Chateau Laurinda Vineyards - Since this Sparta, North Carolina winery was the closest to the bed and breakfast where we were staying, we decided to make it the very last stop on this particular trip. We were hoping to spend some time enjoying this winery and even staying for a glass or bottle to end our two days of NC wine tasting. Unfortunately, we didn't save the best for last. I had heard not to expect much at Chateau Laurinda, but remained optimistic. After our arrival it didn't take long for my optimism to fade. The exterior of the building was a bit worn down and the grape vines planted outside didn't look very well tended. My first impression left me skeptical as we got out of the car and walked up to the tasting room entrance.
I found tasting room quite spacious and inviting - much nicer inside than the exterior would have led me to believe. I walked around a bit and noticed a doorway to a deck on the back of the building and thought that if we did stay for awhile it would be a nice place to sit down to drink a glass of wine. There was a local man there purchasing a bottle to take home with him, but after he left we were the only ones there for the remainder of our visit. We approached the tasting counter and were greeted by a super friendly lady working that day. She introduced us to the wine list and told us about the tasting fees, which were the lowest fees we had come across in the region. The list of wines offered was plentiful and there was a good variety so I hoped I would find something I liked. We ended up sampling many of their wines, but I wasn't impressed with many of the straight-forward grape wines at all. It wasn't until we neared the end of the tasting experience that I found a couple that I thought I could handle - the Sangria and the Semi-Sweet Blackberry. Even though I had no desire to take anything home with me, our hostess had been so friendly through our sampling that I felt I should. I ended up purchasing a bottle of both the Sangria and Semi-Sweet Blackberry to go.
We opted not to stay any longer than our tasting, deciding instead to return to our bed and breakfast and end our trip by opening a bottle of wine we had purchased earlier in the day. There were a few positive aspects about Chateau Laurinda, which were the friendly hostess, the low tasting fees and the inviting outdoor deck on the back, but unfortunately the good didn't outweigh the bad. Frankly I just wasn't impressed with the quality of their wine. Upon my return home I opened the bottle of Sangria, and after a couple of sips I started feeling sick to my stomach so I poured the entire bottle down the drain. The blackberry wine is still in my wine rack and I'm not sure I'll ever work up the nerve to open it. It may just become a wine rack decoration for years to come.
McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks - We're always hopeful that our last stop of the day is somewhere we would like to spend some extra time...and we hit the jackpot when we made a late afternoon visit to this Thurmond, North Carolina Winery. Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, McRitchie specializes in small lots of artisan wines and hard ciders. They are dedicated to sustainable growing and low-intervention winemaking resulting in some fabulous high-quality wines.
I would describe the atmosphere of McRitchie Winery as "upscale casual". Everything about the tasting room and sampling experience is very upscale, but the rural setting and friendliness of the staff makes for a casual and comfortable visit. There were only two other tasters at the counter when we arrived - and we recognized them as a couple we had encountered at the previous winery we visited. They must have been traveling along the same wine route as we were. Our friendly young hostess greeted us and presented us with tasting sheets. I was impressed with the selection because most everything seemed like something I would really enjoy. We paid our tasting fee and proceeded to taste our way through most of the wines on the list. My two favorites on this hot August day were the Traminette (which was very tasty and so aromatic) and the Rose' (a great summer dry rose' made from Cabernet Sauvignon). I also really enjoyed the Ring of Fire (a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon). I also couldn't leave without sampling a hard cider which they are well-known for producing. Ciders are not really up my alley - but the one I sampled did seem very well made and I liked it more than I thought I would. Our hostess was very knowledgeable and was able to answer all the questions we had throughout the tasting. All in all it was an extremely pleasant experience.
During our tasting we spotted a couple of nice rocking chairs on the back porch, so we ordered a bottle of chilled Traminette and headed outside. The porch had a wonderful view of the vineyard and it was such a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day. Our innkeepers had told us this was one of their favorite wineries - and I can certainly see why they enjoy it so much. We loved everything about our visit to McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks from beginning to end.
Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery - Our visit to this Ronda, North Carolina winery was our first stop of the day - but in retrospect I wish I hadn't scheduled our visit here in the morning. When I plan winery visits I know we can do no more than a tasting early in the day. Raffaldini has such a gorgeous view, wonderful wines plus a beautiful and spacious patio where visitors can enjoy both the view and the wines. It was so tempting to stay for just one glass and enjoy our surroundings, but after our tasting we decided that a glass of wine so early in the morning was not a good idea and we drove on to our next stop of the day.
One of the coolest things about our visit
to this winery was the picturesque walk from the parking area to the
winery tasting room. Upon our arrival we walked down a lovely garden
path to reach the door where we entered their Tuscan-style tasting
room. Raffaldini Vineyards is one of the
largest wineries in the area and I got the impression that they probably
get very, very busy. Luckily we were there shortly after they opened -
the tasting room was already busy, but it wasn't packed yet. There is
plenty of tasting counter space available throughout the room and many
employees behind the counter to assist visitors with their wine sampling
experience. We walked over toward a woman who didn't appear to be
helping anyone at the moment and she was happy to start us on our
I really wish we could have stayed for awhile, but it was still before noon and not the best time to order a glass of wine. We did wander out to the gorgeous patio to take a look at the view, which is one of the best vineyard views in the area. There's a large fountain in the middle of the patio with plenty of seating in the surrounding space. We did notice a few other people out there enjoying a glass of wine - but they probably didn't have three more wineries to visit that day like we did. We walked back into the tasting room and picked out the bottles we wanted to take home and proceeded to the register to pay for the bottles. I ended up bringing home several nice reds that I look forward to enjoying with friends.