While traveling home from the Outer Banks we detoured off the beaten path to Knotts Island, via the Currituck Ferry. Our objective was the two wineries operating on the island: Moonrise Bay Vineyard and Martin Vineyards. Our first stop was Moonrise Bay Vineyard which, like many family operations, started as a hobby and grew into an enterprise. Named after the unusually moon “rises” over the Sound, Moonrise Bay produces several styles of wines – from viniferia to muscadine to fruit wines. Richard "Oakie" Morris planted the first vines in 1997 and currently has about 15 acres of vines planted. The winery became operational in 2000, just in time to bottle their initial grape harvest. Together with his wife Kate, they’ve created an attractive tasting facility within the coastal island.
Upon arriving at the winery, we were initially surprised to see the breadth of viniferia plantings. But Mr. Morris informed us that the coastal area is well suited for viniferia grapes since the cool breezes cool the grapes during the summer and the water warm the grapes in the winter. We’ve heard similar stories from Maryland and Virginia coastal growers, so in all reality, we should not have been surprised.
We started out with what we determined to be our favorite of their offerings: the Grand Ole Osprey White Table Wine. This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonel that has a nice citrus flavor and refreshing acidic finish. This would have been a nice wine to have on the beach. Since this was their only white wine available, we turned quickly to their reds. The Chambourcin was a nice dry, medium bodied wine with cherry and plum flavors; whereas the Merlot had a similar plum flavor but a more pronounced nose and spicy finish. The next two blends were very good and completely different. The Boathouse Red Blend, a blend of Chambourcin, Merlot and Syrah, is dry and complex – full of berry flavors. Although the Grand Ole Osprey Red Table Wine contains the same grapes as the Boathouse Red Blend, plus the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is made semi-dry and is more fruit forward. This wine can also be served chilled and is another nice beach drinking wine. Also made semi-dry and slightly sweeter is their Carlos Muscadine, one of the nicest versions of this style that we have tasted. It has the grapey flavor characteristic to the muscadine and is not overly sweet. For those with a sweet tooth, their two fruit offerings are worth a taste. Made from pure juice from New York State, the Blackberry and Raspberry wines taste exactly like the fruit, just a little more potent. They are not gritty – just rich.
We will certainly return to Knotts Island on our next trip to the Outer Banks; Moonrise Bay Vineyard was a great find – both in the quality of their wines and in the ambiance of their tasting room. For those interested in good live music, the winery is hosting folk-rock artist An Evening with Jesse Chong on July 18th. They also host a few other events as well, so check their WineCompass listing for more details. And if you can’t detour to the island, several retail outlets on the Outer Banks carry their wines; see our Wine & Beer on the Outer Banks posting.