Day Trip: Exploring the Wineries in Lexington, N.C.
When you think of Lexington, North Carolina, one typically thinks barbecue. After all, the city has been coined the “BBQ Capital of the World.” But wine? North Carolina has been growing its wine industry for years now with approximately 144 wineries currently in the state according to www.ncwine.org, so why wouldn’t Lexington also be home to four wineries?
As many of our readers know by now, one of our favorite pastimes is to visit the wineries North Carolina has to offer. We’ve been to quite a few so far, and with the help of the new winery app, Winery Passport, we have now been to 58 wineries within the state (Editor’s note: This article was published in 2016, Triangle Around Town has now been to 88 wineries). This, of course, does not count our multiple visits to our favorites! Looks like we have our work cut out for us if we ever want to visit all this state offers.
This past weekend we decided to head to Lexington – but not for the barbecue – but for the wine. Lexington is home to Childress Vineyards, the largest commercial winery in the area, as well as Native Vines, Junius Lindsay and Weathervane – which are all boutique wineries.
Our first stop on our journey was to Childress Vineyards.
1000 Childress Vineyard Rd., Lexington, NC 27295
Tasting room hours of operation: Monday - Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Tours available: Daily
Tastings available: Daily
Childress offers two tasting options – Cellar Select Tasting for $12 and Barrel Select Tasting for $15. The Cellar Select is primarily off-dry and the Barrel Select features dry and full-bodied wines. Both include a souvenir tasting glass.
Prices range from $9.99 - $59.99 per bottle
Varietals include: Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah. Also available are sweet muscadine, dessert and sparkling wines.
Opening its doors in 2004, Childress winery is the brainchild of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress. The vineyard sits on 72-acres and 11 varieties of vinifera grapes on two sites.
Childress was our first stop on this hot August day. We first visited Childress back in July of 2009. We were in awe the first time we visited and remained in awe 7 years later. Driving through the gates of this winery, you forget you are in Lexington and take in the beautiful scenery with rows upon rows of grapevines. Walking through the front doors, the inside is gorgeously decorated. The tasting and gift shop to your left and the Bistro restaurant in the back.
Saturdays the winery offers tours on the hour starting at noon until 4 p.m. When we arrived it was right at 1 p.m. and very busy with visitors awaiting their turn to tour the grounds and the inner workings of the winery. Having done this tour the last time we were here, we opted out this time around. However, if you are a first-timer, we highly recommend it.
2009 Tour of Childress Winery
When we go to wineries we enjoy taking our time, talking about the wine being poured, and, if we're lucky, meeting the winemakers. However, with these larger, commercial wineries, such as this, we unfortunately lose that personal touch we so enjoy. But there is no denying Childress turns out a great product.
After being directed to the front of the tasting room to purchase a ticket for the tasting, we decided to share the Barrel Select tasting for $15 which features dry and full-bodied wines. In total we tried 8 different wines from 4 varietals, 2 reserve, 1 signature and 1 dessert. The wines got better with each new pour.
Following our tasting we walked the grounds a bit and came upon the Pavilion with live music and a full house of patrons enjoying lunch with a glass of wine. Knowing we could easily spend countless hours here and that we still had three more wineries to visit, we headed back to the car and were on our way to Native Vines Winery.
Native Vines Winery
1336 North NC Highway 150
Tasting room hours of operation: Tuesday - Friday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Tastings available: Daily
$10 for 7 samples, includes souvenir tasting glass
Offers up to 14 Estate Bottled wines
Prices range from $13.95 - $19.95 per bottle
Varietals include: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Red Zinfandel, sweet wines and specialty wines, including a Green Tea and Raspberry Tea wine
While doing research we came across Native Vines Winery and learned it is the first American Indian-owned winery in the U.S. producing wines since 1998. Owner and wine maker Darlene Gabbard is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The winery sits on 36-acres and produces not only vinifera style wines but also sweet wines for those who prefer the sweeter side. Lately, our palates prefer the dry, bold wines. Fortunately, our hobby of wine tasting encourages us to always try everything at least once and always something new.
Similar to some other small wineries we’ve visited in the state, Native Vines is unassuming as you approach. In fact, we almost missed our turn! Night and day coming from the expansive Childress. We traversed down a dirt road and at the end, a house to the right, a tasting room to the left and grapevines straight ahead. From the beautiful, clear blue skies we were treated to at Childress, the sky decided to open up on us and began raining shortly before we arrived here. Umbrellas in hand, we headed up the stone pathway to the tasting room. Reading the website we learned that the winery’s tasting room is actually the Old Tack room of a 5,000-square-foot stable.
