When you think of wine in the United States you typically think of California or Washington, but you may not be aware that at one time winemaking thrived in North Carolina. In fact, at the turn of the century, the Sixth Federal Census showed that North Carolina lead all states in wine production. That was until the onset of Prohibition in 1920. After that, there was a sharp decline in winemaking and folks got into making other spirits that the region is famous for. Eventually, other states grew into wine prominence and North Carolina was left behind.
By opening the doors to Childress Vineyards in 2004, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress has helped put North Carolina winemaking back on the map.
After looking at options in California and New York, Childress chose Lexington, NC located less than five miles from his Richard Childress Racing (RCR) operations.
His winery features 72 acres of vineyards and 11 varieties of European Vitis vinifera cultivars at two vineyards sites.
The white varieties include Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The red varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah.
Childress Vineyards produces a broad range of wines to appeal to both the introductory palate and the seasoned taster. More than 30 wines are produced including Classic house blends, premium varietals, a sparkling wine, dessert wines, Reserves, Signature Reserves and Muscadine wines.
For your tasting pleasure you get to choose from two options: Note, the options change week to week. Please check the website.
Cellar Select l ($12 per person)
This tasting is predominantly off-dry. Includes a souvenir glass.
- Southern Rain
- Classic White
- Classic Blush
- Classic Red
- Muscadine White
- Muscadine Red
- Late Harvest Viognier
Barrel Select l ($15 per person)
Features dry and full bodied wines. Includes a souvenir glass.
- Signature Chardonnay
- 2011 Sangiovese
- Cabernet Franc
- 2014 Reserve Viognier
- Reserve Merlot
- Reserve Meritage
- 2010 Reserve Barbera
On my visit I went in for the Barrel Select option and was not disappointed . Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Typically any time I’ve done a wine tasting, I come away only liking one or maybe two of the choices. I have to say, aside from the Cabernet Franc, I wanted to purchase a bottle of them all, and that includes the Chardonnay , which I never care for.
I love a great story and one of the selections I tasted, the 2010 Reserve Barbera has a fascinating tale behind it.
According to the person we did our tasting with, the Reserve Barbera was grown off-site by a lady (didn’t get the name) and had Childress process and bottle it for her (something that the winery will do for people). However, the lady never came back to pick up the wine. I called back up to Childress to verify this story and they told me that it was true. The part I can’t verify is this. Supposedly, the reason she never came to pick up the wine is because she went through a nasty divorce, went bankrupt and the husband destroyed her vines. Whether this is true or not is speculation but the fact is, the wine was never picked up and Childress, as on the day I’m writing this, has only 190 cases of the wine left. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
The tour is free and the guide gives a history of the vineyard while walking around the facility, and you learn how the wines are made.
- Available Monday – Friday: noon and 3PM (no reservation needed)
- Saturday and Sunday: noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4PM (no reservation needed)
The tour takes around 25-30 minutes and you are more than welcome to drink on the tour.
Childress also has a Bistro. I cannot speak for the food as I did not eat there. From what I hear though, it’s very good and the menu changes often.
Bistro Hours: Monday – Sunday: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Childress Vineyards also hosts special events throughout the month. You can check out their upcoming events here.
Overall, Childress Vineyards is a beautiful facility and the wine selection is impressive. If you get a chance, go make a day of it. Do the tasting, take the tour, grab a bite to eat and then walk around the vineyard or sit in the new Childress patio and listen to live music. You won’t be disappointed.