Born in New Jersey, Jay Raffaldini wanted to make wines that echoed those of his family’s northern Italian roots in Lombardy. His search for a place to put down his own vine roots led him to the Swan Creek area of the Yadkin River Valley in western North Carolina.
In many ways, the Eastern U.S. has the capability of making wines from northern Italian grapes that are often more like Italian wines than those made in California. Raffaldini has an admirable house style that balances their wines’ fruitiness with good acidity, producing a lean, food-friendly finish.
Many Eastern wineries do not distribute beyond their immediate environs, but Raffaldini has expanded its scope. You may not want to do a special search for them, but if you find a Raffaldini, it is certainly one you should try. Ignore the clunky label – it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts.
2011 Raffaldini Swan Creek pinot grigio ($15): A touch sweet, full with good texture and a nice earthiness that adds some depth of flavor.
2012 Raffaldini Swan Creek vermentino riserva ($19): Floral and spicy with complex fruitiness, mainly apples, and good savory notes in the finish. Very enjoyable.
NV Raffaldini “La Dolce Vita” sparkling wine ($16): With its fizzinesss and low alcohol — only seven percent — this is the North Carolina take on the moscatos of northern Italy. It’s quite flavorful and well-balanced, but the bubbles are more muted than in the original.
2011 Raffaldini Swan Creek sangiovese ($18): Nice tart cherry flavors with some raspy tannins and a lean finish — a good American interpretation of the variety and a well-made wine.
2011 Raffaldini Swan Creek sangiovese riserva ($23): Very ripe, rounded cherry flavors are followed by warm, moderately toasty wood notes and light tannins with the typical sangio raspiness in the finish. Very nice.
2011 Raffaldini Swan Creek montepulciano riserva ($29): Some dried grapes are used in the process of making this concentrated, fairly potent (15 percent alcohol) wine that has very good dark cherry and black raspberry flavors with some chocolate notes. Plenty of firm tannins and a crisp finish. My Pick of the Litter.