As is common whenever we visit the wineries, we come across at least one group enjoying a birthday or bachelorette weekend and today was no different. The tasting room was filled but after being greeted by Belle, a resident dog, I was more than happy to wait while visiting with my new friend. As this group finished up, we were ready for our tasting.
We both did our own tasting and were able to choose from 7 wines. We both steered more towards the reds, but I also tried the Pinot Grigio. All the wines were good and I try not to blog on our thoughts about the product due to everyone’s palates being unique, but rather on our experience. Earlier, I mentioned we enjoy taking our time and talking about the wines and hopefully with the winemaker and that is exactly the experience we had.
Now, for that Green Tea and Raspberry Tea wine mentioned above. This was all new to me, perhaps because Native Vines is the only one producing such a product. Made from green tea and not from any grapes, this wine resides at 12% ABV. And we were told the wine still encompasses all the health benefits of green tea. I was sold. Afterall, these small boutique wineries have the means to be creative with a product you may never find anywhere else. As soon as Darlene mentioned that there is a recipe on their website for a mojito made with the Green Tea wine, I knew we had to buy a bottle. Look for our upcoming blog when we try this concoction with a Mexican themed dinner! We also tried the Raspberry Tea, but found that one a little too sweet for our tastes.
Related Story: In The Kitchen: Chicken Enchiladas & Green Tea Wine Cocktail
Would I recommend this winery, absolutely. But remember, you will not find a big, expansive establishment such as Childress, Biltmore or Shelton. But you will find a small, boutique, friendly-style winery.
Upon completion of our tasting and purchases, we ventured off to Junius Lindsay for stop for our third stop.
Junius Lindsay Vineyard
385 Dr. Zimmerman Road
Tasting room hours of operation: Thursday - Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Tours available: No
Tastings available: $7 for a regular tasting of 6 wines or $12 for a Riedel tasting of 8 wines, both include souvenir glass
Varietals include: Viognier, Rose’, Syrah, Petite Syrah, blends
Our next stop was Junius Lindsay Vineyards, about 10 minutes up the road. The land that is Junius Lindsay was once the old Zimmerman farm transformed into a vineyard (which would explain the rows and rows of corn to the right of the tasting room). The first 2-acres were planted in 2004 which quickly turned to 9-acres two years later. You will not find sweet wines here, but primarily those born from the vinifera grape such as Viognier, Syrah and Petite Syrah. They specialize in Old World French-style wines with all varieties native to the Rhone Valley in Southern France. Right up our alley.
When we first arrived, and driving up, the parking lot looked full for this small tasting room, but alas, we found parking out back and so glad we did. Junius Lindsay is one the few North Carolina wineries with an outdoor “open air tasting room," which also includes Medaloni Cellars in Lewisville. The tastings included the Second Leaf Viognier-Roussanne 2013, 2014 Roussanne Cellar Select, Forget-Me-Not White 2012, 2014 Grenache, 2013 Petite Sirah Estate Bottled and 2013 Triomphe.
With this tasting room being primarily outdoors, covered of course, we were very thankful for the breeze and the fans. Following the tasting, and as the afternoon live music began, we decided to settle in with a glass of the 2013 Petit Sirah to relax and take it all in; the scenery, the music and of course the wine. As we sat observing our surroundings, we couldn’t help but notice staff members “escaping” through a door, down some steps and within minutes re-emerging with wine. After inquiring, they were kind enough to give us a tour of the “cellar” (i.e. where the inventory lives). As the afternoon waned on and we still had one more winery to visit, we decided to purchase a bottle of Petit Sirah and continue on our way.
We will be back Junius Lindsay! Great wines, hospitality and overall experience.
1452 Welcome Arcadia Road
Tasting room hours of operation: Tuesday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Friday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Tastings available: $7.50 for 7 wines, includes souvenir glass
Varietals include: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot, Chambourcin, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah
Our last winery stop of the day was Weathervane Winery located just minutes from Junius Lindsay. A piece of advice … it's literally a hop, skip and a jump away, so don’t miss your turn, like we did!
They offer both a dry and sweet tasting option. Being the end of a long day, we decided to share the dry tasting. Wines with names such as Ionosphere, Nor'easter, Stratosphere and Temperature Rising, definitely fit in with the theme of the wineries name – Weathervane. We quickly traversed our way through the tasting and proceeded to peruse the gift shop before we needed to get back on the road to Raleigh.