Best Southern Wines To Drink

Is North Carolina the new California?

From Sonoma County to Oregon's Willamette Valley to the Finger Lakes in the Northeast, America has its fair share of renowned wine regions. But one oft-overlooked area you might not think of when planning your next vineyard getaway? The South.

Thanks to a "cool" climate similar to Bordeaux and plenty of sunlight, the state of North Carolina has been in the wine business since 1835. Now, there are more than 142 wineries across the state and some 400 vineyards churning out bottle after bottle of French, Spanish and Italian varietals, including everything from Petit Verdots to Pinot Grigios. The sprawling Yadkin Valley, for example, once known for its tobacco-growing, is now home to a 1.4 million‐acre stretch of land approved as North Carolina's first American Viticultural Area (AVA)

Photo: Courtesy of Yadkin Chamber 

Jared Jones, who's been researching East Coast wines for a book he's writing with his father, is a recent convert. "I have been humbled, let me tell you" Jones says, originally hailing from the West Coast but calling South Carolina home for nearly 20 years now. "North Carolina isn't the nation's next big 'unknown' wine region. North Carolina is the next big 'forgotten' wine region."

Jones has another reason for wanting to educate the public about Southern wines: As the GM of Pawpaw, a new "Southern-inspired but not traditional" restaurant in Charleston whose mission is to support as many local producers as possible, he strives to showcase great wines that stay true to that idea. "Why not have wine that's amazing from our own backyard, if it's just as good, just as interesting?" Jones asks.

Here are Jones's top five picks for the best Southern wines to start your collection:

2012 Jones von Drehle Vineyards Petit Verdot
Tasting notes: wild blueberry, colonial jasmine, red clay and a hint of longleaf pine

Pairing: Boeuf Bourguignon

2014 Jones von Drehle Vineyards Viognier
Tasting notes: wild herbs, bright persimmon, magnolia blossom and white clay

Pairing: Grilled Teriyaki Skewers

Photo: Chuck Jones

2014 Shelton Vineyards Tannat
Tasting notes: oak leaves, fresh earth, wild porcini, seasoned leather, pink mulberry and wildflower pollen

Pairing: Fried Chicken

2014 Raffaldini Winery & Vineyards Montepulciano Riserva
Tasting notes: black fig compote, tomato leaf and pine

Pairing: Chestnut Agnolotti

Photo: Courtesy of Raffadini Winery & Vineyards

2013 McRitchie Winery Traminette
Tasting notes: zippy honeydew melon, bright apricot and lavender

Pairing: Spicy Squid Salad