This week, we have visited some of our hands-down favorite wineries within driving distance of Greensboro. Each winery will be showcasing three of their favorites for you to try the next time you’re in the Yadkin Valley.
Amy Helton and Wendy Hamer
Tucked away in a charming French-style farmhouse, Hanover Park is a darling little winery whose wines carry as much charm as the family who made them. Stepping into the tasting room feels like coming home, but in a way that is executed with class. I recommend taking your pup to play with Pearl, the house Cavalier.
Inspired by a visit to Domaine Tempier, Hanover Park considers this to be the wine “that launched the ship.” Owner Amy Helton describes the aroma as “different. It’s got that nice earthiness. I almost think of herbs. I think of rosemary and lavender when I drink this.That’s why it’s perfect with lamb, which is so rich.” She also explains that to call a wine by its grape name, it has to be at least 75% of that grape, which where Mourvedre gets its name; however, there’s a little Syrah in there and a little Grenache, which are all grown at Hanover Park. Helton’s favorite vintage is the 2002. “It was very special, years ago,” she says. “It’s usually a summer where it’s really dry and everybody’s yard looks really bad, but that’s good for grapes.” Helton recommends pairing it with a rich, creamy cheese or lamb stew.
“This vintage is very special and Michael decided to give it a name,” says Helton of her husband. “It’s 100% Chambourcin, which is what they call a French-American hybrid grape. It too has a wonderful aroma. It is one that is great with Italian food, grilled food. It goes in my beef bourguignon when I cook or if I do the braised short ribs in the oven.”
Named after the year the house was built that is now Hanover Park’s tasting room, this wine is a red blend of Cab, Cab Franc and Merlot. “Michael wanted to see what would happen if he aged a wine and not just three or four years,” Helton says. “He aged this almost six years. It’s aged in older oak and then it’s blended. This is a special wine. We have some regulars that come in, they get a bottle and sit, and this is how they spend their afternoon.”
“It’s very aromatic,” says Helton. “This is a recipe we received from friends who have family in the south of France. It starts off with a rosé wine. We added oranges, lemons, whole vanilla beans, sugar and brandy. Even when you smell the glass, it’s still there. It’s lovely.” Helton recommends pairing with chocolate, or sticking glasses of it in the refrigerator before dinner to enjoy without accompaniment.
Piccione Vineyards is nestled, like many vineyards, very far off the beaten path. You will pass cows and fields and randomly, a laughing Buddha statue. Then, up on a hill, you will reach a tasting room that is the perfect perch for overlooking the rows of vines. Although it’s small and fairly new, Piccione honors the Italian tradition of winemaking and has made a name for themselves in the world of Yadkin Valley wine.
This white is an Italian varietal from the island of Sardinia. “It’s a really interesting variety and fairly complex for a white,” says Tanner Browning, tasting room attendant. “There are a lot of things going on. You’ll get some notes of dried apricot, some lemon, honey, apple, honeysuckle, and a dried white pepper finish to it.” What one really picks up on, however, is something quite unique. Explains Browning: “It reminds me a lot of a sauvignon blanc, with a little less acidity on there. It’s really crisp and you get this distinct minerality that comes from our soil. We have an excess of both micah and shale, so it’s really, really rocky. I almost get this sweet gravelly note to it.” Browning recommends pairing with bold cheeses or spice-aged meat.
This blend is especially unique to Piccione because it harkens back to the heritage of owner William Piccione. “It comes from the varietal Negroamaro, which originates in Apulia, down in the heel of the boot,” says Browning. “It’s one of three grapes using a local blend. We’re actually the only growers and producers of this variety on the East coast. Our owner’s family originates from Marsala, and they came over in the 1920s. As he was growing up, he and his grandfather made wine together in their basement. It’s always been something he wanted to come back to.”
The wine drinks very similar to a pinot noir. “There’s a spice note on the nose, some black pepper and clove, a little bit of strawberry preserve, but on the palate, it’s a little bit more fresh fruit, fresh strawberries. It has this lingering muted pepper note to it that hits you in waves,” says Browning. “It’s a little bit lighter.” He recommends pairing this one with blue cheese hamburgers.
While Montepulciano is a traditional, classic varietal, with “warm, rosy, floral notes on the nose; raspberry on the palate; and a dark chocolate and coffee finish,” the Reserva blend offers something exquisite, and it’s only by divine intervention. Says Browning, “It was kind of a happy accident for us. When we went down to the winery to check out how the Montepulciano was aging, we were going from barrel to barrel and we just noticed this one was completely different from the rest and we couldn’t figure out why. We set the barrel to the side. It was our manager who found it, so it was nicknamed Hailey’s barrel for the longest time. After doing some investigation, we found that it was actually a French oak barrel that somehow got mixed in with all the other barrels. We didn’t order it. Our supplier didn’t mean to give it to us. We’ve been using French neutral as a cheaper alternative, because fresh oak is significantly more expensive. When we found out that this was fresh oak, we set it to the side and we decided to bottle it as our Montepulciano Reserva. The fresh oak really expedited the mature characteristic of the body.” Browning recommends this with pasta, lasagna, or a cherry-reduction dessert.
