Winery Spotlight: Lake Road Winery

Lake_Road_Winery

When we think about wineries in the United States, we often think of Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles.  However, wine culture in the United States has taken off in recent years and many small wineries have sprung up around the country. They offer a niche in the wine market, which is fine and local varietal style wines. One such winery is the Lake Road Winery in North Carolina.  The Lake Road Winery is owned and operated by Mitchell Smith in Eastern North Carolina. It started out as a hobby from growing up in an area where Muscadine grapes grew in the yard.  In March 2009 he turned his passion into a business opening the doors to the winery. The winery has approximately 1300 gallon capacity capable of producing about 300 cases a year, offering about 16 different wines at any given time.

Muscadine

Specializing in Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) they also produce Vitis vinifera wines such as Cabernet and Merlot. For many small wineries quality is key to success, and Lake Road Winery is no exception “I want to be known for fine wines” said Mitchell. And Lake Road Winery is achieving this, for two years in a row their wine was chosen as the wine for the North Carolina Seafood Festival 2013 featuring their cooking with chefs wine and 2012 dockside wine. Other accolades include their Cabernet earning a bronze medal in the North Carolina State Fair and a silver medal in the Dixie Classic fair two different years.

Lake Road Winery like many others purchase their grapes from growers. Being a small winery leaves you with little say in when the grapes are harvested and in turn must work with what you get. Being able to get quality grapes is sometimes dependent on building strong relationships with growers over several years as Lake Road Winery has been able to do. Additionally they employ modern wine making techniques in order to turn out quality wines. Even on occasion blending wine of different vintages using completely different aging methods, such as their chardonnay which one vintage is oak aged and the other is stainless steel aged, both on their own were less than ideal but blended together made a fairly complex wine playing on each others strengths.

When asked what his goal for his wines are Mitchell responded, “I try to make the best possible wine I can, sometimes the fruit is highlighted and sometimes the terrior is highlighted.” Not being committed to a certain style and embracing modern technology allows Lake Road Winery to experiment trying new things, sometimes a success and sometimes not as hoped but always a learning experience.

Lake Road Winery offers 10 of their wines to be tasted.  In the tasting room there is always the chance that you open product and pour one glass and then you have to throw it out as it spoils without selling ample amount of product to cover that expense of showcasing your wines. With this in mind many wineries will not sample their most expensive product for good reason. Direct sales is where most small wineries make their money and the tasting room is key. Lake Road Winery is no exception, they have an inviting relaxing setup in their tasting room which allows for you to purchase a bottle there while staying and enjoying it on the premises.

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Running a successful small winery has a lot to do with listening to feedback and offering something different.  Lake Road Winery offers two such wines, one made from strawberries, and one from raspberries. These wines take on styles such as wine coolers for those wanting something different and refreshing but not wine.  Mitchell (also the winemaker) doesn’t just make wines he wants to drink, but listens to what others say and their likes especially when it comes to blending.  He wants to make wines that are pleasing to his customers.

Promoting wines in regions not well known for wine is difficult, and this is where we as consumers should not be afraid of trying something new to give these passionate small wineries the opportunity to show us varietals that are native to the U.S. and different takes on varietals like Cabernet and Chardonnay.

So if you’re traveling to an area where there is a small winery, don’t brush them off!  Give them a try!  While the wine regions in Northern California are among the best in the world, there are also several regions in the U.S. that may carry something you will enjoy! In the case of Lake Road Winery, you also get the added benefit to speak to the winemaker as well who is knowledgeable and welcoming.

For more information on Lake Road Winery visit their website:

http://www.lakeroadwinery.com/

And Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-Road-Winery/369444177328

Chris R.

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