A wine night in Charlotte

In a town where new breweries seemingly open dally and craft beers are the order of the day, this band of rebels gathered in our secret location (Cork Vault — our off-site wine storage facility) for a “pot luck” style wine sharing dinner. There were no restrictions on the wines to be brought except bring something interesting you like to drink.

The below list is not complete by any means but only the wines I sampled and/or can remember enough to write marginal (at best) commentary. The one true take-away from the evening was how fortunate we all were that just about every high-end wine delivered exactly as you would hope. A true tour de force for all the high-end recognizable wines.

Do not read too much into the order or any wines pictured below but not mentioned. This was simply my best effort to recount the wines in the order I recall sampling them.

2016 Kutch Chardonnay: crisp, slightly acidic, hints of granny smith apple with a tart citrus note. Burgundian style that Jamie strives for. A wonderful white drinking fabulously today but also with plenty or legs for years to come. A great start to the evening and even one vote for Wine of the Night.

NOTE: There was nothing close to official voting for WOTN but I surveyed many in the room because I had 6 or 7 WOTNs!

2014 Le Petit Clos Apalta: Powerfully fragrant nose right out of the gate. A good wine in its own right but stylistically this reminded me of an Italian (Barbaresco?). Not what I was expecting following the bold but beautiful nose. A very good wine but not in my wheelhouse.

2009 Prado Enea Muga Rioja: This was an accidental entry into the night’s wines as the donor found this bottle he’d forgotten he had while searching for his original selection. Either way it was soft and enjoyable on the nose although the softness may have been as much a contrast with the prior glass. Although light and airy, it had a nice body with a rustic finish. A pleasure to drink.

2015 Kanonkop Paul Sauer: Popped 45 minutes before pouring. Smooth and drinkable right out of the gate. Fragrant but not overpowering nose with a richness of raspberry and mocha. Solid body on the first drink demonstrating a depth of flavor confirming the black raspberry and soft hints of chocolate on the finish. A great wine on its own, the view on the wine exploded when paired with food (well-seasoned chicken, Brussels sprouts and string beans). With food the wine really showed its mettle becoming an exceptional wine. Plenty of age-worthiness in this bottle with probably another year or two before it really starts showing its wares. Today this is a monster QPR wine IMO.

2007 Karl Lawrence To Kalon Cabernet: Decanted 1.5 hours before sampling. Brilliant big Napa Cabernet nose, rich black cherries and opulent flavors pouring out of the decanter. This wine hit all the notes you hope from a 10+ year old To Kalon. Full body, rich, dense dark fruit flavors with every drink. Long finish. A wonderful wine to enjoy every sip and savor when it sings as this one did. This wine received universal praise among the attendees.

1955 Franco Fiorina Barolo: Decanted 6 hours before pouring back into the original bottle. Beautifully fragrant rustic nose when opened that stayed with the wine throughout the night. Regardless of age this wine was delicious. Excellent body on this wine with aged fruit and an earthen red clay feel. I haven’t had a cigar in many years but I would loved to have fired one up and sip this wine all night. You roll the dice with a 65 year old wine but we all came out winners with this one.

2005 Domaine du Clos Frantin Echezeaux Burgundy: Decanted 3 hours prior to sampling. A brilliant gem of a wine. It was when I tasted this I knew it would be unfair to pick a wine of the night. So many top tier wines in full bloom on this evening. We had some discussion over primary and secondary notes with this wine but from start to finish this wine sang and danced (I should have recorded that, right?) from the glass, to the palate and with a fantastic long finish. Over and over the word “brilliant” came to mind on every aspect for a wine with decades more to run considering the power it showed on this night.

1978 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet: Cork popped probably 1 hour (still in the bottle) prior to sampling. Classic in every way, shape, and form from this 42-year-old gem. Stylistically so different from today’s big bold Napa Cabs, the wonderfully rustic nose was deep and flavorful. Soft and smooth on the mouthfeel the wine showed plenty of body while the deliciously mature fruits showed enough gusto to savor the greatness of this era. There is no reason to wait with wines of this age but it was an incredible treat to shift eras so seamlessly when wines were performing so amazingly well.

2006 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet: I don’t know why I had mixed expectations going into this wine but boy did this one catch me off-guard. Exceptional Napa nose: fragrant and opulent dark fruits while restrained almost teasing what was to come. Smooth, rich full body on the palate, the blackberry and bramble notes were singing in all their glory with a lovely plush long finish. This wine was like a relief pitcher in baseball coming in and throwing 97 miles per hour right down the middle of the plate and striking the batter out on three pitches without breaking a sweat. This swan-like wine was beautiful while seaming effortless in its delivery.

