When we find ourselves with a long weekend, we head out to wineries that are farther out from our day trip distance. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, we set out to explore a few wineries in the Haw River AVA in the Piedmont Region.
Nomad Wine Works
Our first stop was to visit Dave and Aaron at Nomad Wine Works in downtown High Point. Nomad Wine Woks is an urban winery. Urban wineries seem to be gaining popularity in cities attempting to revitalize downtown areas. An urban winery is when the winery isn’t located on the vineyard property. Typically, when people say winery, they mean winery and tasting room. When we arrived, the space was already busy with people winding down after work and the band setting up. Dave and Aaron opened in 2022 and sold wine, cider, mead, and beer. They are located within the Catalyst Social District. The district is an area of downtown High Point where you can walk and shop the area while enjoying alcoholic beverages. Their flights consist of your choice of 3 ample pours for $14. Between the tables, we shared white wine, red wine, and cider. Over our shrimp and chicken tacos from Hummingbird Food Truck, we split a bottle of their Vivissimo, a sparkling wine. Their wines are sold in growlers rather than sealed bottles. Once we finished our meal, Dave treated us to a behind-the-scenes tour of their production area. He gave us a little insight into their future releases. We were off to a great weekend of North Carolina wine.
Saturday, we met up with our friends Merlot Muscadine, Arthur, and Mary Barham at Fire Clay Cellars. The name is taken from the red clay soil that produces their grapes. This was our second visit to Fire Clay. Sue is the tasting room host, and she is a pleasure to meet. They offer a variety of flights, both wine and ciders, to choose from. We enjoyed a tasting of red and white wines. Their tastings are self-guided at a table where you can go at your own speed. No reservation is needed for small groups. The tasting room is spacious and allows for many groups to spread out and enjoy an afternoon of wine and fellowship. They do offer Celebrity Dairy Farm chevre that pairs with their wines. You are also welcome to bring your own food. We picked up a picnic lunch. Our big takeaway wine was the 2020 Fireside Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. The Tannat brings a light spice to the finish that is perfect for cold weather. Once lunch was finished, Mary was kind enough to share her cheesecake with us. It paired beautifully with the newly released Sparkling Chambourcin Rosé. FireClay’s winemaker, Erik Mitran, gave us a tour of the vineyard and winery. He explained the pruning phase of the growing season and all the work that is being done in the vineyard during the winter. We learned how the sloping terrain helps with drainage. Erik came into the grape-growing business with a chemical engineering degree. He has so much technical knowledge of the chemistry involved in fermentation. Fire Clay also produces a Hard Apple Cider from local apples and a mead.
Melanated Wine and Spirits
Our next winery visit has been a long time coming. We first met LaShonda, owner of Melanated Wine and Spirits at the North Carolina Wine Festival in Raleigh last summer. We were immediately drawn to her personality and passion for making wine uncomplicated. She is the first African American female winery owner. Lashonda is considered a wine negociant. She sources North Carolina grapes/juice and then works with Mark Friszolowski of Childress Vineyards in Lexington. Although she may not grow her own grapes, she is a constant presence in the flavor profile development. When you walk into her tasting room, you are walking into an experience. From the soft lighting to the intimate seating areas, LaShonda has created a casual yet refined experience. They offer two tastings: Standard and Elevated. We purchased one of each. The Standard Tasting included a pour of all 7 of their wines. The Elevated included everything in the standard tasting, plus a charcuterie boat, tasting glass, and two special treats to pair with wine. We also got to taste their two slushies. The wines that stood out for us were the Dream, a house favorite; Privilege, her white blend; and Vibe, a sangria that is described as a “party in a bottle”. Seneca, her husband, brought our tastings to the table and explained each wine. As we enjoyed our tasting, we completed the wine trivia sheet. It was a good way to initiate our wine discussion. LaShonda hosts several experiences that are not typical of a winery, such as vision board creation, poetry night, and a cocktail mixology class. Melanated is striving to “uncork the culture” and to make wine education available and fun for all who want to learn.
