It’s sad, but understandable that the #NCWineGuys had to postpone the 2020 NC Wine Bloggers Summit that would have started with tours today. To fill the void, Tarheel Taps & Corks takes a look back at the 2019 wine tour and summit.
BBloggers talk with Jones von Drehle winemaker Dan Tallman.A tour of two popular family-owned wineries near the Virginia state line – Jones von Drehle and McRitchie — kicked off the 2019 #NCWine Bloggers Summit. More than a dozen bloggers boarded vans for the short trip from Elkin to the wineries.
Our first stop was at Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery, where we were greeted by winemaker Dan Tallman who shared his thoughts on everything from parenting to oak barrels to the microclimate – hot days and cooler nights — that makes Jones von Drehle wines unique. He told the group about his favorite wine grape – Petite Manseng – which he described as having a “reliable chemistry each year.”
We enjoyed a catered lunch outdoors on a sunny spring afternoon, and then wine tasting in the Jones von Drehle tasting room, overlooking the vast vineyards. Winery owner Diane Jones said her family wanted to establish a winery producing high-quality estate-grown wines. So she and husband Chuck chose a site where they could grow great fruit, a farm with the highest elevation in the Yadkin Valley AVA.
They built the winery in 2008 and established the vineyard in 2009, so the vines are now over 10 years old. The family distributes their own wine to shops and restaurants around the state.
Diane says she spends a great deal of time educating chefs and restaurant owners about the value of serving their North Carolina wines.
JVD has been recognized for its Petite Manseng, a citrusy white. The winery’s top seller is a red blend, Steel and Stone. My personal favorite was the Viogner, a dry white that was quite refreshing for summer meals.
A new addition to the winery will be an amphitheater that is expected to bring in crowds of 800-1,200 for four to six concerts per season. The winery also hopes to begin hosting weddings along with disc golf events.
Around the bend and up a steep drive, we arrived at McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, another family-run operation. The winery was started in 2006 by Sean and Patty McRitchie – Sean came from a family with a history in West Coast wineries. The McRitchies’ son Asher is expected to become chief winemaker next year. All the family — including canines Fiona and Aello — are also involved with the business.
After struggling with Chardonnay vines, the McRitchies replaced them with Traminette, a white that performs better in North Carolina. The winery uses sustainable management practices in the vineyard – copper for pests and vinegar, salt and soap to manage weeds. They also invested in a mobile bottling unit that they share with other wineries.
While the McRitchie wines are very good, the ciders are truly extraordinary. Made from apples grown in nearby Wilkes County, the ciders run from semi-sweet to dry, more like a dry sparkling wine. Ring of Fire is a popular red blend that changes a bit depending on what grapes have done well that year.
Beyond the tasting room, the winery offers some indoor seating and a patio for nicer weather to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or cider.
After the tours, I switched to “beer blogger” mode and went to Angry Troll Brewing in downtown Elkin for dinner and a little March Madness basketball, like most of the crowd there. (I mean, it was March…) The restaurant, known for its wood-fired pizzas, has a nice, intimate feel. There is also a taproom downstairs and additional dining/event space next door.
The wings and salad I had were good and paired well with a nice late-winter-season Angry Troll brown ale that was very smooth. Just a couple of blocks from the Yadkin River, Angry Troll boasts that it’s Elkin’s first downtown brewery.
The next day, NC Wine Bloggers gathered at Hanover Park Vineyard, a nice event space in an old barn. Presentations included topics ranging from social media best practices to working with convention and visitors bureaus. The presenters, food, wine (so much wine) and networking all made for a really great event.