Although I have explored many of the wineries in my native Yadkin Valley, the Haw River Valley, encompassing parts of Greensboro and Burlington, was largely unknown to me. On a misty Saturday morning in mid-January*, I found myself with time to spare on an eastward transit of Interstate 40.
Having recently cleared a few spots in my wine rack, I was only too willing to detour north in search of a new locavino adventure. Grove Winery & Vineyards, located twenty minutes north of Greensboro off of Route 29, seemed the perfect first encounter with the state’s newest AVA.
The fog broke just as I reached the turnoff to a winding country road lined with dry, grassy fields and mounds of red clay. The brilliant blue sky was a refreshing sight after days of rain. Within a few miles, I reached an unassuming gray building surrounded by winter-bare vines. The tasting room was small but pleasant, with an array of snacks and souvenirs for sale.
As it turned out, I had arrived just before a last-minute event planned in honor of the emerging sunshine, and during my tasting, I chatted with the musician, the tasting room attendant (Nate) and a few regulars. “The best dry wines in the Haw River Valley,” one of them told me enthusiastically.
Nate had entered the business the way many of us** do in North Carolina, by tasting and becoming a regular fixture at a favorite winery. His tasting was informative and thorough. I sampled two of the whites: the 2011 Haw River White, a stainless Chardonel with prominent citrus qualities, and the 2011 Viognier, lightly barrel-aged, with a lovely balance of fruit and oak.
I took home a bottle of the latter and opened it just this week to celebrate a sunny, lengthening afternoon. Initially, the floral qualities of the wine were foremost—honeysuckle on the nose and tongue—but as the glass warmed, the bouquet opened and the fruit reemerged as a mouthful of slightly spicy peaches with a hint of orange. The oak lent a silky texture and just a touch of vanilla to the finish.
Before moving to the true reds, I also sampled Grove’s variation on the rosé, a dry wine made from Sangiovese, crisp and true to form, with light flavors of raspberry.
Of the reds, I tried back-to-back vintages of Sangiovese, comparing the subtle smokiness and plum of the 2009 with the sharper tannins of the 2010. I sampled a Nebbiolo, an Italian grape with a very dry finish; a Syrah, earthier and softer than many; a smooth Cabernet Franc; and a tart, cherry-and-oak Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2009 Sangiovese is now sitting in my wine rack, waiting for just the right occasion.
Before I left, I met the winemaker, Max, who told me a little bit more about the winery, which houses forty-four acres of vines, most of them about ten years old. Grove also owns a small secondary vineyard in Virginia, combining to produce the winery’s three- to four-thousand annual cases.
Although a bit out of the way for regular visits, Grove Winery certainly earned my stamp of approval. For an intimate, leisurely tasting with solid wines and a knowledgeable staff, I highly recommend that you start your tour of the Haw River Valley in the same place that I did.
And don’t worry if you forget your reading glasses; thoughtful of even the most forgetful guests, Grove keeps spares on hand in the tasting room.
In vino veritas!
*Delayed post: such is life!
**Full disclosure: I work part-time at RayLen Vineyards & Winery in Mocksville, but I enjoy experiencing all that North Carolina’s diverse wine country has to offer. These reviews are undertaken on my own time, with no sponsorship by my employers.