This past weekend my friend and I decided to take a day trip. I live in Charlotte and she’s in Raleigh so we looked at a map to find a place to meet up instead of one of us making a three-hour drive. We both love wine and we stumbled upon Raffaldini Vineyards which is in Rhonda, North Carolina.  It was about an hour and a half from where I am in South Charlotte most of it straight up 77. Once you exit the interstate it’s about a 15-minute drive and there are a few other wineries in the general vicinity.

Raffaldini Vineyards

From the moment I turned on to the property, I was pleasantly surprised. The venue is absolutely gorgeous (they do host weddings here and I may add this to my dream venue list). You forget you’re in North Carolina as the building looks straight out of Tuscany. The parking lot is a little up a hill so they have created a paved path with lots of landscaping and water features to give visitors a serene walk to the main building/tasting room. Once inside we let the hostess know we had a tasting reservation. They do take walk-ins but there was a bit of a wait. Or you can skip the tasting and just purchase a glass, flight, or bottle. We had a few minutes before our time so we went upstairs to take in the view from the second story of the building.

Then it was time for our tasting to begin. Unlike many of the others I have participated in, this one began with a quick tour. Our guide was Olivia and she was fantastic. She gave us an overview of the Raffaldini family who owns the property. The husband and wife both have ancestry from Italy and have other day jobs. A trip to Italy’s wine country led them to start this passion project. They decided on the east coast and after looking at many locations they settled on this area of North Carolina. The goal was to craft authentic Italian wines. We got to walk down to some of the actual vineyards and even saw grapes growing on the vines. If you’re interested in seeing those they start to show in May and are usually harvested in September so it’s a short window of time.

The Tasting

Then it was time to head inside for the tasting! Our tasting cost $30 which is a little pricier than others I have participated in. I will say the quantity of what you got far exceeded my past wine tasting experiences. There were seven wines on the tasting menu but we also were able to sample two others as well. The pours were generous, larger than the standard one ounce. We sampled two whites, a rose, and six reds. Olivia was sure to tell us about the grapes and how each wine came to be as well as more of the history of Raffaldini Vineyards. She was also just fun to talk to and didn’t rush us in the slightest.

The Wine

Now the real question I’m sure you have! The wine. How was it? I am not typically impressed with a lot of North Carolina wine. The sweet, flavored, muscadine wine is not my cup of tea. And this was far from it. They have taken every step to make as authentic Italian wine as they can in this part of the world and they have succeeded. The wine was dry but most were smooth and of much higher quality than I had expected.

We ended up buying a bottle of the rose -Rosato in Italian- to enjoy there. We also brought a picnic lunch of cheese and charcuterie. If you brought your own food then there are picnic tables overlooking the vineyards where you can eat your food. The tables in the tasting room building are reserved for those who purchase from an on-site food truck or from the snack options available to purchase inside.

I also purchased an additional two bottles to take home with me. Overall it was a wonderful experience and I’d love to visit again. Enjoy this gallery of some photos I took below as well as a breakdown of the wines we tasted. Know of another North Carolina winery I should check out? Let me know on social media!

  • Raffaldini Vineyards Wines

    Our tasting included seven standard wines to taste, one limited edition that was released that day, and our host let us try one additional wine which she described as their flagship wine.

  • 2021 Vermentino Superiore

    This was the lightest of the whites. It was dry but light and refreshing.

    Winery Description: Our largest white planting this is our signature grape which we make in two distinctly different styles (the other being Desaria). Our Vermentino is made similar to the wine commonly found in the Italian island of Sardinia with its beautiful minerality and saline features which reminds drinkers of Mediterranean summers. Vermentino grows effortlessly on our property and when it arrives at the winery there is little winemaker intervention that takes place. It is simply a lovely wine that thrives here.

    Cost Per Bottle: $28

    Alcohol: 13%

  • 2021 Desaria

    Also a white wine this one had a richer flavor but was incredibly smooth. While distinctly not a Chardonnay it did remind me slightly of one with an oaky but also slightly fruity flavor.

    Winery Description: Our Desaria uses the Vermentino grape but unlike the minimal intervention of the other way we make Vermentino this wine is the opposite in every way. Some of the Vermentino fruit is placed through the Appassimento drying process, some are aged in oak and some are fermented in big oak bottis. This style of big whites was much more common during a period in history that predates the Roman Empire and was frequently championed by the Etruscans.

