RayLen Vineyards and Winery Double Gold Vertical Tasting…and Other Adventures in the Yadkin Valley

Highly awarded RayLen Winery

RayLen Winery

RayLen Winery released its 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon on January 16, 2015.  They hosted a Double Gold Vertical Tasting on Saturday, January 17, 2015, which I was fortunate enough to attend.  Marketing and events manager, Erin Doby, led a group of winetasters, including myself, through a tasting that included 2012 and 2013 Merlot, 2012 and 2013 Carolinius, 2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 and 2013 Category 5.



The private tasting allowed me to do a side-by-side comparison of some of RayLen’s most prestigious wines.

photo82012 and 2013 Merlot:  The 2013 Merlot, not yet released to the public for sale, was bottled 4 months ago.  This 100% Merlot has a ruby-burgundy appearance with a nose of strawberry, blackberry, and cherry.  On the beginning to mid-palate, you will enjoy a mouth-coating flavors of dark cherry, oak and smooth tannins.  The 2012 Merlot, which is less oaked than the 2013, shows a garnet appearance with slightly opaque edges.  This Merlot-Petit Verdot blend is pleasant on the beginning of the palate, but falls of slightly mid-palate.

2012 and 2013 Carolinius:  The 2012 Carolinius is actually a non-vintage wine because it also contains 2011 Petit Verdot.  This garnet colored wine with a black cherry nose can no longer be purchased at the winery, as its supply has been depleted.  You may be lucky enough to try this one if you attend a special event, such as a Double Vertical tasting.  The 2013 Carolinius is more oaked than its 2012 predecessor.  A blend of Petit Verdot presents a garnet color with a nose of dark fruit, oak, and woody notes.

photo2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon:  The 2012 Cabernet, garnet in color with a nose of earth, oak, and stewed cherries, presents strong tannins, dark smoky fruits, and a pleasingly smooth finish.  This vintage is 92% Cabernet with approximately 8% Petit Verdot.  The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is equally as pleasing, with a ruby appearance and a nose of blackberry and slight oak.  This vintage brings nice flavors of dark fruit, tobacco and oak with a nice balance of tannins.

2010 and 2013 Category 5:  The 2010 Category 5 is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 10% Syrah.  Burgundy in color with a nose of musty, dark berries and oak, this blend presents nice tannins and a pleasant finish.  The 2013 Category 5 is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 7% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot.  Ruby in color with slight oak, vanilla, and cherry on the nose, this red blend will leave you with a pleasant blend of strawberry and slight spice on the palate.  The 2013 Category 5 is the last vintage that will contain Syrah.  RayLen decided to pull the Syrah vines because they were not producing enough (only 1/2 ton per acre).


After the Vertical Tasting, I sampled a few wines in the tasting room.  RayLen offers 5 flight options, so I opted for the Reserve Flight ($10) plus a few extras.  On the flight, I sampled the Sparkling Brut, 2013 SMV (South Mountain Vineyards) Chardonnay, 2011 Eagle Select, and 2013 Petit Verdot.  The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was also on the flight, but I did not taste again.

The Sparkling Brut had a nice effervescence and mouthfeel.  A great bubbly treat with light bubbles and slight notes of citrus.  The 2013 SMV Chardonnay used grapes from South Mountain Vineyard in Morganton, NC.  This oaked Chardonnay had a slightly oaky nose, with the buttery, vanilla, slight citrus notes one would expect from a quality oaked Chardonnay.  The 2011 Eagle’s Select had a ruby red color with a nose of cedar and rose.  After 22 months in oak barrels, the Eagle’s Select was one of my favorites of the day–and with a price point of $24.99, it’s a great wine to stock up on for now and for later.  The 2013 Petit Verdot had a nose of leather and subtle oak.  This luscious wine is another great addition to any cellar.

The other various wines, which I selected from other flights, included the 2013 Barrel aged Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Franc and the 2013 Rose of Cabernet Franc. I am a sucker for a great barrel-aged Chardonnay, as long as it does not overwhelm the senses with oak and butter.  This Chardonnay was fabulous, but not offered on the regular tasting menu.  If you’re at RayLen, ask if there is one available for tasting.  You won’t regret it!  The 2013 Cabernet Franc and Rose of Cabernet Franc were equally pleasing.  The Rose, which was on the skins for 3 days, has flavors of red berries and strawberry jam.  It has a pleasant balance of fruit with slight tannins, making this Rose one for those who appreciate a great rose that is not so sweet.

Another intriguing fact about RayLen Vineyards is their use of solar power in the winery.  This is a shining example of using renewable resources in a business to reduce carbon footprint.


Carronni’s Hand Crafted Creations

In the tasting room of RayLen, I was also fortunate enough to try some delicious hand-crafted creations by the mother-daughter team from Marion, NC who make delightful hand crafted cheese wafers (imagine a cheese straw, but in wafer form), pita crackers, and dips.  I, of course, had to sample them all!  The pita crackers come in 5 varieties (Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, Perocino and Rosemary, Mediterranean Kalamata Olive, Asiago and Parmesan, and Gorgonzola & Herb,) which can be enjoyed on their own or with one of the delicious dips. All the pita crackers are made with fresh herbs and aged cheeses.  The cheese wafers come in three delicious flavors: Pecorino & Rosemary, Smoked Gouda & Cheddar, and Asiago & Parmesan.  I highly recommend any and all of the cheese wafers.  I could probably eat a whole package in one sitting!  Finally, the dips prepared by the Carronni’s included Havarti Dill with Horseradish, Sun-dried Tomato Hummus, and Smoked Gouda spread (with extra sharp cheese, Worcestershire, and Sriracha).  I brought home a container of the Smoked Gouda, but they were all amazing.  These fine ladies also cater as well.

If you’re at RayLen, I highly recommend sampling and partaking in these great treats to accompany the fine wines at RayLen.


Misty Creek Vineyards

Next on our trek, we visited Misty Creek Farm and Vineyards, also located in Mocksville.  Owner and winemaker Barry Nichols led us through their 11 wines, with a dry flight and a sweet flight.  Barry started making wine since 1969, while working for NASA.

Although I tasted all 11 wines, my favorites were:

2009 Chardonnay- This stainless-fermented Chardonnay was one of my favorites at Misty Creek. It was crisp and refreshing with citrus, apple, and tropical fruit notes.

2011 Rose- After spending 3 weeks on the skins, this rose has a beautiful color and soft tannins that make it a perfect wine for sipping or with a meal.

Chamberry- Although I am not a sweet wine lover, the Chamberry was a nice, complex wine without a cloyingly sweet taste.  With a nose of cranberry, raspberry, and raisin, this wine delivers a bold, bright taste.  Chamberry is made of 100% Chambourcin and is sweetened with 6% sugar.  This wine could be enjoyed both cold and at room temperature.  It’s so tasty, I would use it to top a fresh pound cake with berries or as a reduction for a lamb dish.


Hanover Park Vineyards

We attempted to visit Hanover Park Vineyards, however we arrived at 5:05.  Since there were several cars in the parking lot, we inquired about doing a quick tasting.  When we entered the tasting room, we were rudely greeted by the bartender and told that they were closed, despite customers still being inside.  We explained that we got lost in all the dead-end roads and un-named highways in the area and that the poor cell service deemed our navigation useless.  We met a reply of “your phone should work fine out here, mine does.”  Let’s just say we won’t be visiting there again. If you plan to go, plan to be there early!

Medaloni Cellars

Our final stop was Medaloni Cellars, where we were greeted by a beautiful sunset, customers enjoying a fire on the patio, and a very serene setting with several rustic-looking buildings and a sprawling 22 acres of land blessed with 5 acres of vines. Medaloni offers space for private events, hosts classes (such as the upcoming Riedel Glass Seminar on February 8), and even has 3 cabins available on the property for an overnight excursion.


During my tasting, I was able to sample 8 of Joey Medaloni’s wines, including Fate Chardonnay, Signature Series Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, Lot 14 White Blend, Signature Series Rose, 2012 Merlot, Carignan, and a private label Chardonnay.

The Signature Chardonnay is Medaloni’s flagship wine, aged in 100% French oak barrels, demonstrated the buttery, oaky flavors expected from an oak aged wine.  The Fate Chardonnay is a blend of stainless and oak-aged, which presents a nice marriage of the two styles.

123Other notable wines included the Lot 14, which is a blend of Kerner, Gewurztraminer, Bacchus, and Dry Riesling.  This slightly oaky blend leaves your mouth with a crisp, citrus finish that is a pleasant wine to enjoy year round.  The Carignan is a French varietal, not generally seen bottled on its own.  This wine provides a nice blend of tannins with jammy fruit flavor.

Overall, my tour of the Yadkin Valley wineries was a pleasant experience.  There were some great wines and I met some great people. I look forward to finishing the Yadkin winery trail and exploring other wineries in the area.