Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

California Versus Carolina Wines

Posted April 4, 2006

While visiting California wine country last week I met several people with family ties to NC. A staffer at Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma County said she recently returned from a visit to the Tar Heel state. She said she visited several NC wineries during her trip to see how they compared to California wineries. "North Carolina is still a work in progress," she said. "They have a long way to go but they are headed in the right direction." I got a similar response from another winery worker near the Russian River at Lambert Bridge. She said her father grew up in Burgaw near Wilmington. As I reported in a previous editon of the Tar Heel Traveler the NC wine industry has exploded in recent years. In many ways it is a rebirth. North Carolina had the first wine industry in the American colonies. The industry waned during the Civil War and collapsed during the era of alcohol intolerance. By 1950 North Carolina had no wineries. Since the recent resurgence in NC Biltmore Estates in Asheville has won numerous awards and boasts more visitors than any other winery in the US. The knock against Biltmore is that many of the grapes used to make its wine come in from out of state. North Carolina wineries won 23 awards in the latest Indy Wine competition. NC winners included Raffaldini, Childress, Biltmore and RagApple Lassie. Tricia Childress writes "Great wines are distinctive and they carry the memory of the soil in which they are grown." NC is learning to use its different types of soil to grow better grapes. California has a head start. I met fourth generation families working the fields around Sonoma and Napa. Northern California has a moderate climate. The grapes are still dormant now and have been for several months so it doesn't matter how much rain falls or how cold the ground gets. As things warm up in a few weeks the vines sprout leaves. By summer grapes will emerge clusters. By September the leaves turn red and gold as the grapes ripen to perfection, ushering in the harvest that hits its peak in October. Lets hope North Carolina's harvest is bountiful and delicious. More on this subject tomorrow and thanks for all of the comments!

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Bill Leslie