Wine situation in NC
How are the wine selections/prices in NC vs. MD? We will be wandering NC and wonder if we should bring our own. Is it sold in grocery stores? Is is state stoe only? How about prices/selection at restaurants? Aree there any decent NC wines that we must try?
You can buy beer and wine in nearly all grocery stores. The selections will of course vary from region to region, store to store and restaurant to restaurant. If you want spirits, it is state store only (ABC). The only exception to all of this is if you happen to stumble across a dry county or municipality.
As was mentioned, you can buy it in grocery stores. Beyond that, I recall from my days working for a wholesaler, that NC ranks surprisingly high in the country for wine sales. If you are going to the triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill), you will have absolutely no problem finding great wines. There are a number of excellent retailers and it's not hard to find good wine on restaurant lists. Certainly the chains are rather predictable, of course, but the independants do a good job.
As for NC wines themselves, decent is the operative word. I've had plenty that were pretty good, but could often think of dozens of wines for the same money that were significantly better. I think the grape that does best here is Cab Franc. A few names to look for if you want to check the local juice out: Westbend (by far the oldest with vines as old as 30 years), Shelton, Ray Len, and Hanover Park.
NC and SC still have "dry" counties where no beer and wine are sold as well as "blue laws" which prohibit the sale of alcohol at all on Sundays or at least after 12noon.
to weigh in on the pricing issue: the internet has made it almost impossible for one market to really gouge prices over another from state to state. since people can look up wine ratings and srp on any number of different sites, it follows that the playing field, so to speak, is going to be more level.
that said, large retailers such as total wine and sam's club are going to have an advantage over independent retailers because of the sheer volume that they move. not always the best selection, however, and certainly not the most well-informed staff.
You definitely shouldn't bring your own. Wine availability has come a very long way in the last decade. As noted above, Total Wine, Costco and Sam's Club have made the market competitive. Many supermarket wine departments are getting better, and any metro area like Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, Greensboro, Columbia and Charleston will have good independent wine stores.
Beyond retail question, North Carolina's wine industry is growing very fast. While cab franc is one of the grapes that does well here, the grape to watch for is viognier. Many winemakers are putting a lot of stock in it because it grows very well here. If you have interest in touring, the N.C. Grape Council provides a good brochure that maps all the wineries in the state.
I never miss a chance to stop by Rockhouse when I'm headed toward the mountains, Childress is getting more and more recognition, Shelton and Biltmore have beautiful facilities, and if you go to Raylen, there's a good ol' barbecue place called Snook's just up the road. So yes, you can pick up a bottle of wine and get a barbecue sandwich to go with it.
re: kathleen purvis
Wow. I've been dying to get a reveiw on Rockhouse. Can you please tell me what to expect from a trip there? I have never actually done a "winery tour". I don't know if they actually do a tour, or just have a tasting room, etc. I live no more than 30 minutes away, but for some reason, have never made it there. How are the wines?
The only NC wines I have had were Shelton and Biltmore, which were awful and mediocre, respectively. However, that's been a few years, so I still have high hopes for Rockhouse.