1990 Pichon-Longueville au Baron Bordeaux: Decanted ~1.5 hours before sampling. A brilliant vintage and a wine that hit on all the rights notes for vintage, pedigree and style. Immediately out of the glass the classic Bordeaux nose shined; rustic with wafts of fresh pencil shavings, at 30 years old there clearly was a lot of life packed into this bottle. Wonderfully mature notes of blackcurrant mixed with sprinkles of plum were divine, On the mouthfeel, this full-bodied wine has the softest of leather, gently resolved tannins and a woodsy signature Pauillac style. Just a joy of a wine in full today with plenty of life for years to come.

2002 Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux: Minimal decant, this gem was a (very) late entrant from an attendee’s locker to keep the night rolling and we are all the better for it. Fragrant and full nose of red cherries evidencing its seeming youth. On the palate, notes of black currant and vanilla and were delivered in a wonderfully smooth and delicious manner. This wine was a “head-turner” forcing you to double-check the vintage, etc to seer into your brain the bottle that just deliver this joy. To quote the donor (whom I accidentally recorded giving this impromptu review): “that Mouton is amazing, that shit is good, that juice is way better than I was expecting.” Yep.

That about sums up a truly grand evening of amazing wines delivering at the top of their game. In a city where breweries and craft beers dominate the days, this band of rebels showed the Charlotte wine scene, while nascent, can run with the best of them even if we must do so in our secret location at night.
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Nice evening, thanks for the notes,
Especially as I have the Dunn and other bottlings by Clos Frantin, from that period, none of which I have tasted.

Really enjoyed Charlotte when I was there, but it’s been a while. Sad that the “beer folks” have taken over.

Kevin- I too store at Cork Vault and hate I haven’t been able to join a bottle share yet. I’m excited to join my first one.

Joshua, don’t weigh too much on my tongue-in-cheek take on the genuinely overwhelming beer culture of Charlotte. While it is undeniably a beer drinking, brewery focused town, that actually leaves great benefits to the wine community. Namely most every restaurant is zero corkage or nominal at best ($5 or maybe $10 in the rare fine dining establishment). Additionally, just about every night of the week there is a half-priced bottle menu somewhere worth dining in Charlotte. Beer is the undisputed king here, but the wine purveyors really work hard to support their wine patrons.

Jared, there were a ton of “first-timers” on Thursday including myself. A really friendly crowd and great mix of old and young, novices and aficionados. The line-up of wines speaks for itself although Bill admitted this collection was a decided notch up from previous bottle shares. I’ll do my best to maintain the high bar we set this past week. Hope you can make the next one. First pour is on me.

Hope all is well down in Charlotte Jared! When I lived there from 2008-2012 craft beer was king and not ready to relinquish that role. First job was at Reid’s in their wine department when they were uptown. Was a big Cab town then, Conrad was the main one fighting for European wines such as you’d find in the Louis/Dressner book. But the wine scene was broadening when I left, have to assume the trend has continued. Glad that Cork Vault is working out for you.

I am not sure where you eat in Charlotte but I have never seen corkage as low as $5. Almost everywhere they charge corkage and most of the time it is over $10. A few of the more elite restaurants charge as much as $25. Saying most charge zero is patently false.

this looks like a fun night!

If you ever come through Greenville, SC shoot me a message! we’re just down 85!

Yeah…Richmond has become a huge craft brewery town as well and has never been a wine city in spite of becoming a significant foodie town. Restaurant wine list are at best pedestrian and at worst pathetic. Corkage is $20-$25 everywhere that offers it.

Yes Kevin, please tell me which restaurants have $5 coarkage fees?

Bonterra: $0
Fleming’s: $0
Ruth’s Chris: $0
Corkbuzz: $0
Ilios Noche: $0
131 Main: $0
300 East: $10
Vapiano: $10
Cajun Queen: $10

That’s all just off the top of my head. With any diligence I am sure you too can find plenty of restaurants that have accommodating corkage policies.


Matt, it would be a pleasure to drink with you. I’ll be sure to look you up if I make it down your way and please do the same if you come through Charlotte. We may be a building a small tasting group with monthly or bi-monthly gatherings. If we get it going in earnest maybe you can join us at some point.

All the best,

Kevin, That’s quite a list but your statement that most restaurants in Charlotte charge no corkage fee is very misleading. And it’s not true. Most do charge corkage. I have lived here for 40 years and eat out frequently. Nearly all downtown restaurants charge pretty hefty corkage fees. Peppervine at Southpark charges $30 if I’m not mistaken and they will only allow one bottle per table. When Del Frisco’s first came to town they wouldn’t even allow you to bring your own wine period. They gave in but charge a pretty big fee. Please don’t tell people that most restaurants in Charlotte don’t charge corkage. Maybe just the places you go to.


that sounds great Kevin!

happy to drive for good people and wines!

also, had no idea cork buzz is $0 corkage. that’s pretty cool for a wine shop

Thanks for the notes. I totally forgot about the bottle share last week. I was signed up for the December tasting that was cancelled, but I’ve been unable to attend any of the bottle share dinners. Maybe next time I’ll get to meet some fellow Cork Vault members.

