Friends warned me to steer clear of Buck Shoals vineyard and skip it altogether if I could, or to at least skip the tasting, try the sangria, and call it a wash. I’d visited about a year ago and wished I could remember more from that experience, but aside from remembering that the cash register was not working at the time, I didn’t recall any huge injustices that would make me forfeit this stop.
Besides, just like with every goal, I expect to win some, to lose others. Buck Shoals still may be a winner, I just didn’t remember it well enough to say one way or another. Naturally, therefore, I had to make the visit official, despite the negative reviews I heard and likewise because I remembered so little from my own visit. What good would it be to intentionally visit almost every winery in North Carolina – except for a few simply because I’ve heard negative reviews? Yes, even my own tasting opinion is subjective, but I’m willing to give every winery a fighting chance, especially considering that so many factors can be at stake – did the vineyard have a bad weather season? Too much rain? Frost? Did they get hit with insects or disease? Were the barrels the wrong selection for the grapes? Perhaps the winemaker just had a bad year.
Only one way to find out. Despite negative foreshadowing, I remained hopeful. When our group arrived and stepped inside the tasting room, our noses were immediately assaulted with…
…the smell of freshly baked bread!
Fresh bread?! Fantastic! I turned to one friend with an eyebrow raised – could this be the enticing start to a fresh start for Buck Shoals? We had to shuffle around the tiny tasting room for a few minutes, trying to stay out of the way while two other groups finished up, but the lack of space didn’t seem to bother any of us, especially when we were sniffing the obvious prospects of an interesting bread-related twist to the tasting that we all couldn’t wait to sample.
One slight problem in the meantime: Buck Shoals was the third vineyard on our tour that day, and well, it would have been nice if those of us who needed to use the facilities could have done so. The bathroom was out of order though.
About half our group opted to pass on the tasting and go for the sangria only and the rest of us squeezed in around the tasting bar. Both the sangria and wine tasting were the same price. I pulled out my pen, looked around for a tasting sheet to take a few notes, and saw two lonely copies being dispensed among six of us. We needed to share, the woman explained, as her printer was not working.
After pouring our first wine, the woman huffed over to the rest of our group where they were waiting on the sangria, and she not so subtly mentioned there were tables and chairs outside. Awkward start -but easily fixed with a few winery-related questions to get her mind back on introducing us to what her location had to offer.
I tried my luck with a few starter questions:
Q: We were just at Laurel Gray and they had started harvesting some of their grapes, which ones have you started to harvest? A: None. (Okaaay.)
Q: We smelled bread on our way in, is something baking? A: We had pizza for lunch. (Seriously? That’s just mean.)
Q: With what foods would you drink this wine? A: You can do whatever you want! (Well, I guess, but…never mind.)
When she interrupted the tasting to turn on her sink faucet, let water sputter out for a few moments, and then shout across the room that the water still wasn’t working (0 for 3, but who’s keeping score?), I gave up asking questions and tried to just focus on the wines. I can only do so much to make conversation before I’m irritated with short, uninformed, and standoffish responses.
Of all of the nearly 10 wines (eight reds, one white, and a brandy), none of the wines stood out, with the exception of La Gloria, a Traminette brandy blend that reeked of acetone. I couldn’t even get past the smell of nail polish remover to appreciate the sweet, fruitiness I was supposed to taste. Vito’s Pride was familiar to me from last year’s visit by name only, and there was too much smoke and tobacco smells for me to appreciate it. The Honey Moon (18% alcohol) was an interesting brandy to sample, but it reminded me more of something that grandmas would serve medicinally for colds instead of something I’d want to drink just for fun.
We finished our tastings and wandered outside to join to the rest of the group on the back porch where they were still sipping their sangrias. I didn’t try any, but the silver lining is that the Sangria unanimously lived up to its reputation.
When it came time to pay, it was cash only, as the cash register was still down from last year, or it broke again, or maybe it never worked in the first place. The world may never know.
Oh, did I mention that despite the $5 tasting fee, we didn’t get to keep our glasses?
- SANGRIA! ($5 per glass…er, red plastic cup)
Other Tasting Notables:
- Buck Shoals Red – A slightly sweet, fruity, light red blend of Sangiovese and unfermented Chardonnay juice, also used to make the sangria ($10)
How does this winery compare?