2013 American Syrah, Linville Falls Winery

Near the Pisgah National Forest of Newland, North Carolina, are the Linville Falls and their namesake winery, both of which we visited on this beautiful day of our summer vacation. The state maintains well-traveled—and well-groomed—hiking trails that must bring thousands of visitors to the Falls each year; far fewer visit the winery I’m sure.

Linville Falls Winery, Newland, NC. Photo credit: J.W. Fulton

Linville Falls Winery, Newland, NC. Photo credit: J.W. Fulton

It was not just the road signs that brought us to the Winery but also this picturesque hillside. Rows of grapes stretching sunward, a pond shimmering off in this distance through the heat, and clouds so low and tumbling that you can almost pull them down from the sky. Yes, those are Christmas trees growing proudly all across the beautifully landscaped hills. The bar in the Winery tasting room was packed, and we opted neither to wait for open seats nor uncork on the festive outdoor patio (too hot) but rather grab a bottle of this American Syrah and head back to our waiting pup and the peace and quiet of our mountain cabin rental.

The hostess at the Linville Falls Winery complimented our choice and mentioned that the wine had fared well in competition at last year’s North Carolina State Fair. I missed what she said about the Syrah’s performance, but did enough research to see that over 1 million visitors hit the fair yearly, so it’s no small event. I wrestled that evening whether to open the Syrah in the spirit of our Linville Falls hike or the Aristocrat and ultimately saved this smooth, uncomplicated red for home.

2013 American Syrah, Linville Falls Winery, Newland, North Carolina, USA.

2013 American Syrah, Linville Falls Winery, Newland, North Carolina, USA.

That was a good idea, as we got to enjoy a great red on that evening and save the Syrah and the Falls memories it engendered for another night. That said, I have to think carefully about this vintage of the American Syrah. It’s notably different than other Syrah’s we’ve pulled recently; it’s smooth and uncomplicated, and has far less of the spice box or peppery accents that you often taste in a Syrah. Is it intentionally mild, or is the lack of these nuances indicative instead of a “local” winery fighting for legitimacy?

The smell of the Linville is similarly even, its color a brick red that’s somewhere between a Pinot Noir and Cabernet or Malbec. The finish of this Syrah is mild and smooth all the way down. Last night the Falls accompanied grilled steak; tonight it went with salmon accented with a slather of fresh cut peppers, capers, and jalapeno jelly. I don’t think the Syrah drew out any specific flavors with either meal but was a relaxing adult beverage nevertheless.

I’d enjoy the American Syrah again in the future, not as much for its complexities or lock-down flavor but more because of the amazing vacation trip it commemorates.

2012 Biltmore Sangiovese

Halloween Night 2014, a night for ghouls, ghosts, and Night of the Living Dead–a classic for some but a first time for me. Just like the 2012 Biltmore Sangiovese opened for the occasion. We put some great candy outside for the trick-or-treaters (honor system and faith in humanity for our house) and fired up some homemade pizzas to go with this Sangiovese.

2012 Biltmore Sangiovese North Carolina USA

2012 Biltmore Sangiovese, North Carolina, USA.

Individual pies were the order of the day; one on wheat and one on white crust. The wheat was doctored up with a spicy pizza sauce, mushrooms, green olives with jalapeno pepper centers, pepperoni, red pepper flakes, and heaping piles of mozzarella cheese. Yes, I think wheat breads deaden the taste and thus compensated with a great mix of toppings–it turned out great and I buzzed right through this pie. The white crust I simply slathered with the sauce, pepperoni, and the same piles of shredded mozz; it was a delicious dish as well.

All that talk of pizza, you say, so what of the Sangiovese? I’ll classify this one as good but not great. I had actually cracked it last night to accompany a perfectly cooked NY Strip steak, and on both occasions the meal stands out more to me than the grapes. It was fruity, it had an easy finish, and it was rich in its appearance–but those are the key takeaways. I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer. This wine was a gift from family who’d visited the breathtaking Biltmore several weeks ago while I was away on business travel, and that’s more important to me than the taste or profile of the 2012. The gesture is what lasts here.

Maybe we’ll just have to have another go at this vino closer to Christmas when we revisit Asheville?