Winter Reds Return To Yadkin Valley 2022
I have been waiting for the coveted Winter Reds wine tour to return to Yadkin Valley for well over a year. My readers know that if my schedule will allow this is the type of event that I relish. In one day you experience multiple vineyards and wineries, multiple wines AND food. What's not to love? My anticipation of winter reds actually started last September when my wife and I (accompanied by our daughter and one of her close friends) embarked on the Summer Whites tour 2021.
If you are unaware of this event, the format is the same for the winter reds with obviously the season and the wines being experienced. Last years Summer Whites was an incredible experience and I am fortunate that I was able to document it in my blog and share it with my readers. If you didn't get a chance to peruse the details of that event last year, check out my blogpost "Summer White Wine Trail Returns To Yadkin Valley," This event was part of my self proclaimed odyssey to enhance my appreciation and knowledge of white wine last summer.
So at the conclusion of the summer whites last year my thoughts quickly turned to the winter reds 2021. As a lover of red wines for many years I could not wait to experience the many red varietals grown in Yadkin Valley and see what foods they would be paired with. Unfortunately, my schedule would not allow me to attend. In addition, my wife was able to attend and even took a group of her friends with her who were all novice wine consumers at best. When she came home with stories and pictures of the wineries and vineyards she had experienced the only thing that brought me a bit of solace was the bottle of Mandarb that my wife brought me from Divine Llama in East Bend.
So with a seasonal tour still fresh in my memory nearly a year ago and one event I had to miss due to scheduling conflicts you can imagine that I was extremely enthusiastic and thankful that I could attend this year. As an added bonus, our bwf's (best wine friends) Bryant and Michelle were able to accompany us and got to experience four wineries that they had never gone to.
So, where did we go? What did we experience? Read on and be amazed.
Divine Llama Vineyards - Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce paired with Merlina
Oddly enough, our winter reds trail started in the same location as my summer whites trail did last year - at Divine Llama (https://www.divinellamavineyards.com/) located just outside Winston=Salem in the small town of East Bend. Here we received our stemless wine glasses proudly displaying the winter reds logo and we were off and running. I must confess that my being an ole country boy (used to dessert as a reward at the end of the meal) was a bit skeptical to begin the winter reds trail with dessert. However, all of that faded as we sat and sipped the Merlina, Divine Llama's merlot wine blended with blackberry juice. What a heavenly combination! The blackberry juice added just a hint of tartness and sweetness with the merlot still able to maintain it's boldness and integrity as the true star of the wine. When paired with a ample portion of creamy rich NY style cream cheese cake I was reminded just how magical the proper pairing of food and wine can be.
For many in my party this was their favorite pairing of the day and I must send a shout out to Michelle for without her you may not have seen a picture of the cheesecake. Every wine blogger and food writer will tell you that sometimes it is so good that you eat it before you take a picture of the dish and that is exactly what happened to me. Perhaps you will also accept this as my explanation as to why this picture was so haphazardly shot with the cheesecake upside down and the glass empty lol.
RagApple Lassie Vineyard - Roast Beef Sliders paired with Kaleidoscope Red
It is always a pleasure to return to Rag Apple Lassie (https://ragapplelassie.com/) one of the oldest and best known wineries in Yadkin Valley. With their hand painted look bottles and variety of wines this working farm is still hanging in there in an area they have seen grow and prosper for decades. With memories of the Kaleidoscope Gold still fresh in my mind from the summer whites trail zI looked forward to with anticipation the Kaleidoscope Red we would sample with Roast Beef Sliders. The tender, juicy, succulent roast beef paired well with the Kaleidoscope Red which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The bold tannins and dark fruit flavors paired well with the roast beef and the kettle fried russet potato chips which brought texture could have easily been mistaken for homemade.
Brandon Hills Vineyard - BVH Chili paired with Raptor Red
It had been ages since I was at Brandon Hills during my very first extended trip to Yadkin Valley dedicated solely to seeking out local vineyards and wineries many years ago. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to immediately remember the surroundings and relish in the unique ambiance associated with this small quaint tasting room.
