Race to a long finish
“Since I came here almost 20 years ago,” says Childress Vineyards winemaker Mark Friszolowski, “the population of North Carolina has grown by 850,000 people. These are folks who came here from all over the country and discovered not only what an amazing place this is to live, but the wines made in this state can hold their own with anyone. That’s how much this region’s reputation has grown.”
Friszolowski knows what he’s talking about — in part because he’s been one of the leading forces in “growing” the state’s reputation as a producer of fine wines since he arrived in 2003 to become NASCAR Racing Team legend Richard Childress’ winemaker at Childress Vineyards, following a career of helping put Long Island wines on the map, North Carolina had fewer than 20 wineries. Today, there are more than 200 (see intro on page 57).
“Even more important than the size,” says Friszolowski, “is the quality.” From the very beginning, Childress was determined not to just produce high-quality wines but to elevate the overall reputation of the state’s wineries.
As he says this, the award-wining winemaker pours a visitor a glass of a “new” sparkling wine made just days before from three different French varietal grapes — a light, delightful wine so new it doesn’t even have a name.
In some ways, this new unnamed “sparkler” is simply a metaphor for Childress’ success as one of the industry’s key leaders, annually growing grapes and producing more than 100 different wines for its own brand or smaller wineries. Childress’ award-winning Reserve red and white wines are considered to be some of the most respected in the East, available exclusively at the Vineyard’s gift shop due to their popularity.
Not surprisingly, the Vineyard’s beguiling Tuscan-style campus has become a destination for wine drinkers across the region and East Coast, known for its popular restaurant, The Bistro. Also popular are its wine dinners and special culinary events, weekend “Music in the Vineyard” gatherings on Saturdays and Sundays, and a robust wine club whose members hail from all over the map. There is even a fine hotel nearby that caters to members with special weekend rates.
“In some ways,” says Mark Friszolowski, “we feel like an anchor for the winemaking industry in the state – happy to have been an early part of the amazing growing of good wine made in North Carolina.”
We can all raise a glass to that. h— Noah Salt
For more information: 1000 Childress Vineyards Road, Lexington, (336) 236-9463 or www.Childressvineyards.com.