RayLen Vineyards and Winery, North Carolina

RayLen Vineyards and Winery, North Carolina
RayLen Vineyards and Winery takes its name from combining names of the owner’s daughters Rachel and Helen.

I visited their spacious tasting room in Mocksville, North Carolina, with a small group of attendees to the American Wine Society’s National Conference held in Concord, North Carolina.

We were met by Steve Sheppard, the manager and winemaker, who told us that the first plantings, in what had been a dairy farm, were in 1999. They now grow ten different varieties on 32 acres.

The whites are Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Vidal Blanc and reds are the Bordeaux varieties: Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. They also have some Syrah which didn’t perform well and is being pulled up. Raylen use about 80% of their grapes and sell and trade the rest.

Steve Sheppard poured the following

Pinot Grigio 2013 12.5%abv $13
Light and fairly neutral.

SMV Chardonnay 2013
SMV here stands for South Mountain Vineyard. This was a rich and creamy Chardonnay, full bodied with a twist of green apple and a crisp finish. Lovely stuff.

Raylen’s forte are their reds, as Steve says: “red wine is what we do best.”

Corolinius NV 15%abv
This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Syrah from vines too young to produce a good varietal wine, and from the 2011 and 2012 vintages. I found it light bodied with an odd finish.

Cabernet Franc 2013 $15
This varietal includes 10% Petit Verdot and it’s smoky with sour cherry flavours and tastes a touch earthy.

Category 5 2012 $19
Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot plus a little Syrah. This is very attractive with soft ripe rounded fruit flavours. Very good and I buy a bottle to take home.

Eagle Select 2011
A blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) with Merlot (20%) and Petit Verdot (10%).
This is gorgeous, lovely ripe fruit flavours and a delicious spiciness. Very good, and another bottle that came home with me.

RayLen Vineyards and Winery demonstrate the Bordeaux varieties can do well in the tricky growing conditions of North Carolina.

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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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