Take a Look Around! One Can Find Quality Wines in Raleigh

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 By Dathan Kazsuk

Finding a high-quality wine in Raleigh isn’t really that difficult. Just look around. You’re bound to find something amazing at just about any wine shop in town. Yes, we all know you can easily pass through the aisles of Total Wine and find a great wine. Usually as soon as you walk in the door you can stop in front of the locked glass armoire and find that magnum-sized bottle of Dom Pérignon – but is that really you?

Here in town we have many places we go to purchase our wines to add to our collection. From downtown’s Raleigh Wine Shop to north Raleigh’s BottleMixx and the unexpected displays of valuable assortments at Taylor’s WineShop. The next town over is Wine & Beer 101 in Wake Forest. I can go on. But I wanted to mention one shop that recently hosted a high-end wine tasting, with great wines from around the world.

On December 16, 2018, Falls Village Wine & Beer, which is located off Falls of Neuse Road, hosted its first high-end wine tasting. For $25 per person, one got to sample wines from Italy, France, Oregon, California and Portugal. In all, twenty wines and ports were poured that afternoon with great discounts available to guests after the tasting was over.

Falls Village Wine & Beer's owner Jim Soffe talks about how the bottle shop got its start. Click here! 

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Tastings such as these, to me, are well worth the fee. You get to sample all the wines before you make a purchase, and it is an opportunity to try wines that are off your radar due to the steep price tag. That afternoon wines ranged from $18.99 for an Italian Pinot Grigio to $99.99 for a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

We started our trip around the world with a Grüner Veltliner from Willamette Valley’s Raptor Ridge. I’m not really a big fan of this varietal, but in a tasting such as this, I plan on running the gambit. The wine was actually decent, but I couldn’t wait to make my way back later for the Raptor Ridge 2015 Barrel Select Pinot Noir and the 2015 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir.

The first leg of our tour of white wines had 5 total stops. Including the Veltliner, we tried a 2016 Pinot Grigio Fruili from Fossa Mala, Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne NV from France and two distinct Chardonnay wines from California – the 2014 AXR Chardonnay and a 2016 Chardonnay from ZD Wines.

We were now ready for the reds, and although we were expecting some good wines, we didn’t expect them to knock our socks off as many of them did.

It’s always a treat when you get to sample a wine from Robert Biale Vineyards. And that afternoon we tried the always delightful Black Chicken Zinfandel. It’s usually hard to find a great Zin, but Bob knows how to do it right! Some other reds included a Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, a red blend from Bravante Vineyards and a Rosso Toscana from Italy’s Le Cupole.

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But there were a couple that really stood out from the rest, and they came via AXR Vineyards hailing from St. Helena and a Rosso Toscana from Podere Sapaio. Talk about amazing wines! The 2013 Cabernet was dark in color with an explosive amount of acidity and deep in tannins – very full-bodied.

The 2016 Rosso Toscana is a blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Petit Verdot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. It had a very “earthy” aroma on the nose – the type I live to drink – and a long, silky finish. The tannins and dark fruit flavors along with the nose made this my favorite wine of the tasting – and sent me back for seconds. A shout out to Matt of Bacco Selections who actually poured the rest of the bottle in my glass!

Are top-shelf wines out of your price range? Here's a list of some great canned wines that will fit in your budget – click here!

I recently talked to shop owner Jim Soffe who told me all these wines mentioned are available at his shop. The high-end tasting was “to promote the small production iniquities I have on the top shelves.” Kudos to Soffe on his part. This is a brilliant idea that more bottle shops should pay attention to and repeat. What a great way to try top shelf wines you more than likely won’t pay without trying first.

Many of these wines sampled at Falls Village Wine & Beer could find their way to your favorite bottle shop's top shelf, since they all come from local-area distributors such as Freedom Beverage, Orsini Wines, Millennium Beverage and Tryon Distributing.