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RayLen Vineyards & Winery
by
K.L. Sullivan

RayLen Vineyards and WinerySummary: RayLen Vineyards and Winery is named after the Neely daughters, Rachel and Helen, who goes by Len. Currently the winery produces 15,000 cases of wine. Grapes are hand harvested. Steve Shepherd, the winemaker, is very experienced in the art and science of winemaking. RayLen has five festivals a year and Open Houses throughout the year.

We met Karyn Howard, Marketing & Events' Coordinator, who provided us with details of the winery. Originally, the property currently occupied by RayLen Vineyards & Winery was a dairy farm for multiple generations. Purchased in 1998, the Neely’s feel fortunate they were able to purchase this property that they consider an ideal location for vineyards. In 1999 and 2000, they planted the vineyards. Today 38 acres are under vine. The grape varietals include Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Merlot and Vidal Blanc.

RayLen Vineyards and Winery     RayLen Vineyards and Winery

They are fortunate to have Steve Shepherd one of the most experienced winemakers in North Carolina. Steve is dedicated to increasing the industry in North Carolina. It is important for the industry that people learn that there are vinifera grapes growing in this state. According to Karyn, Steve was largely responsible for getting wineries into North Carolina.

RayLen Vineyards and WineryThe tasting room is pleasant with small tables and a variety of wine accessories. Unique items have been created using barrel staves. Many of these items are for sale.

We tasted several wines with John Marshall, Manager, and he gave a running commentary on the wines, oenology and viticulture. He made the tastings interesting, easily answering any question from visitors.

RayLen Vineyards and WineryThe Pinot Grigio 2006 had a citrus aroma and taste with a crisp citrus finish. The Chardonnay 2005 had an apple aroma and taste that was smooth. The finish was crisp and the wine had a refreshing apple aftertaste that became drier. The Barrel Chardonnay 2006 was aged in new and seasoned oak. The aroma was oak and apple while the taste offered a smooth oak taste. The finish was oak then apple then butter. Viognier 2007 had a peach aroma with a smooth citrus taste and peach on the aftertaste. The South Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 is produced from Chardonnay grown on South Mountain in Morganton. It offered an oak aroma with a smooth apple and butter taste. The finish went from fruit to butter. Yadkin Gold 2005 was a blend of Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay. The aroma was of fruit and the taste was like a fruit salad. The finish had fruit with some sweetness and then dried later. The Riesling offered a floral and peaches aroma with a creamy peach taste. There was some sweetness and fruit on the finish. Carolinius was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The result was a dark opaque purple. The aroma was of red fruit and the taste had an additional bit of pepper. The finish was of fruit and soft tannins. Shiraz 2006 was a dark opaque purple. The aroma had spice and smoke. The taste was smooth with dark red fruit. The finish was crisp with tannins. Merlot 2005 offered a blackberry aroma and taste. The finish was crisp with tannins and there was a long fruit aftertaste.

Category 5 2006 is the most popular wine. The color is a dark opaque purple. The blend was from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Syrah. The aroma offered blackberry and the taste was smooth with black fruit. The finish was crisp with soft tannins. There was a long fruit aftertaste. According to John, “ People call and ask for hurricane juice.” Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 had a dark purple opaque color. The aroma and taste were of black cherries. The finish was crisp and fruity.

Raylen Vineyards
3577 US HWY 158
Mocksville, North Carolina 27028

GPS: N35° 97.149' W080° 50.622'

 


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