Help us celebrate North Carolina's Wine Month by sharing this blog with your friends. We'll be featuring a vineyard every day this month, and all of them are members of the North Carolina Fine Wines Society.
I'm sitting here thinking about which NC Fine Wines Member to blog about next, and my eyes keep glancing outside as cycles of rain are pounding in the yard. We're starting to get the first bands of Harvey coming into the region. The thought of the hurricane precipitated me to think of the first red wine I really enjoyed from North Carolina - Category 5 from RayLen Vineyards.
We love going to visit RayLen Vineyards and to see what's happening there. We originally heard about RayLen from a wine class that we were taking at Salem College in their Courses for Community program. It was taught by Bruce Heye, a man who loved great wines from all over the world. Sadly, Bruce passed away unexpectedly late last year. I remember how we were warmly greeted by him on the first night of class, where there were bottles of wine on the desk and in a cooler, glasses at each table, and a pad and pen to write notes about each wine. My wife Cathy and I knew we were going to like this class. And we were eager for our homework assignments.
Bruce also had a love of North Carolina wines and where the trajectory is for the vineyards here. Bruce would love to talk about the people who were the trailblazers in the Yadkin Valley and how they brought Vinifera and Hybrids to the area. He would talk about Westbend, Hanover Park and RayLen, and how they helped pave the way for the area. He would also talk about Steve Shepherd, the winemaker for RayLen Vineyards and what Steve was crafting there. Bruce would always slip in a North Carolina wine, even if the class was "Wines of the Old World". And ultimately in each class Bruce would look at his watch and slightly panic. He'd realize he had been talking too much and it was time to drink up. So for someone who traveled the world as much as Bruce did, and with the experiences and vineyards he visited, he always enjoyed trying a North Carolina wine.
Around 2009, we were at a fundraiser and we "won" a silent auction for a tasting for 20 people at RayLen Vineyards. I say "won" in quotes because a friend of mine said that just means your are willing to pay more than anyone else there, so it isn't a win. However, I knew it was a perfect win. We invited a bunch of friends out to RayLen, we all did the tastings, and then everyone bought their favorite bottle and we had a huge pot luck picnic at the vineyard. It was such a relaxing afternoon and no one had to clean the house, mow the lawn, or cook, and they brought the kids too. That's a big win!
And while Category 5 is still an old favorite, there are a lot of new varietals and blends that are vying for my glass. I'm currently drinking a new favorite blend, RayLen's Eagle Select. It's a powerhouse of a red blend, and it pairs well with me. For the summer, it is hard not to pick the Rosé. Dry, crisp, and chilled slightly to bring out the flavors.
Bruce would lecture us that he wouldn't tell you what wine you should drink. (But he would be thinking of which one he would have picked.) Go do your own tasting at RayLen and find your favorite to enjoy for the next storm. Or call RayLen to schedule a tasting for your friends.