Joey Medaloni of Medaloni cellars describes the winery to be “designed so that when you come here, you never want to leave. We have a mile and a half of walking trails, a kids play area- we’re kid and pet friendly- and music and food trucks.” Medaloni also embodies a staffing philosophy that fosters the family-feel environment that he has created: “All the staff behind the bar works on the farm with us. They do everything from the vine to the barrel to the bottle. That way, they’re part of the family, not just the team.”
The winery has two brands, the Signature Series and the Flight Series. Says Medaloni, “The Signature Series is 100% Yadkin Valley. It always has been and always will be. About 75% of what we do here falls under the Signature Series label.” The Flight Series is an all-American label that utilizes Medaloni’s pilot license. “It allows me to go to other states, other AVAs, and work with other winemakers and growers and get things that grow unique to those locations,” says Medaloni. “I’m a pilot so we fly around and talk to all these great people and just learn so much. We’re always listening to new techniques and trying new things and learning other ways of both growing and making wine, which helps our business grow.” The selections below are hand-picked from the Signature Series. In the words of Medaloni, “Cheers! Come as strangers, leave as friends.”
Medaloni Cellars has two viognier selections, one that has been in a stainless-steel barrel, and the other from an oak barrel. “This is actually one of the few oaked Viogniers you’ll ever have,” says Medaloni. “There’s only about a dozen wineries all over the world that oak their Viognier. It mellows it out through the winter and the oak lowers the acid. Typically, viognier should be a very fruit-forward, high-acid wine. This one is a little bit lower acid, a little bit more creamy, delicate. This is perfect drinking wine. If the chairs were dry, I’d be sitting out there by the fire, eating a little lunch with this wine. Viognier grows unbelievable here. Virginia named it its state grape because it grows so well.”
This is the third time Medaloni has made this blend since 2008, and it’s special to Medaloni because they were able to work with Mark Friszolowski at Childress, who Medaloni says is “a huge, huge asset to the Yadkin Valley. He’s amazing.” This blend is a true Bordeaux blend, mixing Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. “Over the next year, this will get better and better,” says Medaloni.
The 2015 “came together so perfect in the bottle,” says Medaloni. “IIt has a two-inch cork that’s designed to last fifteen years. It’s nice when people give cases for birthday or anniversary gifts because every year- if something is designed right- you can enjoy one a year for eleven more years to come, so a lot of couples who get married here do that with the special wine that they really love. They’ll put it up and they’ll come back for their anniversary and bring a bottle of that, but then they’ll order a new one of that year and do a comparison.”
Like Medaloni, Raylen Vineyards doubles as not just as a major Yadkin Valley producer, but also a spread-out event space. They frequently have food trucks and live music, and because they sit on over 100 acres of land, they have plenty of room for vines to flourish.
This Chardonnay grapes has been pressed and aged in French oak barrels. “We let the wine ferment in the oak barrel and then it’s aged, so it stays in the barrel pretty much through the whole process after it’s pressed,” explains Katie Rodgers, tasting room assistant manager. “This will have a smoky, oaky flavor, a little buttery note as well. It’s meant to be very smooth.” This is a truly classic Chardonnay.
“This is a grape that grows really well in North Carolina,” says Rodgers. “It’s hearty, it grows great across most of our microclimates in the Western part of the state, and you can get a great flavor from it pretty much everywhere. That’s why we grow a lot of it and a lot of places around here do as well.” This dry red has woodsy notes with a little bit of pepper and some cherry to balance out the earthiness.
This year’s blend 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance is Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. According to Rodgers, each year contains the same five grapes, but the percentages will change a little bit. If you were wondering about the name, Rodgers explains: “This property was a dairy farm for about a century. It’s a big piece of land. We’re on a little over 100 acres. In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo came through, it came so far inland that it damaged the property. Instead of rebuilding, the owners decided to sell. A few years passed by and our owners picked up the land- they beat out a housing developer, actually- and now we have the winery. We say that it’s a silver lining from the hurricane. You could also say a Category Five is also a metaphor for a big, bold red. It’s dry as well, but it has some wonderful fruit notes, like juicy raspberry, plenty of cherry.”
Photo: Kaitlin Page, cellar master, fills barrels to prevent oxidation.