Friday, December 17, 2021

A Visit to Sanctuary Vineyards in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

In October I reached a milestone birthday, my 40th , and was looking for a place to celebrate with my family.  We decided to venture down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which I have always wanted to visit and it wasn’t too far of a flight from the Northeast so it worked out just perfect.  We rented a beautiful home right on the beach in Corolla with perfect weather every day.  I couldn’t have asked for more.   

Sanctuary Vineyards visit in the Outer Banks

Of course, venturing to an area I’ve never been to, I am always curious to scope out the local wine scene.  I wasn’t expecting much to be honest since I really hadn’t heard of North Carolina wines nor had I ever tried a wine from North Carolina.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were multiple wineries in the Outer Banks area. Although most of them were fruit-based wines, my wine loving friend whom travels to the Outer Banks annually recommended I visit Sanctuary Vineyards located in Currituck County in the town of Jarvisburg.  I reached out to the General Manager, John Wright, whom thankfully invited me to visit with my family and taste through a variety of their wines. 

Sanctuary Vineyards Currituck County winery
The Winery ~ Sanctuary Vineyards 

The Wright family that owns Sanctuary Vineyards, has been in and out of the Outer Banks area for 7 generations.  I can only imagine that with such a rich history in the area that the family in some shape or form must be related to the Wright brothers whom invented the first airplane venturing on their first flights in Kitty Hawk, NC.  Although we ran out time, we did drive by the Wright Brothers National Museum that you can visit in Kill Devil Hills.   

John’s ancestors settled in the area after a ship wreck in the town of Duck in the 1800’s.  The winery and vineyards, that occupies 28 acres, was established about twenty years ago by John, his father and uncle.  The Currituck County is known for being an area that grows Muscadine grapes well and it received more recognition for these grapes between the Civil War and Prohibition time period.  Although the Muscadine grapes grow well in the area, Sanctuary Vineyards has chosen to focus on European varietals.  John grew to appreciate wine during his studies at UNC.  Once his education was completed he saw that a few farms in the area had begun to get involved in viticulture.  He felt this was the perfect opportunity to expand their farm and build upon their legacy for future generations. 

Sanctuary Vineyards in the Outer Banks
I was pleasantly surprised upon my visit to see Aglianico on my tasting list.   I had also seen in my research that they had grown Sangiovese, but John had ripped up the Sangiovese vines 10 years ago and I’m sad to say has also now done so with the Aglianico vines.  This happened to be my favorite wine from the tasting so unfortunately you cannot buy it anymore.  John’s experience has shown that thick-skinned Italian grapes that can handle humidity do well in the area.  If he ever tries to plant Italian varietals again in the future his plan is to plant Vermentino. 

Their vineyards are located on both a North and South block with unique soils.  The different blocks all consist of loamy sand with some of the vines located on ancient sand dunes from the Paleolithic era that form the central ridge of Currituck County near the Outer Banks.  Since these soils were scoured by an ancient glacial movement during and after the Ice Ages, they are devoid of much mineral content and organic matter.  This allows the soils to not retain much water and as well all know stressing the vines allows for better wines.   

Sanctuary Vineyards winery in the Outer Banks

The Wines 

I sampled seven wines during my tasting and my top choice was the Sanctuary Vineyard Aglianico Rose made 100% from estate grown Aglianico grapes.  According to Sanctuary Vineyards this was the only Aglianico produced in the state of North Carolina.  I believe this may have been the first Aglianico rose I had ever tried.  I loved the juicy strawberry flavors on this wine and it was refreshingly smooth and perfect drinking on that mid 70 degree day.   

My second favorite wine was the 2019 Sanctuary Vineyard Shipwreck red wine produced from North Carolina grown Syrah blended with Tempranillo and some Petit Verdot.  A dark profile of blackberries with some smokiness along with hints of vanilla.  Medium-bodied with silky tannin.  SRP $25.   

They even had a variety of other wines I tried including Viognier, Albarino, Pinot Gris, Tannat and even an orange wine.  

Have any of my readers visited this winery or even tried other wines from North Carolina?  If you visit the Outer Banks Sanctuary Vineyards is worth a visit.   

Wine tasting in the Outer Banks at Sanctuary Vineyards

*My visit was comp'd, but opinions are always my own.

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