California wines have long dominated the industry, garnering the majority of acclaim, popularity and market share. The widespread opinion about East Coast wines is that they are far too sweet, unsophisticated and simple. But it appears that the rampant misconception may be changing as East Coast wineries are popping up all over the place at unprecedented rates.
People with a bias towards West Coast wines should consider that, until the 1970s, most winemakers in California were viewed by their French counterparts as lowly farmers making inferior table wines, even though in many blind taste tests, the California wines were preferred above the French.
As wines produced on the East Coast in states like Virginia, New York and North Carolina keep racking up awards, the same stereotype that once plagued California winemakers seems to be losing its grip on East Coast wines.
In an ironic twist, the California based newspaper the Los Angeles Times published an article touting the greatness of New York Riesling, claiming it to be the best in the country. These types of stories are not as few and far between as they once were, as many noted wine critics from Wine Spectator, The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Food + Wine and Bon Appétit have all written glowing articles citing the East Coast as a major winemaking region with some of the best appellations. Currently there are well over 350 wineries between Maine and Virginia alone, with new ones seemingly popping up every day.
One major distinction between the East and West Coasts is the way each conducts business. East Coast wineries focus more on selling directly to the consumer rather than retailers, meaning there are always wine festivals, jazz and blues wine events, art and wine gatherings and, not to mention, the individual winery tastings happening every weekend.
For wine enthusiasts looking to visit some great East Coast wineries, check out the following:
Duplin County Winery
The Duplin County Winery is located in Rose Hill, NC, and features a winemaking museum, retail shop, two tasting bars and an onsite dinner theater venue. Duplin currently produces approximately 1.5 million gallons of wine from select grapes hand-picked across four states. The wine is gaining a national presence and has captured two prestigious wine awards three years running (2009-2011): Impact Hot Brand Award and the Fast Track Brand Award.
Duplin offers a wide variety of wines, including traditional reds, whites and champagne selections. Their most popular wines are:
Burgundy: This selection is the driest of their red wines. Burgundy is made from the Noble grape and can be described as full-bodied, dry and velvety with a clean finish.
Hatteras Red: This wine is a traditional Muscadine red with an intense and sweet taste. Hatteras Red is one of the best selling wines in North Carolina on a consistent basis. The Duplin County Hatteras Red has won over 20 industry awards.
Not only do the good folks at Duplin County Winery make great wine, they specialize in entertainment. Throughout the year they offer a dinner theater where guests are treated to Duplin wines, a multi-course dinner and an entertaining show.
Near the winery is the private, gated, residential golf community of River Landing, located on the banks of the Cape Fear River in Wallace, NC. The residential community features over 1,700 acres of great retirement living and is equipped with its own vineyard. This year, all of its grapes are headed for the Duplin County Winery. In 2010, River Landing opened “The Vineyards Wine Shoppe” with over 350 types of wine and over 100 craft beers from across the country.
This planned community has also been recognized as a premier retirement destination and won several awards and distinctions by leading retirement publications.
Some of the amenities at River Landing include:
• 36 holes of championship golf
• State-of-the-art fitness center
• The River Lodge
• Several miles of walking and biking trails
People who are considering making River Landing home can book the “Southern Hospitality Getaway,” which includes a VIP tour of the neighborhoods, amenity centers, privileges at all the facilities, a gift certificate at the clubhouse restaurant and an intimate tour of the Duplin County Winery and Vineyard.
New Kent Winery
New Kent Winery is located in New Kent, VA, and recently opened its doors in 2008 after eight years of extensive planning, building and planting. While the vines were maturing to proper age, the founders planned a 17,000-square-foot winery.
The winery itself, designed by Williamsburg architect John Hopke, has been modeled to reflect an earlier time when winemaking was common in the New Kent region. The winery is built from materials reclaimed from buildings and structures well over a century old. Beautiful, old heart-pine trusses were reclaimed from a 1901 Southern Railroad Depot that was located in the Shockoe Bottom area of Richmond, VA. The Heart Pine structural timbers and floor timbers were recovered from an old Connecticut warehouse that was constructed in 1852. The stunning exterior facade of the winery was achieved using handmade, pre-Civil War bricks merged with siding and roof shingles, which were milled from Cypress logs that had been submerged in North Florida Rivers for over 100 years. Reprocessed copper bedecks the porch roofs, and the brick is re-claimed from old tobacco warehouses in Richmond dating back to the early 1800s, making this one of the “greenest” Wineries on the East Coast.
New Kent’s tasting bar and room is the centerpiece of the winery. The tasting room is the perfect complement to the state-of-the-art wine production facility and offers guests expansive indoor and outdoor views of the vineyards and nearby polo fields.
The winery is a hub of activity all year long and features cooking classes, wine tours and live music.
The vineyards include a variety of vines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and White Norton. Some of their most popular wines include:
Chardonnay: New Kent Chardonnay is lightly aged in oak for nearly a year, giving it a fruit forward blend. This balanced yet lively wine goes great with shellfish, salads, chicken, fruit and cheese.
Merlot: This Virginia Merlot features hand selected fruit that is crushed and allowed to warm during fermentation, giving it intense color and flavor. New Kent’s Merlot compliments tomato based pasta dishes and red meats extremely well.
Located adjacent to the winery is Viniterra, one of the area’s premier active adult communities, perfect for baby boomers with a penchant for wine, golf and the good life.
Viniterra features upscale, estate sized-homes that are surrounded by the natural beauty of Virginia. Along with New Kent Winery, Viniterra offers the following amenities to its residents:
• Private 18-hole championship golf course
• Aquatic and fitness center
• Tennis courts
• Equestrian center (future project)
• Walking/biking trails