To say that the North Carolina wine industry is constantly growing is an understatement. On a summer visit to Raffaldini, we noticed a new vineyard across the street. We immediately googled Castello Barone Vineyards and Winery and found their website, which included blogs detailing their progress. We reached out to the owners, Scott and Elizabeth, to ask a few questions. Scott immediately responded.
Fast forward to Saturday, November 18th, when we made our way to the Swan Creek AVA and attended their grand opening. The entire property was buzzing with activity. Lunch was available from Wraps Around the World. The Cannoli Man was making his usual delicious creations and live music by award-winning artist Mike Coia. Outside food is permitted if there is no truck. Children and dogs are welcome, and there is plenty of lawn area to spread out. We enjoyed meeting Scott and Elizabeth. They were gracious and kind. As busy as they were, they took a few moments to hang out with us. Their family traditions are rich in French and Italian wine and winemaking. Their passion led them both to become certified by the Court of Master Sommelier Foundation. They, along with their dog, Bacchus, welcome you to visit and enjoy a tasting of their wines.
As we walked into the spacious tasting room, we immediately saw a familiar face behind the bar. We had met Palmer a couple of years ago. They offer tastings, flights, and glass and bottle options. We chose to stand at the bar and do a tasting. Palmer led us through our tasting at our own pace. We were catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. She is knowledgeable and a pleasure to talk to. We each did a full tasting of 7 wines. Our first 2 were white wines: 2022 Vermentino and 2022 Petit Manseng. I enjoyed both of the whites. I haven’t tasted a lot of Vermentino, but I do like its acidity. The Petit Manseng is usually my go to and this white was exceptional. It is aged in American neutral oak, and it has a little more of a mouthfeel than a typical Petit Manseng. Next came the Montepulciano Rose. This rose had notes of lemongrass with just a hint of spice on the end. They also have a sparkling rose that is sold by the bottle. That is on my list for next time.
The red collection started with the 2020 Setoso, a red blend of Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, and Tannat. I immediately picked up cherry aromas. The next red was the 2019 Bacchus, a blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot. It is a full-bodied wine that will warm you up. Next came the 2021 100% Tannat. Tannat is a wine that I just recently tasted. Similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is smooth with plum and vanilla on the finish. We finished with the 2021 Le Alba, a sweet finish off-dry wine. A full tasting is 7 wines for $21, and a partial is your choice of 4 wines for $12. As we always do, we suggest you enjoy as many of the wines as you can. As December nears, they will offer a mulled wine and a Mexican-style lager.
The space is well designed, with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a glass or bottle. There are many windows to allow natural light in, and there is an amazing stained glass window behind the bar. The mixture of light and dark wood in the tasting room creates a cozy atmosphere. The serving bar is huge, which allows many people to enjoy a tasting at one time. We sat at the double-sided fireplace. It was a little warm for a fireplace, but when the weather turns colder, it will be perfect. There are many choices for outside seating. There is a wrap-around covered patio to enjoy the views of the vineyard. You are welcome to bring a chair and sit on the lawn.
Their journey began with Scott making beer at home. Friends and family seemed to enjoy his results. Not a beer drinker, Elizabeth asked him to try making wine. Living in Florida, vineyards and grapes were non-existent. He was off to the internet to research winemaking and order supplies. His first attempt was considered good, according to his family. He didn’t stop there. After more research and more supplies, even driving to pick up grapes, he continued to produce better and better wine. Not bad for a home winemaking operation. Elizabeth suggested taking it to the next level. After studying grape-growing areas, they narrowed properties down to North Carolina and Virginia. Once they visited the Yadkin Valley and met with Jay Raffaldini, they found their next adventure. Fast forward to this fall, Scott and Elizabeth opened their amazing tasting room to the general public. The winery is still under construction. When finished, Scott will have total control over his wine production from vineyard to bottling.
The grapes they have planted are a mixture of French and Italian varietals. They are grapes that have proven to grow well in the Yadkin Valley, with the exception of Saperavi. This grape is native to the country of Georgia and grows well in the Finger Lakes Region. Always thinking ahead, they toyed with the idea of trying to grow Albarino, a Spanish white grape, and Corvina, an Italian red grape. The Saperavi vines have done well this year, and they are anxiously waiting for their first harvest of this grape next year.
One common theme we find when talking to vineyard and winery owners is the amount of cooperation between the entire North Carolina wine industry. Castello Barone is no exception. That cooperation can range from utilizing facilities to using each other as sounding boards to forging relationships with local farmers to carry their products in the tasting room. In fact, Jay Raffaldini suggested the property that would become their vineyard. Not sure this cooperation is as common in other wine-producing states, but it’s nice to witness firsthand.
We suggest checking out their website and blogs blogs detailing their journey from Florida to relocating to the beautiful Swan Creek AVA of North Carolina.