One doesn’t visit Raffaldini for the wines.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that the wines are terrible, it’s just that the experience of Raffaldini encompasses so much more so than the actual wines themselves. Since moving to North Carolina, Raffaldini is one of the few vineyards that I’ve visited each and every summer, but the purpose of my return visits have been less about the wine tastings and more more about introducing new visitors to the magnificent relaxation and cultural pseudo-Tuscan experience that visitors expect after watching movies like Under the Tuscan Sun.
When I first made my way up to Yadkin Valley on my maiden voyage to Raffaldini, many of the other wineries in the area did not even exist or at least were not yet on my radar. I was even more of a novice to wines than I consider myself now, but from what I remember, Raffaldini’s wines were pleasant and economical enough for me to convince me to buy a few bottles over the years.
However, the vine that kept Raffaldini planted in my mind and continually pulled me back with new friends was the stunning view that the vineyards and endless surrounding mountains offered. The vineyard sits nested in the foothills of the Yadkin valley and offers a complete 360-view of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains.
Raffaldini’s greatest burden to overcome, however, is their commercialized feel. From generic wine names (that could have been randomly selected by flipping through an Italian dictionary and picking the first word on the page) to the giant Tuscan villa (pulled straight out of the Italian Renaissance and picturesquely perched at the top of the hill as visitors approach), the view, like the overall experience, risks feeling a bit too fabricated, too manufactured.
No longer do visitors do tastings in a small, modest tasting room like they once did a few years ago. Instead, after parking, new arrivals can plan on being herded toward a winding gravel path lined with plants, stone statues, and a trickling stream to the villa – the perfect importation of Tuscan art, agriculture, and viticulture.
Pull open the great wooden doors, and maps of Italy, an Italian wine selection, a variety of Tuscan food selections, and an extensive calendar of events greet your every sense, constantly reminding you that while you may not actually be in Italy, you’re as close as you can get without actually traveling 4,000 miles to the world’s leading wine producing country. Purchase a tasting ticket and you’ll be given access to the tasting tables where hired help will guide you through the latest selections. Raffaldini offers all-inclusive afternoons with the winemaker, dinner and movie nights, seasonal wine tasting dinners, and even artist days for varying admission prices. If you’ve ever been to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Holiday in Roma dinner show, you’ll know the ‘it’s like we’re actually in Italy -but we’re not!’ feeling of which I’m reminded.
Purchase a picnic basket or glass of wine and you’ll have full access to the stone patio out back, where you can listen to the falling water from the garden fountain, gaze off to the distant hills, let your thoughts drift with fresh inspirations, and perhaps even watch for the old man with the flowers to visit, wondering, was he born here? Did he love someone here? Oh wait, that’s Frances’s voiceover narration from that Under the Tuscan Sun movie…
Still, even after all of the commercial expansions and renovations, if you’re doing a wine tour of the Yadkin Valley, this is not a vineyard that should be passed up. At Raffaldini, you can’t help but enjoy the setting that’s almost serendipitously albeit stereotypically been created for you straight from an Italian painting… or a Hollywood movie, whichever.
- Raffaldini 2009 Bella Misto – A medium-bodied blend of Merlot, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Franc; balanced dark fruit flavors framed by youthful tannins with a smooth finish ($15)
Other Tasting Notables:
- Raffaldini 2010 Pinot Grigio – rich and luscious with flavors of ripe pear, honeydew melon and pineapple with citrus fruit aromas, well-balanced acidity
- Raffaldini 2010 La Dolce Vita – intense aromas of floral lychee, orange peel and cardamom, a juicy explosion of fruit like biting into ripe kiwi or plump peaches