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Carolina Wine 

A guide to the state's fledging wineries

Perhaps in 2025, we will all look back on the fledging North Carolina wine industry in the early 2000s and wish we knew now what we will know then. But for now, the wine industry in our state has annual sales of $25 million and ranks 10th nationally in wine production.A Guide to North Carolina Wineries is not a comprehensive winery/wine guide or critique of the type many wine lovers have come to appreciate when written by an astute wine critic about a wine region. Rather, authors Mills and Tarmey, who once worked in the tasting room of North Carolina's Westbend Vineyards, write in the preface that, "we provide information about the North Carolina wine industry. We do not, however, evaluate, compare, or comment on wine." Thus, this guide is a collection of hours of operation, personal histories of the winery owners, histories of the wineries, lists of wines bottled by the wineries, a few recipes, and food pairings. The authors write about 22 wineries, and they note that three more opened after the completion of the book.

North Carolina had the first wine industry in the American colonies, so the current industry is a rebirth of sorts. The North Carolina wine industry took an economic hit during the Civil War, but later was incapacitated by alcohol intolerance. By 1950 North Carolina had no wineries. The authors note that in the early 1970s Jack Kroustalis of Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville planted grape varietals against the advice of agricultural authorities. By the mid-1980s he was selling most of his 70-ton grape harvest to Chateau Morrisette in Virginia. In 1990, he had his first vintages of chardonnay and chambourcin.

This non-judgmental "guide" is somewhat understandable as North Carolina develops appellations and as grape growers figure out which grapes grow best where in order to make the best wine. But the guide leaves the wine devotee without true insight into what is going on in North Carolina fields. How many acres are devoted to which varietals? Who is replanting and with what?

Great wines are distinctive, and they carry the memory of the soil in which they are grown. I would rather know about the soil, the yeast, and the barrel in which the wine is aged than whether the winery owner is also a commercial pilot. At this stage of the game, dazzle me with agri-science and let the folksy histories come after we are all stunned that a commercial pilot made such an outstanding wine from Tar Heel grapes.

The Wine List

American Wine Society Cooking demonstration and wine pairing with guest chef, Mitch Mayhew. Held at Piedmont Natural Gas Building, 4301 Yancy Rd. Thu., April 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m. $15 members and first guest, $20 non-members. 704-344-8027.

Carolina Wine Club Apr. 15- Italy: Wines of Chianti and Piedmont; Apr. 22- Sake: Sparkling Ciders and Fruit Wines; Apr. 29- Summer Wines, Sparklers and Spritzers. Held at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design. Tuesdays, 6:30-8 p.m. $30 per class; $100 series of any four. 704-344-8027.

Chardonnay Around the World Taste chardonnays from several areas and learn the difference between each country's wines. Located 3 miles south of Ballantyne. Wed., April 9, 7-8:30 p.m. $20. Southern Spirits, Hwy 521. 803-548-8888.

Easter Wines Kimberly Sanford of the Fine Wine Trading Company will help you decide what wines to serve with your Easter meal. Tue., April 15, 6:30-8 p.m. $20. Arthur's Restaurant & Wine Shops, 4400 Sharon Rd. 704-366-8610.

Four for Friday Four premium wines are featured in four ways: 2 oz. sample, 5 oz. glass, by the bottle or in a flight. Fridays. $20. Reid's Fine Foods, 7th Street Station. 704-377-1312.

Italian Wines presented by Vino Vino at a free wine tasting. Sat., April 12, 1-5 p.m. Kee-Kee-Rikee, 219 Main St., Pineville. 704-889-5333.

Wednesday Night Flights Very informal. Three wines tasted each week. Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m. $10. Reid's Fine Foods, 7th Street Station. 704-377-1312.

Wine & Food Tastings Third Wednesday of every month, 5:30-8 p.m. Something Classic at the Villa, 715 Providence Rd. 704-347-3666.

Wine Classes Apr. 19- Pinot Grigio. Great for beginners. Every month on the first and third Saturday, 12:30-1:30pm. $15. Dean & Deluca Wine Room, 6822-G Phillips Place Ct. 704-552-5283.

Wine Dinner Featuring the Australian wines of Old Bridge Cellars. Thu., April 10, 7 p.m. $55 per person includes tax & tip. The Meeting House Restaurant, 801 Providence Rd. 704-334-6338.

Wine Tastings Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. $10. Barone's Wine Room, Birkdale Village, Huntersville. 704-987-0011.

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