An Alluring Local Nebbiolo
Originally published in The Heart of Hillsborough, September 2017
One of Hillsborough’s best kept secrets is our proximity to the Haw River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). While you may know of our state’s tradition of crafting native wines, many of North Carolina’s 186 wineries also specialize in European styles. Grove Winery and Vineyards located in nearby Gibsonville is one example, producing my personal favorite, Nebbiolo. With September being North Carolina Wine Month, I thought the best way to celebrate would be to pay owner Max Lloyd a visit to taste Grove’s Nebbiolo for myself.
Many know Nebbiolo by its other name, Barolo. Introduced in the United States during the 1970s, it became popular as an alternative to Chianti. This caught the attention of American winemakers who realized the robust grape could be cultivated in their vineyards. While regions like California’s Sonoma receive accolades for Nebbiolo, North Carolina is starting to earn acclaim. Recently, the 2013 Grove Estate Nebbiolo was awarded 88 points by world renowned wine critic James Suckling who noted the wine’s “maturity” and “power.”
As I drove up to Grove to meet Max, the shade trees surrounding the vineyard were a constant companion, reminding me that they had witnessed a century of farming before the first vines were planted in 2002. The soil that once nurtured tobacco and other crops now provided for the grapes soaking up the warm afternoon sun. Standing in the vineyard gave me an immediate sense of history and place, and I looked forward to experiencing the terroir of the landscape and how it was reflected in the wine.
“I am really happy with the terroir of this farm,” Max said, as he poured the wine. “The soil here is not that red clay that you see in most of North Carolina.”
From the glass, a bouquet of fresh summer herbs rose from the pale red wine giving a light, delicate impression, reminding me of the airy grasses growing between the vines outside. I tasted, expecting that familiar tartness that usually accompanies Nebbiolo, but instead found a softer acidity. Like black tea creating a quick-drying sensation on the palate, the wine’s tannins revealed themselves; the taste had a pleasantly bold introduction for what was to come.
“One thing I taste from this field a lot is dark berry flavors,” Max remarked. “You can taste the sunlight and you can taste the dirt.”
Indeed, he was right. The landscape of the vineyard was present: long warm summer days giving way to mellow acidity and dark berry fruit, and hints of tobacco and earth captured from the sandy brown soil. All of these flavors mingled, giving way to a finish of vanilla and oak making for an exciting experience.
As summer closes, the 2013 Grove Estate Nebbiolo (priced at $27.00 and available at GroveWinery.com) will compliment grilled meats that are on the menu for Labor Day. Yet, a trip to explore the vineyard or take in a concert under the pavilion may just be the best way to experience this remarkable wine!