    Cost Per Bottle: $31

    Alcohol: 14.3%

  • 2021 Girasole

    Now we move to the rose which was my favorite of the wines I tried. It was refreshing but still with a bold flavor compared to some other rose wines.

    Winery Description: Raffaldini rose uses the Brunello clone of our Sangiovese grape to create wines with firm acidity while retaining some of our famous tannins. We modeled our Girasole to be more Italian rather than French in style along the lines of the roses that are consumed widely in the southern part of Italy during the hot summer months. We make this wine to pair with a wide array of food rather than as a back porch sipper and accordingly it is bone dry.

    Cost Per Bottle: $22

    Alcohol: 13%

     

     

  • 2020 Sangiovese Classico

    The lightest of the reds this wine was easy to drink and reminded me a little of a pinot noir.

    Winery Description: Sangiovese is the grape used to make Chianti and is notoriously difficult to grapes in climates that are not arid. Taking care of this grape is a labor of love and our plantings (lead by a clone called Vino Nobile) produces sensual and soft wines with beautiful aromatics and balance. We also put some of these grapes through the Appassimento drying process to further concentrate their structure. Finally we use another Italian technique called Ripasso which utilizes grape skins that have been dried for other wines and “repass” the fresh wine over the skins to further deepen the wine.

    Cost Per Bottle: $32

    Alcohol: 14.3%

  • 2020 Bella Misto

    I bought a bottle of this one which was a fantastic red blend.

    Winery Description: Bella Misto, roughly translates from the Italians as Beautiful Mix. Our proprietary blend of estate red varietals. Each year we carefully craft a high-quality, consistent wine that highlights the unique character and soils of our vineyard, balancing the best attributes of our red grapes to create a whole greater that the sum of its parts. As attendees of our Assemblaggio events know, blending grapes tend to produce a more balanced wine and this is no exception.

    Cost Per Bottle: $21

    Alcohol: 13.2%

  • 2020 Montepulciano Riserva

    Another red, this one heavier tasting slightly like a Merlot.

    Winery Description: Our largest planting on the property this grapes hails from the Province of Abruzzo which lies east of Rome. The Montepulciano grape tends to make wine that are most similar in profile to Merlot – juicy with ripe and rich fruit framed by lively acidity and soft tannins. Tending to prefer a more complex style made near the city of Chieti, we also put some of these grapes through the Appassimento drying process while also co fermenting these grapes with some Sagrantino and Petit Verdot.

    Cost Per Bottle: $37

    Alcohol: 14.2%

  • 2020 Sagrantino

    The heaviest wine of the options if you love full-bodied wines this one is for you.

    Winery Description: Sagrantino is one of the rarest grapes in the world with almost 95% of the 2000 acres planted being located in the Province of Umbria and around the town of Montefalco, Sagrantino flourishes on our property and when the grapes arrive to the winery they are brimming with mouth drying tannins. We further accentuate the bigness of the wine by also utilizing the Appassimento drying process to create a savory, drying and earthy full bodied wine in the traditional Umbrian style. This wine is not for the faint of heart.

    Cost Per Bottle: $39

    Alcohol: 14.5%

  • RaRa

    This wine came out the day we were there it is a collaboration with JoLo Winery. It’s a very limited edition and is expected to sell out soon.

    Winery Description: This Fourth vintage of a special project between friends and winemakers JW Ray of Jolo Winery and Jay Raffaldini of Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery. This special wine is limited to 48 case production and only available at Raffaldini while supplies last. This wine features the hearty Montepulciano grape grown at Raffaldini Vineyards skillfully blended with Norton grape from JOLO, a spectacularly fruit-forward and smooth component to the wine.

    Cost Per Bottle: $45

    Alcohol: 13%

  • 2019 Grande Riserva

    This one is the signature wine of Raffaldini Vineyards and it lived up to expectations. The smooth rich flavor was delightful.

    Winery Description: The flight of the Bumble Bee defies physics- their wings are too small and don’t flap fast enough to support their weight. Yet somehow, through the sheer force of their will and determination, they fly. Given the nearly impossible climate conditions we have here, we should not make a wine this wonderful, yet we do. Raffaldini Grande Riserva our Flagship is our Bumble Bee wine. Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, and Sagrantino grapes, harvested at optimal ripeness are triple-sorted and then dried heavily using the Appassimento drying process to further concentrate the grapes natural flavors and aromas.

    Cost Per Bottle: $65

    Alcohol: 15.1%