The lovely Allie of EatDrinkCLT invited the fairer half of Scallionpancake on an epic North Carolina wine tour back in late July – sorry, Jason, this trip was ladies only. Along with Allie, I joined Sarah from Charlotte Food Scene, Jess from The Sweet Seoul, Julia from CLTChomp, and Amanda who works with Visit Charlotte, a branch of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority for a relaxing Sunday of wine tasting and girl talk.
We were accompanied by our guide Jessica, who co-runs NC Wine Gals with her partner Megan (NC Wine Gals is an offshoot of Big Fat World Tours, if you’re looking for even more opportunities for guided travel). We enjoyed the Original Food and Wine Tour which consists of five different stops with tons of wine and food along the journey.
If you’re looking for the Cliff’s Notes, the biggest surprise of the trip was that North Carolina is home to so many nuanced, Italian-inspired wines due to our blessed location in the Piedmont region. We didn’t taste any of the super-sweet Muscadine that often gives NC wine a bad rap. The tour included a wide spectrum of rich and complex wines that I had no idea were made so close to Charlotte. Also, the scenery in Yadkin Valley is just amazing. Especially outside of Raffaldini Vineyards, you could really trick yourself into believing you’d been magically transported to Italy (like The Magic Schoolbus, but with more drunk women). It’s just a stunning part of the world that we’re so lucky to have only a short drive away from home.
We highly recommend the tour for a mini couple’s trip or girls’ getaway (the tour bus takes a minimum of six people and a maximum of 12, so if your group is smaller you’ll be paired up with some new friends!). The tour bus leaves at 10 a.m. and returns around 6 or 6:30 p.m., making it an easy and fun day trip from Charlotte. Oh, and if you book using the code “Charlotte,” you can get $20 off your tour! Yay! Read on to see what you can expect from a daylong adventure with NC Wine Gals.
Eat (DRINK) This:
Assorted Table Wine Shoppe in 7th Street Market
Everyone meets at 7th Street Market in Uptown for a breakfast-inspired pairing courtesy of the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe, which is nestled in the back of the market. Here you’ll enjoy your first pairing – a Carolina Riesling with a Krispy Kreme donut! This pairing is quite surprising, because although the Riesling is sweet, the sugar in the donut actually cuts the sweetness of the wine and brings out a depth of flavor that you don’t get when you taste it on its own. So cool! This stop was a great way to get everyone’s energy up for a fun day ahead. I thought I’d be nursing my coffee until we finished our drive to wine country, but that all went out the window with a 10 a.m. glass of wine! Woohoo party time.
After we finished, we all piled into the van, which was super roomy with just six of us. It was a great chance to catch up, and the hour or so drive to the first vineyard flew by! PS, this is also when I started calling the vineyards “breweries” even though I wasn’t tipsy yet. My bad.
Jones Von Drehle Vineyards
This vineyard is a stunner, and the only stop where we enjoyed a full wine tasting. It was great to get a detailed tutorial from one of the owners on the wines we were tasting, and we also got to munch on some oyster crackers as a “palate cleanser.” But, let’s be real, a cracker connoisseur like myself considered this an epic snack above all. #oystercrackersforlife.
FUN FACT: This vineyard is owned by two couples who are also in-laws! There is also a good girl vineyard dog named Chloe you should find and pet here at JVD.
This stop stands out because it’s where we ate BBQ! Heck yes, there’s BBQ on this wine tour, people, in case I haven’t convinced you to sign up yet. Jessica made a glorious tray of delicious BBQ for our lunch, and we paired it with their rich Ring of Fire red, a favorite of mine from the whole tour.
We also had their Ruby Red Port (chilled), which was a delightful surprise, as I usually find port too sweet, but I think the combination of the meat pairing and the cooler temperature of the port mellowed it out. The port was actually the only tasting that I finished its entirety! I am also a lightweight, FYI. You wouldn’t have wanted to see me finish every glass, and if you had seen it, it probably would have been on the news (“Local Woman Blacks Out for Three Days in Vineyard”).
This vineyard was my favorite, and I clearly am not alone, because this place was just packed. The grounds genuinely reminded me of Italy, there was live music, I loved their reds, and we had dessert. What else could a girl want?
We tried their famous Montepulciano Riserva (seriously famous – this wine has won awards!) with some meatballs Jessica made, and then paired a Sangiovese with some delicious homemade brownies! Are you seeing the theme here that Jessica is an awesome cook and an excellent wine spirit guide? She was our van DD, chef, and teacher! Who could ask for anything more? We spent a good amount of time here people watching and sitting on their upstairs porch listening to the band. I also bought a bottle of Montepulciano, which ended up being $32 and officially is the fanciest bottle of wine I’ve ever purchased for myself. Top dollar, baby.
The final stop of the trip involved goat cheese and rosé, so it’s safe to say we were all looking forward to this one all day. We paired their Montepulciano Rosé with some goat cheese, honey, and crackers, and it was a lovely ending to a fun day.
FUN FACT: this vineyard was started by a doctor with Italian heritage!
Brownies, of course! I also got another brownie for the road at Raffaldini (they make their own brownies with their Sangiovese, but they also sell brownies from a Greenville bakery that I enjoyed). Brownie options abound, I tell you! PS you can also buy chocolate bars from McRitchie...not that we would know anything about that. Ahem.
Um, see above.
Who knew that we had such stunning vistas right in our backyard? It was such a treat to get outside of the city and breathe some fresh air with good friends.
Wine Drunk Hospitality:
Jessica from NC Wine Gals could not have been a better host. She was so laid back, but also kept us to a schedule so we got home at a reasonable hour, dropped all kinds of wine knowledge on us, fed us, and was simply the all-around best tour guide there is. I can’t recommend her or NC Wine Gals enough!
I seriously had to read this three times to make sure I didn’t call a vineyard a brewery again; Also, please tell me if I missed one; Wine drunk is just a special kind of drunk, amiright?; Any wine that’s over $12 is a major splurge, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different; There are no other girls I’d rather spend a day drinking wine with! Yay for good friends, booze, and beautiful North Carolina wine country.