First day of wine tour draws tasters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
Day one of the Rowan County Wine Tour brought out crowds of wine-curious tourists to see the sights and taste the fruits of three local vineyards.
The tour continues today at Cauble Creek Winery, west of Salisbury, Old Stone Winery in Granite Quarry and Morgan Ridge Winery in Gold Hill.
With spring weather bathing the region, visitors lined the patio outside Cauble Creek Winery.
Owner Biff Yost watched his wife, Anita, and staff as they poured glasses for those who’d come to taste the local wines.
Outside, Lucinda Lucas, a contemporary folk musician from Charlotte, performed as visitors in lawn chairs sipped glasses of wine against the backdrop of nine acres of grape vines.
“It has taken years,” Yost said, to develop North Carolina’s reputation as a winemaking state.
But, he said, Cauble Creek has a special reputation as the state’s 100th winery.
“We put a lot of time and a lot of quality into the wines we make,” Yost said.
And this weekend is all about sharing that quality.
There are a lot of people who tour wineries, sampling the vintages, walking through the rooms where wine matures in stainless-steel vats and oak barrels.
But Yost said that not as many people from Salisbury and Rowan County have taken note of the distinctive wines made here.
“Every winery in North Carolina is different,” he said.
The Rowan County Wine Tour’s purpose is to celebrate those differences and the wide range of wines made here.
Those who visit all three of the wineries receive a T-shirt.
Tours are free, and tastings are going on all day for a fee.
“The wines we’ve tasted are great,” said Rudy Cranford.
He and wife, Karen, live in Albemarle. This was their first visit.
“We liked the Monroe and the La Vinia,” he said, referring to two of Cauble Creek’s varieties.
For them, the tour was a nice way to spend an afternoon, “and a chance to see what they’ve built for themselves,” Cranford said of Cauble Creek.
Ben Farris, assistant winemaker at Old Stone, said the turnout there was great — “Way more than average for this time of year.”
“You know, Saturday is always a very good day for us. We have a number we usually reach on Saturdays, and we about doubled it,” Farris said.
The day’s top seller was a distinctive North Carolina flavor, Sweet Muscadine.
Farris said sales of that one variety outdid the other 19 wines they make.
While Old Stone gets lots of visitors from outside of the county, thanks to advertising on the website, Farris said he thinks this tour will increase local visibility.
“I know just by today that it’s sparked the interest in a lot of people,” he said.
In Granite Quarry, Amie and Tommy Baudoin of Morgan Ridge were also pleased with the response.
“Excellent would be an understatement,” Tommy Baudoin said.
Most people made Morgan Ridge the last stop on their tour.
He said the winery had given away about 50 of the T-shirts awarded to those who visit all three locations.
“We had well over 80 tastings today,” Baudoin said.
“That’s probably about three times more than what we normally would do.”
Baudoin said the newly introduced Jolie Blanc, a white wine, was the day’s top seller.
“It’s perfect for those hot afternoons. We sold cases and cases of it.”
Morgan Ridge is slated to be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today.
But given the nice weather forecast, Baudoin said, “we’ll hang out as long as anybody wants to.”
Cauble Creek is also set to be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Old Stone will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.