Next on the list: Garden Gate Vineyards.
For today’s visit, it’s hot. Incredibly hot. Unbearably humid. If it weren’t for the passenger-side air conditioning continuously blowing in my direction as we drive past tiny, country roads with names like “Friendship Court” and “Country Home Road” to Garden Gate Vineyards, I’d be suggesting we save this visit for another day. After all, it is another vineyard producing Scuppernong and Muscadine wines. After this year’s Salute! NC Wine Festival in Winston Salem (or, as I like to call it: “The Acetone Fest”), I’m over Scuppernog and Muscadines alike. The thought of reviewing so many vineyards makes me weary and tempts me to move to somewhere like the Finger Lakes, where wines don’t remind me so much of nail polish remover (case in point, refer to a Google search result on Muscadines below).
Nail polish remover. Ugh.
As my friends and I reluctantly walk in toward the small, wooden building situated next to a newly built arbor and a small plot of grape vines, I’m already having a mental debate with myself about how to objectively review Garden Gate Vineyards when I’m preparing myself to test fate by drinking something that smells like acetone… again.
I take it all in. The outdoor arbor is admittedly cute, and I’m sure I’d enjoy a picnic there (if it weren’t so hot outside, of course).
…and presuming the wines don’t taste like nail polish remover…
We step inside.
…please, let the wines be tolerable…
I look around. Inside the little room is a wine tasting bar to our left. To the right, a display of “Sonya’s Ceramics” and pottery, as advertised by the vineyard’s website, is displayed across a few wooden bookshelves. The winemaker’s wife, Sonya, makes the pottery and bakes the mini-bread loaves for each tasting. She also crafted the ceramics counter tops at the tasting bar.
At Garden Gate Vineyards, grape vines meet clay pottery.
As we each grab seats at the tasting bar, both the winemaker and his wife make their way across the room to cordially greet us. Although the wines are served in medicinal shot glasses, each group of tasters is offered a charming loaf of white bread to accompany the mini-sips of wine.
First sip: the Scarlet Blush – a Merlot blend. So far, so good… Even though we’re starting with the “dry” wines, I’m still expecting a sweeter start. Scarlet Blush surprises on that score.
Next sip: the Raspberry, where I find the sweetness I’m both anticipating and dreading. The dominant trait? Raspberry. Same thing with the Blueberry, the Blackberry, and the Strawberry. It seems as if Garden Gate Vineyards has dominated their wine selection with fruit-forward infusions of berry sweetness and either masked or mastered the tell-tale problems typical of high acetic acid levels.
As we’ve already established, I’m not a Scuppernog or Muscadine type of person, but perhaps the real problem is that I haven’t encountered a winemaker who properly knows how to use the grapes without the high levels of acid reminiscent of acetone. Garden Gate’s wines, however, exhibit bold, fruity flavors. Not to mention, they don’t use pesticides on their grapes, which is a welcome change to my persnickety, organic preferences!
Overall? Garden Gate Vineyards is an encouragement to my anti-Scuppernog sentiments. The vineyard may be small and off the beaten path, but the owners put a lot of personalized flavor into the quaint, little plot of land. It’s got a ‘homey’ touch you don’t find everywhere. Plus, their wines were extremely flavorful… if you like that overpowering, sweet fruitiness that is beyond my taste bud tolerance but within the range of a well-made Scuppernog wine
- Sweet Raspberry – While sporting one of the more commonplace names (compared to “Jitterbug,” “Loopy Lemonaide,” or “Dragonfly Wassail”), the Sweet Raspberry is extremely flavorful.
- Loopy Lemonaide – Yes, it really does taste (and smell) like a Dreamcicle orange popcicle.
- The homemade jelly. Prepped with Muscadine grapes, the jams, like the wines, are very fruit-forward.
How does this winery compare?