In this article, Jade Alyse shares her adventure exploring North Carolina and experiencing Tuscan-quality wines in the heart of North Carolina.
I’m an antsy person. An explorer by nature. I’ve been blessed enough to see a number of places far and wide.
But there’s no place like home – and home for me is North Carolina.
Although I’ve lived here my entire life, I’m still in the process of discovering new nooks and crannies, or “hidden gems” if you will, preciously tucked away from a world becoming increasingly monotonous and so similar it becomes nauseating.
And I’m a wine enthusiast; beyond the scope of your average chick who goes to Facebook and talks about drinking Moscato or some other sugared down, unauthentic atrocity as though it’s some desperate attempt to blend in or fit into the mold of what Buzzfeed deems cool enough to do.
No, no. I’m a true wine enthusiast. I troll wine tastings, have a wine kit at home, I know a variety of a region’s specialties, collect uncorked bottles of some of the best simply because they’re just too good to drink. I even dream of getting married on a vineyard one day…but that’s another tale for another article.
There’s no surprise that Tuscany, a region in central Italy renowned for its aesthetic countryside, abundant history, and artistic influence, is home to some of the most notable wines in the entire world. For centuries, sipping wine has been attributed to high society, pleasure and whimsy, romance, and the arts. Names like Chianti and Sangiovese are widely recognized from the depths of the lustrous Tuscan countryside, to the shelves of your local Publix supermarket.
With one plane ride to Florence, Tuscany’s capital city, coupled with lavish accommodations and wine tour bus reservations you, too, can have the experience of a lifetime.
But be not dismayed: the intention of this piece isn’t to glorify the delightful wines of an exotic, bucket-list type of expedition, thousands of miles (and thousands of dollars) away. It isn’t to discourage you from looking at your bank account woefully, praying that one day you save enough of your coins up to make the journey.
My intention is to illuminate an unbelievable excursion, readily accessible, located in one of the more notable wine regions in the southeast US.
Enter: Yadkin Valley, the ‘Heart of North Carolina Wine Country’, and arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Covering the lengths of Surry, Yadkin, Wilkes, Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, and Stokes counties, these wineries have been able to successfully grow and cultivate juicy grapes where tobacco once reigned supreme. But the grapes aren’t simply limited to the very sweet and dessert-like Muscadine and Scuppernong variety. Fancy wine research and experiments have allowed for European varietals to adapt to the area’s climate and soil over time.
And although the Yadkin Valley is home to a number of wonderful wineries that are all worth a visit, they all tend to blend together after a while – except for one.
Raffaldini Vineyards. The name alone garners visions of undulating green hills, dotted with rows of planted grape seeds, an ocean’s length of azure skies speckled by billowy white clouds, and a century-old ochre-stoned Italian villa with a bright red terracotta roof, encased by a bevy cypress trees overlooking the expanse gracefully, peacefully.
It’s completely isolated from the rest of the world. Really. That’s no exaggeration.
More realistically, it’s a winery nestled in the middle of nowhere. More specifically: Ronda, North Carolina, a remote hamlet comprised of only four hundred and seventeen souls, less than an hour outside of Winston-Salem.
After driving your car up a mile-and-a-half long driveway, you catch a glimpse of the Italian villa perched up on a hill, and you’re immediately transported to a different time and place. You can liken the feeling to an escape from reality, or the sensation that rolls over you the moment you set foot on a tropical resort, and you realize that vacation has begun and your worries have ceased – if only temporarily.
But don’t just take my word for it: take slow paces up the winding garden path toward the villa. And remember to take your time.
I want you to take it all in.
Suddenly, you’re encircled by vibrant roses, lavenders, fragrant rosemary bushes and striking fig trees.
Ignore your immediate inclination to question your surroundings, believing this entire winery to be nothing more than an intense figment of your imagination.
Don’t worry about it too much – you’ve earned this break!
Saunter inside the two-story villa and you realize that the interior is just as beautiful (if not more) as its exterior.
And you pause. You take a deep breath. You believe as though some divine intervention stepped in decades ago and placed this seemingly illusory edifice on these rolling hills of verdant green and grape just for a select few to enjoy.
Year-round you can enjoy a number of different events at Raffaldini: wine tastings, tours, private label tours, vineyard tours, gourmet Italian food, picnics on the vineyard grounds, and even your wedding (congrats!).
But for this visit, let’s keep it simple. A warm and amiable host(ess) will greet you and your party upon entering, and will direct you towards one of several tasting stations. You immediately get the sense that their intention is to keep the process flowing as smoothly as possible. They want you to enjoy yourself just as much as you do!
Your assigned sommelier is equally as friendly, and asks you questions about which types of wines/notes/flavors you enjoy the most. Do you like a sweeter red or a buttery white? These folks have a wealth of knowledge about all things Tuscan wines and can help you if you aren’t too sure.
Wine tastings range from a very reasonable five to seven dollars, and you are given access to the full roster of their seasonal wines.
Go ahead…try them all. You’re on vacation, right?
After you’ve tried your fair share of reds and white and desserts, grab a glass and a bottle to share, head on outside to the airy patio and grab a seat.
Be it with a friend or a boo, you’re going to want to take this view in with someone else.
Something this spectacular shouldn’t be experienced by your lonesome.
But, I do recommend sitting in silence for a while. If only for a few seconds. The mere sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, undulating in the backdrop in streams of pale grey and blue, coupled with the deliciously tart palate of wine dancing on your tongue, is enough to require some reflection time.
You can sit there as long as you want. Enjoy yourself. Grab another glass or another bottle. Take a walk. Feel the simple joys of life wash over you. Because if I’ve learned anything about this life, it’s about enjoying the small pleasures you’re granted.
After all, what’s the point in working so hard if you don’t take time off to treat yourself?
Take another sip. Sit back. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat.
450 Groce Road
Ronda, NC 28670