Grove Vineyards and Winery
We started our Sunday with a visit to Grove Winery and Vineyards in Haw River Valley, in the upper central part of the state. We had been introduced to Grove wines at last year’s Taste of North Carolina in Winston-Salem. Bob, owner, and winemaker, grows European-style single varietals. Grove is a boutique-style vineyard producing a limited amount of wine. 80% of his grapes are grown on the property. They also crush and bottle on the premises. The vineyard was begun in 1992 by Max Lloyd. He planted grapes the next year. Some of those same vines are still producing fruit today. Over time, more property has been added. Grove produces some of the most award-winning wines in North Carolina. Under new management, since 2022, the winery continues to produce award-winning wines and outstanding winery experience. They have also started updating and refurbishing the tasting room and outdoor pavilion. The tasting room is cozy and inviting. All their award-winning wines are displayed along the wall. The huge bar allows for multiple groups to taste at one time. Brett, our tasting host, was a pleasure and gave us a lot of insight into the wines. There are two types of tastings. You can choose 6 1oz pours for $12, or you can include the reserve wines for $15. Not long after we started, we were able to meet Bob, the new owner and winemaker. Grove is dedicated to reducing their chemical footprint and uses very few added ingredients on the back end of production. They also produce their own honey from 25 hives on the property. We were able to do a side-by-side comparison of their oaked and unoaked stainless Chardonnay. We learned about the Coravin Wine Preservation System and how long it keeps wine fresh. This in itself reduces waste. A fun-tasting comparison we made was between the strawberry unfiltered sparkling compared with the filtered strawberry wine. After our tasting, we toured the grounds and the winery. It is always a learning moment when you hear a winemaker discuss their process and goals for their wine. We learned several new things about winemaking. It was fun to hear about the updates to the property that are coming soon, and we can’t wait to get back in warmer weather.
Rock of Ages
Our next stop was at Rock of Ages, located in Hurdle Hills. The tasting room and winery is a beautiful building that was designed and constructed by the owner, Kevin Moore. The family has a deep connection to the outdoors, and it shows in how the building blends in with the property. He inherited the property in 1999 and planted 3 acres. He quickly learned that he needed more grape-growing education and enrolled and earned a degree in viticulture from Surry Community College. The winery produces 33 varieties of wines. There is something for every palette. There are two types of tasting: sweet and dry. Each tasting is $8, and you receive around ten different wines. Not being big sweet drinkers, we decided on the dry tasting, but we included a few sweet wines. They produce seasonal wines that are perfect for the holidays. They even have a selection of Christmas wine. You could also sample their mulled wine, perfect for a cold day. The tasting room hosts, Harley and Carly, were enjoyable and knowledgeable about the wines. The bar is large and allows for several groups to taste and talk about the experience. This is the perfect place for your “I only drink sweet wine” friends and where you can also enjoy dry wines. My standouts were the Viognier and the mulled wine. They also sold the mulled wine kit and various wine-related gifts. Once you have completed your tasting, there is plenty of room to enjoy a bottle inside in the spacious tasting room. They carry a selection of snacks to accompany your wine. When the weather is warmer, there is outdoor seating overlooking the vineyard. The balcony outside has amazing views, the perfect spot to slow down and enjoy a glass of wine.
Botantist & Barrel Cidery and Winery
Our last stop of the day was Botanist and Barrel, North Carolina’s only natural cider and first producer of Pet Nat ciders. There are three ways to carbonate a beverage. Botanist and Barrel use the Pet Nat method, bottling the beverage before the initial fermentation has finished. The liquid will be more natural, often with naturally occurring yeast particles settling to the bottom and capped with a crown rather than a cork. This was our first experience with the Pet Nat type of sparkling wine. Due to their natural state, they contain little to no residual sugar. You can choose a cider flight that periodically changes. My wine flight consisted of the 2022 Traminette, the 2022 Cabernet Franc Rose, the 2021 Cynthiana, and the 2022 Merlot. On the first Sunday of the month they offer a guided tasting at 12:30. This tasting is $65 and includes a curated tasting paired with local fare and a winery tour. You can enjoy a self-guided tasting with tasting notes. One thing to be aware of before visiting is that all seating is first come, first served and is completely outdoors. There are many covered seating areas available. There are two igloos that are available for rent. You can also bring blankets/chairs and sit by the pond. They also have a farm-to-table market where you can purchase ready-to-cook meals and meats. During warmer months, local produce is available. Check their website for food and music options.
Our weekend spent exploring some of the central North Carolina wineries was full of first-time experiences. We were able to visit five wineries for the first time. We would like to thank the owners and tasting room staff for all the hospitality we were shown. We tasted some amazing wines and brought home new bottles of North Carolina wine to add to our collection. Check out our website for other wine adventures. Stay tuned to find out where we will be visiting next.