I agree with Leonard regarding corkage. Most Charlotte restaurants are $10-20 for a bottle and it’s usually more expensive towards uptown. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one of the big steakhouses (DF’s, RC’s, Sullivans, Flemings, etc.), but I always recall corkage. Most restaurants will waive corkage if a bottle or glasses are purchased from their wine list or tastes are shared with the staff. I live in Matthews, so I can attest that most of the Matthews restaurants that I frequent are $10 per bottle. I’m usually not charged at the Matthews restaurants because I’m friends with the owners and/or staff and I’m always happy to share with others. I can confirm that Carpe Diem and the Stanley are a firm $20 per bottle regardless of anything which is fine. There’s actually an old list online from Charlotte Magazine with corkage policies. Most are $10-35 including Bonterra which is $25. No doubt if you are in the business, a frequent customer, and share with others corkage maybe waived in Charlotte, but it’s not the general restaurant policy.


Having lived in the Charlotte area for 20+ years, I have seen the wine scene evolve dramatically. There is a very strong wine culture in Charlotte that may not be obvious on the surface such as in Charleston and the Triangle. The Charlotte Wine Crus are one of the oldest established monthly tasting organizations in the US. Charlotte is the home to one of the most active Tastevin commanderies in the US as well (Conferie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Sous Cammanderie des Carolines). Started in 1989, the biennial Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend has, over the years, become one of the more important wine festivals and charity events in the US (April 22 - 25). Over $155,000 was raised at the CW&F kickoff dinner last month.

As far as corkage, Charlotte is one of the most corkage friendly cities in the US. As noted above, frequent customers rarely pay corkage. I could count on one hand the number of times we have been charged in the last 10 years. Obviously, adhering to corkage etiquette makes a big difference.

I am not much of a beer drinker but love what is happening with the beer scene here in Charlotte. Maybe it will catch up with the not so obvious wine scene.

I’m just sad I was not invited…

Agree with above, dine mostly in the uptown/southend area and can’t remember anywhere I’ve dined that had $0 corkage policy. While I’ve not been charged before I can’t remember asking and being told corkage is $0. I have only in rare occasion called ahead of time and been told corkage is not allowed. I personally don’t mind $10-20.

Nice to see some other local members here.

This has been an interesting read. Didn’t know that there were that many fellow Charlotteans on this board. Agree with Kelly that there is a vibrant wine culture here, even though I believe our wine & food weekend trails the Triangle Wine Experience due to Eliza’s contacts in Napa. Great to hear from everyone here.

Kevin - interesting 131 Main has no corkage. How’s the food? And if you’re putting together a CLT tasting group certainly interested.

Chris, I can vouch for the food at the 131 Main location in the Lake Norman area, been there many times and have never been disappointed.
BTW here’s the link to the Charlotte Magazine article re: Queen City Restaurant corkage fees Corkage Fees in Charlotte: A Restaurant Guide - Charlotte Magazine (2016).

Kelly, interesting thoughts regarding the Charlotte wine scene. I was unaware of the groups and I was unable to find any information online. They appear to be secretive which is fine, but only reinforces my thoughts of Charlotte as a wine city.

As for Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend, I attended a few events 8 - 10 years ago. We had a wonderful time at a wine dinner and I attended the general Saturday tasting. Is it still biennial or is it annual? I’m not sure that anyone knows. The weekend is never promoted or marketed in my circles. If you visit the website for 2020, it says that the tickets will be available in late February. There is not even a listing of events and it’s mid February. Why? I’m appreciative of their efforts in the community and I’m very familiar with one of the children’s organizations that they support, but everything seems to lag behind other wine weekends. FYI, it appears that Sokol Blosser will be one of the wine dinners at the new Foxcroft in Waverly or it’s a coincidence and on the same night as the other dinners in April.

Yes, I agree. Charlotte is very corkage friendly. Not zero corkage friendly, but very friendly. Most restaurants in the South that I have visited offer a reasonable corkage policy. I just returned from Charleston and most places were $20-25.

Charlotte, like any other metro area, has a huge craft beer scene. Micro breweries and beer gardens are all the rage and folks want to profit from the interest. We are fortunate to have Heist and Resident Culture in Charlotte. Both make world class beers and typically have canned products available.

Matt Hartley and any other locals, the Cork Vault is supposed to be posting a schedule of the bottle share dinners in the near future. I’ll be glad to keep everyone in the loop. We have been encouraged to bring a friend, SO/spouse, etc. so surely a few of the Cork Vault members can bring a wineberserker buddy.