Maybe it’s the Italian bloodlines or maybe it’s having spent three years working three years in the sports department of The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.
But one winery that has become almost an annual destination for me is Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery in Ronda, which is 75 miles north of Charlotte and 45 minutes west of Winston-Salem and located in the Yadkin Valley AVA.
Begin with the tasting room that looks like it was plucked right out of Tuscany, to the captivating views of the vines and surrounding hills, to the dry Italian wines that include Vermentino (a white vinifera), Sagrantino (a red vinifera) and Arguri (a sparkling Prosecco-style wine made primarily from Trebbiano grapes with a bit of Vermentino and sometimes Sangiovese tossed in).
Winemaker Chris Nelson was part of a group that just returned from Italy, a trip that featured stops in Florence, Lugano (Switzerland) and then 10 days in Piedmonte. That included visits to some excellent and historic wineries in Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti and Alba.
He wasn’t back a full week before releasing a dry white wine made from the Fiano grape, one that has its roots in southern Italy. Nelson said this is the second year that Raffaldini have made a Fiano sourced from their neighbor’s vineyard, Sotrio Vineyards. “Bill and Teresa Piastuch will be opening their own tasting room in early 2024.” he said, moving on to the production sequence. “The grapes were picked on September 20th at 19.6 brix and whole-clustered pressed to a settling tank. Then transferred after settling 24 hours to two neutral white barrels. Fermentation at 58-60F in our barrel room for about 20 days. The wine went through MLF on its own, yet retains very nice acidity. The wine was left to age on its lees but with no stirring.”
It was bottled in early June and released July 23. About half of the production – 48 cases – was sold upon release, he said.
It is unusual to find a Fiano wine produced on the East Coast.
Raffaldini doesn’t hold many few events throughout the calendar year, but several major ones are coming up. Those include:
- Wine tasting dinners, one for each season, hosted by owner Jay Raffaldini. Each dinner features four seasonal food courses and four specially chosen wines to complement the food. The next one is set for Aug. 20.
- The fifth vintage of a collaboration between Raffaldini and JOLO, two of the top producers of dry wines in the state. The red wine blend is called RARA, and the release party on Aug. 20 will feature both owners at both sessions – one at each winery – discussing their creation as well as signing bottles.
- Finally, the 17th annual Festa Italiana, on Sept. 17-18, featuring food vendors, musicians, artists, and craftsmen from across the region. Pre-purchased tickets are $20 per person and include parking, admission to the festival, commemorative Festa Italiana wine glass and a glass of wine. Buy the tickets that weekend and they are $25 apiece.
Read more on Raffaldini’s list of events at this link