Here we are in October, and out at Sanctuary Vineyards they’re just finishing the harvest. Vineyard Manager, John Wright, says it’s been a good year for growing wine grapes, citing two Bordeaux varietals that he thought did particularly well. “The Petite Verdot and Cab Franc looked really good this year,” he commented.
The vineyard is about 11 miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge at the Cotton Gin. The land is owned by the Wright family, who own the store and have also been farming the land for well over 150 years. The first wine grapes were planted 12 years ago, and the vineyard has grown from a two-acre block to almost 11 acres.
Most of the grapes under cultivation are classic vinifera varieties—the wine grapes that make the classic wines of the world. There are, however, a couple of acres of muscadine grapes growing as well. The muscadine grape is native to the Southeastern United States, and it is remarkably well adapted to the hot humid summers of the region, so much so, that it does not grow well anywhere else in the world.
The wines this grape produces are generally sweet wines that are very fragrant. When done right, the wine tastes like the grape and is a wonderful summer sipper. When allowed to become too sweet, the flavors of the grape are masked by a cloying sweetness. John’s Sweet Serenity is certainly done right. The wine tastes as though the magnolia varietal used to make it has been captured in the bottle.
The winery produces other sweet wines as well. There are peach and blackberry wines that have won multiple awards.
But if the sweet wines are, as John says, “where the money is,” it is in classic European wines that the vineyard is creating its reputation. Most of the vinifera wines the vineyard creates are blends. Especially in the case of the red wines, the grapes that are being used are the traditional grapes of the Bordeaux region of France: cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon.
The reds have won a number of awards, especially Sanctuary Vineyards’ signature wine, the Wright Brothers, primarily a blend of a Spanish grape-Tempranillo-with Cabernet Franc.
A white wine that is really generating some interest is the estate grown Albariño. A Spanish varietal, the grape produces a dry yet fruity wine that tends to have a nice snappy finish, similar in some ways to a Pinot Grigio, but with more complexity.
The wine has been served in a number of different restaurants, including The Paper Canoe and The Blue Point in Duck and the Urban Kitchen in Corolla. It’s also available by the glass at Trio in Kitty Hawk.
For visitors to the Cotton Gin in Jarvisburg, the winery does have a wonderful tasting room. There is ample seating at the bar and Elton, the master of the tasting room, is knowledgeable, informative, and very funny.
A visit to the Cotton Gin at Sanctuary Vineyards is a great way to try some of the wines and spend an hour or so simply enjoying life.