Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Secret Garden & Chatham Hill Winery

This past weekend I was able to visit two very good, but completely different wineries near Raleigh, North Carolina. The first, A Secret Garden Winery, is located a few mile east of Route 95, in rural Pikesville. The winery makes organic muscadine wines, from grapes grown in their local vineyard - just across the street from where the proprietor, Linda Hall was born and raised. Along with her husband, Gerald, she has turned a family hobby into a small, but growing winery. Not only do the Hall's not use pesticides, but they do not add sulfite or yeast to the wines. Instead, the Carlos and Noble grapes are allowed to ferment naturally. The winery offers several dry to sweet wines, and my favorite was right in the middle: the semi-dry Golden Harvest made from Carlos grapes at 2.5% r.s. This wine wasn't too sweet and allowed the grapey flavor of the muscadine to flow from the nose to the tail.

I then traveled along route 70 to Raleigh in order to visit Chatham Hill Winery. This winery is one of the increasing number of urban wineries, in this case, the owners purchase grapes from various vineyards and vinify the wine in an industrial warehouse in the city's suburbs. In fact, the winery is located less than a mile from Raleigh's beltway and a steady stream of visitors attested to the accommodating location. Chatham Hill makes several styles of wines from full-bodied vinifera wines to fruit wines. The winery purchases 80% of their grapes from North Carolina vineyards, and only supplements these grapes when local sources are not available. Thus, the Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling are purchased outside the state - from California. At this tasting I tried four of their whites and liked the 2005 Chardonnay the best. The wine was aged half in steel and half in oak which produced a silky, slightly buttery wine, but one with a nice, refreshing acidity. Chatham Hill's reds were even better; the 2005 Merlot has a full cherry flavor sandwiched between a spicy nose and finish. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Zinfandel were also smooth, with strong berry aromas and smooth finishes. Finally, I tried a very interesting a refreshing fruit wine, the Sweet Carolina Pomegranate. The wine is not especially sweet, but the tart finish is very refreshing. Imaging eating cherries, then granny smith apples. I am truly jealous of the Raleigh resident's who can try and purchase excellent wines right in their backyard.

We will have more information and pictures of these trips in our Compass Tours section of

No comments: