Shadow Springs Vineyard, North Carolina

Shadow Springs Vineyard, North Carolina
After driving 90 minutes through North Carolina our bus turns onto a gravel road through a vineyard. A man flags us down and tells the driver a different route – if we continue on this road we’re likely to end up in a lake. It’s happened before when vehicles have lost control on the steep slope and right-angle bend at Shadow Springs Vineyard.

I’m with a small group of wine aficionados attending the American Wine Society National Conference in Charlotte-Concord, North Carolina.

Our hosts at Shadow Springs are Chuck and Jamey Johnson who bought this old tobacco farm near Hamptonville, NC in January 2005. They excavated the lake in front of their tasting room and planted vines, starting with two acres each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Then came one and a half acres each of Chardonnay, Viognier and Seyval blanc, one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon, and half acres of Petit Verdot and Chambourcin.

They now grow vines on 10.5 acres of the 47 acre farm. Vines are trained on the open lyre system, where wires are supported by wide U shaped supports on poles. “Lyre trellising is one and a half times more productive,” says Chuck. But deer are a problem. Chuck applies lead treatment. "We shoot them, and donate the venison to needy families," he says.

The stone built tasting room is on a steep slope and one enters from the carpark onto the polished wood of the upper floor which is light and airy with floor to ceiling windows and balcony overlooking lake and vineyards and a long pale Maplewood counter to taste at. Downstairs opens onto the lake side and has a tasting counter and tables for private groups, or overspill at busy times.

We tasted

Cabernet Franc 2011 $18. “This is 100% Estate grown fruit,” says Chuck, “aged one and a half years in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels.”
The wine is a pale red, soft and spicy with good balance and a medium finish. Good.

Meritage 2010 13.5abv $24
A blend of Cabernets Franc(28%) & auvignon (24%), Merlot and Petit Verdot, aged two years in barrels. This wine is ready, soft to the palate and very drinkable. Good

Petit Verdot 2012 13%abv $32
Aged two years in Minnesota oak (Chuck comes from that State) barrels with French oak heads. Released two weeks previously this was a dusty dull red and dissapointingly I didn’t get much flavour from it.

Dark Shadow $18
It’s a red blend that is flavoured with real dark chocolate. The grapes are the same as in the Meritage plus a little Seyval blanc used to lighten it. It smells strongly of chocolate and I think it tastes horrible, but I’m in a minority since visitors to Shadow Springs buy 3,000 cases of it every year.

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

Disclosure: Peter F May paid in full for all his travel, tastings and wines.

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