Wineries & Vineyards
Richard Childress Vineyards
For decades, the culinary pantheon of Lexington, North Carolina has been an exclusive club. Hickory-smoked pulled pork barbecue with tomato-based sauce is king here, and the acceptable accompaniments have traditionally been creamy coleslaw, golden brown hushpuppies, and ice-cold sweet tea. Every October, this Piedmont town celebrates its unique combination of cuisine with the Lexington Barbecue Festival, which brings more than 100,000 people to the self-proclaimed barbecue capital of the world.
But now, a newcomer has earned a prized position on Lexington’s dinner table: Fine Swine Wine, an annual offering from Richard Childress Vineyards that has taken the Barbecue Festival by storm each time it has been made. Every year, people line up early for their bottles of this semi-sweet red wine blend, and every year, the entire run is sold out in a matter of hours.
“We might be the only winery in the world to have a wine that sells out in a day,” says Childress’ Kathleen Watson, as she watches the newest edition of the wine go through the bottling process. “It’s definitely become part of the Barbecue Festival experience.”
For acclaimed winemaker Mark Friszolowski, it is a chance to make a fun, friendly, accessible wine to be enjoyed by both wine enthusiasts and those partial to other beverages. “It was originally designed as an alternative to sweet tea,” he says. “It’s a soft, fruit-oriented blend with some complexity, made to accompany the hickory-smoked pork, the onion flavor in the hushpuppies, and the vinegar in the coleslaw.”
It is also a successful blend of local flavor for Lexington. Along with the community’s signature meal, and wine from its first operating vineyard, the label for Fine Swine Wine is an original creation of Bob Timberlake, a world-renowned realist painter whose home and main gallery are both here. “For us, it’s a great way to combine old Lexington traditions with a new one”, says Friszolowski.
New traditions seem to be coming regularly to Childress Vineyards, which opened its doors in the fall of 2004. The winery’s Tuscan-style villa was named one of the top 25 tasting rooms in the country by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and its wines have recently been featured on NBC’s Today show and in Martha Stewart Living magazine. The vineyards, owned by NASCAR legend Richard Childress, are increasingly becoming a must-see destination for both motorsports fans and wine lovers traveling in North Carolina. The winery makes more than twenty different popular varieties of wine, from red, white, and blush house wines to varietals like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese, and many of these wines have won awards at competitions around the country.
But on the day of the Lexington Barbecue Festival, more traditional wines will take a back seat to the fun little blend with the Bob Timberlake label and the taste that pairs so well with ‘cue, slaw, and hushpuppies. Five hundred cases of Fine Swine Wine will go on sale the day of the festival, but if you want your own bottle, get here early. If this new Lexington tradition holds, it will all be gone by lunchtime.
added: January 2, 2009
updated: January 2, 2009