Sunday, October 22, 2006
A Day in Wine & Barbecue Country
Fall is the perfect time to get out for a drive and visit a winery. Grape and fruit wine is produced in all 50 states, so most of us can go right to the source to taste wines and take a tour. That's just what my wife, Sandy, and I did with friends Brian and Michelle McCarthy this weekend.
We drove about 90 minutes north of Charlotte to visit Shelton Vineyards, where we did a tour, tasting and stopped for lunch in the winery's Harvest Cafe. Founded in 1999, Shelton is the largest winery in North Carolina. The grounds are beautiful, the facilities impressive, the wines are good quality and the food in the cafe was excellent. The only thing each member of our group noticed that they need to work on is hospitality. A winery should be a happy place. We did not see a single member of the tasting room or restaurant staff crack a smile during the nearly two hours we were on the property. If you have the chance to try Shelton's wines, I highly recommend the riesling. Shelton's Madison Lee White, which is a blend of chardonnay, riesling and vigioner grapes is a refreshing white. In the reds, the estate cabernet sauvignon, with hints of black cherries, and a smooth pinot noir are worth a try.
Our next stop was in Mount Airy, which lays claim to the Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD. Yup, we got our photos taken with the bronze sculpture of Sheriff Taylor and Opie. We stopped at the Old North State Winery and had the chance to meet Cellar Master Michael Thomas. He told us the winery is under new ownership and renovation is underway to launch a new restaurant in the building. There are also plans to open a brewery on the site in the coming year and perhaps start micro-distilling brandy.
We enjoyed several of the wines we tasted at Old North State. The 38 Vines Chardonnay is a good solid chardonnay. We also found the Autumn Leaf, Sandy Cross Muscadine, Spring House and Restless Soul -- a Halloween-themed blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chambourcin -- worth taking home a bottle.
On the way home we made a stop in Lexington, where the annual Barbecue Festival had just ended. That did not deter us from making a visit to the world famous Lexington Barbecue, where we enjoyed a plate of course chopped brown. It was my third visit to what most consider to be one of barbecue's holiest of sites and the first for the rest of my group. Judging by the reaction, it won't be long before we are back in line waiting for a table at this spot.