Wineries & Vineyards
Raffaldini Vineyards: An Evening In 'Tuscany'
As you turn onto Groce Road in Wilkes County, the change of scenery is dramatic. The farmland dotted with horses, cows, and stately homes suddenly gives way to row upon row of grapes growing on gently rolling hills. As you crest the hill, the Italian flag flying under the Stars and Stripes confirms what your senses already know: you have arrived in North Carolina’s version of Tuscany.
The occasion is a Four Seasons Wine Tasting Dinner event put on by the Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda. The Raffaldinis opened a beautiful new 6,000 square foot tasting room and event venue in March 2008, and the seasonal dinner events were designed as a way for visitors to experience not only the landscape and architecture of Tuscany, but also the totality of the simple Italian enjoyment of food, wine, friends and family. “The message is one of reflection”, says Jay Raffaldini, co-owner of the vineyards, “that less can indeed be more if the metric used to measure is happiness.”
The evening begins on the outdoor piazza of Villa Raffaldini, with its array of tables and large central fountain. Soon, the aroma of garlic and olive oil fills the air, and the antipasti display is ready for the taking. Breads, cheeses, and olive and sun-dried tomato tapanades are among the offerings to go with the Raffaldini Fiori, a refreshing, slightly sweet white wine blend that gives off a cool taste of tropical fruit with a honeycomb finish.
After a leisurely first course on the piazza, the event moves into the villa, and the parade of food and wine pairings continues: Eggplant Caprese and Zucchini Frittata with a full-bodied Pinot Grigio. Chicken Carciofi, Taglierini Alla Pasta, and Roasted Red Skin Potatoes with a Chianti-like Sangiovese. For dessert (“dolci buffet”), there are strawberries, whipped sweet ricotta, biscotti, and chocolate paired with a lemoncello cream.
The menu and the wine selections change with the seasons, but not the atmosphere. Guests are seated at large round tables in the villa, and soon the conversation flows and strangers become friends. Fifty-somethings visiting from Atlanta sit next to a younger couple on a date. Yadkin Valley locals share stories and bottles of wine with city dwellers from Charlotte and Winston-Salem. “It’s by design, to promote conversation and sharing”, Raffaldini says, “What is a friend but a person you have yet to meet?”
Finally, many guests retreat back onto the piazza with coffee or tea to enjoy the cool evening breeze and a sunset over the vineyards and distant mountains. Soon it will be time to head home, but this particular evening in Tuscany will end without passports or jet lag… and a return visit is just a short drive away.
Raffaldini Vineyards presents a wine tasting dinner for each of the four seasons. The cost is $75 all inclusive.
added: January 2, 2009
updated: January 2, 2009