation. This was a little different.

Medaloni led the way, introducing himself and Niggli, while giving us a brief history behind the Flight Series and how the two of them formed this collaboration. For many not familiar with Niggli's background, he is currently the winemaker at Borra Winery, and has found a love for fruit such as the German Kerner and North Carolina Traminette grapes.

Markus Niggli of Borra Winery in Lodi, California

And that leads us into our first wine of the evening – an unfiltered Traminette. This grape, which is related to the popular Gew├╝ztraminer, is a grown grape here in the state of North Carolina. Not only does Medaloni produce wine from this grape, but other local wineries in the likes of McRitchie, Adagio, Roaring River and Divine Llama produce wine from this very distinct-flavored grape.

The unfiltered Traminette was just taken from the tank no more than a day prior to drinking, according to Niggli, who explained to us that this wine was in its "raw" stage. But what exactly does that mean? Well, an unfiltered wine just refers to its lack of clarity. A filtered wine, when looking through the wine glass will always appear clear. While an unfiltered wine may appear cloudy with possible sediment floating around in the glass.

While it's a toss up as to what wine purist like best, I rather enjoyed the taste of this wine. And most of the 40-plus in attendance felt the same way. It was so good that one individual asked Niggli why he wouldn't consider doing a limited run of an unfiltered Traminette.

"The reason myself or Joey wouldn't do something like that is because it would all come back to our name," says Niggli. But what does that mean, exactly? Well, most wine aficionados will store their wine at 55 degrees, when possible, and if you store your unfiltered wine at anything higher than that, you might run the risk of having live bacteria living in that wine.

"Say you have that wine in your cooler at 55 degrees," says Niggli to the guest. "Then you give it to a friend who doesn't have a cooler, and then they serve it to friends. That wine has mine or Joey's name attached to it." So when that wine tastes like a horrible mess, everyone drinking it will associate that wine with the winery and the winemaker. Hence, the reason unfiltered wines should only be left to the purist who knows how to property store said wine and drink it at the right time."

We then followed the unfiltered Traminette with ample pours of Medaloni's 2015 Traminette and a white-blend from a previous year's Flight Series. And then it was on to the reds. Joey and Markus poured an incredible wine that was made with 100 percent Chambourcin – another grape that's seeing an uptick in the state of North Carolina. Joey promised the people that this wine will be released by Medaloni in the months to come. We also sampled an upcoming red wine straight from the barrel as well as the latest red blend from the Flight Series – which we bought a couple bottles of to add to our wine collection at home.

During the two hours we were at Medaloni Cellars for the event, we tasted some great wines, learned a lot about the grapes used in the wines, as well as some of the latest hype in the viticulture world.

Events like this don't come around too often, so keep a look out on Medaloni's website or Facebook page for upcoming events.

Joey Medaloni, left, pours wine straight from the barrel to one of the attendees at the
Meet & Greet event on November 5 at Medaloni Cellars