Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The New Napa?

Last week, iVillage’s “Supermarket Guru,” Phil Lempert, said on national TV (the Today Show, to be exact, as well as his website), that North Carolina is the new Napa.  That’s one bold statement.  To be fair, I think what Mr. Lempert was trying to say is that some areas of the state, the Yadkin Valley in particular, have the necessary attributes (i.e. climate and soil) to produce notable wines (perhaps, someday, even those considered to be world-class) and he feels like wines from the Tar Hill State “will be hot this year.”  I think that’s a more down-to-Earth assessment. 

Actually, I wish Mr. Lempert would have pointed out to his national audience that due to backwards, out-dated, draconian shipping laws, most folks will never have a chance to sample these "hot" wines.  So long as legislators keep up their buffoonery by prohibiting consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers, North Carolina will never reach its full Napa-esque potential (read up on the issue at Free The Grapes).

Now before you jump my business for disparaging North Carolina, please understand that I have nothing but the greatest appreciation for the state’s wine industry and often write about (and recommend!) their wine -- Childress, RayLen, Biltmore Estate, and Shelton, to name a few.  But I also think it’s best to approach these kinds of statements with a sense of realism.  And, in the case of North Carolina, they’re still working hard to produce consistent, high-quality wines, raise the overall level of the state’s industry, and, frankly, figure out which grapes are ultimately gonna do best.  Invoking the name of Napa at this point puts a lot of pressure on a young wine-producing region with great potential.

Listening to Mr. Lempert, however, got me thinking about all the great Southern wines I’ve sampled over the years from Virginia to Arkansas to Texas (and all points in between, including North Carolina).  I know what I think, but I'd like to hear from y’all.

What’s the hottest wine growing region in the South?

Who’s making the best wine in the South?

What’s your favorite Southern winery experience?

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