Upon arriving we were handed a small bowl of chili that could be garnished with your choice of sour cream and/or grated cheddar cheese. The chili was hearty and meaty with the perfect consistency, not too chunky or soupy. But the star of the show here was the Raptor Red. a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The owner aptly described it as a "kitchen sink" wine but the combination of these historic varietals has been the recipe for an impressive wine many times in the past and this was no exception.
The highly tannic wine paired well with the hearty meaty chili as is often the case with red wine and beef. The entire pairing was comforting like an old pair of slippers that you slowly ease into as a prelude to enjoyment. I have made it a priority to return to Branden Hills and not only do a full tasting but to catch up with the memories created there long ago before Merlot2muscadine was even a thought let alone a reality.
Hanover Park Vineyards - Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta paired with Chambourcin
Our final stop of the day brought back a flood of memories for me especially since the Barn at Hanover Park in Yadkinville, NC. Like Rag Apple Lassie this vineyard has been around for awhile and is one of the most recognized and respected in the Yadkin Valley AVA. This eclectic vineyard and winery was the site of my very first wine bloggers summit many years ago. Their renovated and restored "Barn" is an impressive location for staging weddings and other social events like the bloggers summit. Equally impressive is the passion and expertise owners Michael and Amy Helton pour into their wines and their business. To sample their wines is to enjoy the Old World style of the wines from Southern France. These two former art teachers are also not shy about displaying works of art and historic memorabilia (like old weaving looms) throughout the rustic home that dates back to the 1800's and serves as their winery/tasting room.
At Hanover Park (http://hanoverparkwines.com/) we were treated to one of my favorite Italian dishes Chicken Cacciatore. Every version I have ever had contained some form of tomatoes either pieces or in the sauce. Amy admitted she deliberately left them out and I think I enjoy her version better. The delicate flavor of the chicken was not overpowered by a heavy tomato sauce and paired well with one of my favorite wine varietals of all time - Chambourcin. This French American hybrid grape varietal has still not gained the traction nor popularity it deserves. However, it's suitability for our unique climate and terroir here in th Carolinas is sure to result in more vineyards and wineries planting this medium tannic wine with notes of cocoa, plum, blackberry and raspberry. The owner Amy will tell you that Ii cleaned my plate in recognition of this pairing being one of my favorites of the day.
If I have done my job you are now sitting there saying "I have got to do this" and I wish I had known about it before. Well do not despair because this event, sponsored by Yadkin County Tourism Development Authority and now in it's 13th year, is being held next weekend! Tickets are still available but time is running out and the deadline for ticket purchases is February 23, 2022 for the event days February 26 and 27. Participating Yadkin County wineries will feature their "Winter Red" (2 oz. pour) in a souvenir wine glass paired with a 3 oz. serving of a tasty food item. The hours will be Saturday Noon to 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm. Each ticket holder will be assigned to a starting winery where they will receive their souvenir wine glass and a map. You will travel around to each participating winery to sample your food and wine. Ticket is good for both days on the selected weekend you choose - one visit per winery. Limited ticket event for both weekends. Ticket prices are $30.00 per person per weekend
or $50.00 per person for both weekends
Here is the impressive lineup of vineyards and wineries that are participating next weekend along with their food and wine pairings:
Cellar 4201 - Smoked Tenderloin paired with Merlot
Flint Hill Vineyards - Eggplant Lasagna paired with Cabernet Sauvignon
Midnight Magdalena Vineyards - Magdalena’s Secret Open Faced Sloppy Joe’s paired with Merlot
Shadow Springs Vineyards - Tomato Soup with Quarter Sandwich paired with Cabernet Franc
Windsor Run Cellars - Red Velvet Whoopie Pie paired with Cherry Smash
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE YADKIN WINTER REDS OR TO PURCHASE TICKETS, CONTACT THE YADKIN COUNTY VISITORS OFFICE AT 1-877-492-3546