Making the Best Blend

Continuing our series of activities here on the Swan Creek Wine Trail, we wanted to devote one segment of our blog to one very important activity: winemaking. Winemaking is the process of taking fruit, fermenting the juices, blending the wines, and then aging the finished product for a time before it’s ready to make its way to the tasting room. This post is dedicated to our winemakers on the trail to showcase some of what goes on behind the scenes to make the perfect red blend.

Here on the Swan Creek Wine Trail, we are fortunate to have great quality fruit that will turn into great quality wine. There are several key factors that go into making the perfect blend. Here are some of the things our winemakers look for.


With a red blend, there should be some level of consistency from year to year. If the profile of the wine is supposed to be a bold barrel aged red, then that’s what you make from year to year. Since harvests can be variable from year to year, our blends may change slightly. However, if we experience a poor growing year, it’s not uncommon to skip a vintage. And that’s ok! We would rather wait to make the best wine rather than put out a lesser quality wine.

Be True to the Grape

To some extent, wines should taste like the grapes that are in the wine. Each grape has their own flavor profile and aromas. It’s no use trying to make a wine taste like something it’s not. Using too much oak or too many extras may mask the grapes and detract from the flavors.

Texture, Flavor, and Feel

All three components are essential in the life of a wine. Building texture is often done by blending different wines together. When blending, it’s important that the combined wine should be better than the individual components. Overall it’s important to bring out the best of each grape to create a finished wine that really sings.

Want to try one for yourself? Head on over to any of our vineyards and try a red blend for yourself. Here are a few options to consider.

Our Red Blends

Ram Cat Red from Dobbins Creek – An intriguing wine that merges the individual complexities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot to create a tasting sensation of dark berries intermixed with touches of spice and earthiness. Try this wine with your favorite grilled meats, barbecue and wood fired pizzas!

Scarlet Mountain from Laurel Gray – The richness of ripe red cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and buttered toast delight the senses. Customer Favorite! Serve Scarlet Mountain with grilled burgers, pizza, Italian dishes, (It really goes with almost anything!)

Meritage from Shadow Springs – This is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. With almost 2 years in the barrel it is a big wine with great flavor and a wonderful finish.

Judge’s Verdict from Windsor Run – Blackberries, plums, and Dark Cherry Jam, smoothed by silky soft tannins burst upon the palate, eventually giving way to an almost European minerality and pleasant earthy finish.

Looking Back on 2018

Looking Back

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is on it’s way out and 2019 is rushing in.  We had a very productive year and we have you to thank for all of it!  Here’s a look back at some of the events that took place on the wine trail as well as a list of our events for 2019.

Looking to 2019

Here’s a quick list of events we have lined up for 2019 so far.  Stay tuned for more events as we add them to the schedule.


We’d like to thank everyone for attending and hope to see you in 2019!

Give Thanks at Shadow Springs Vineyard

Giving Thanks

At this time of the year, we like to pause and give thanks for everything that we enjoy about making wine in North Carolina.  Here are several examples of things that we appreciate and remind us why we got into the business.

We are thankful for our many friends we have meet through the vineyard, our family and the life we have built together for 41 years. We have been truly blessed! – Kim and Benny @ Laurel Gray Vineyards

We are thankful for Wonderful Customers, Great Winemaking, Vineyard and tasting room staff and Delicious Wines🍷🦃 – Chuck & Jamey @ Shadow Springs Vineyard & Windsor Run Cellars


Come visit our vineyards and enjoy great times with great friends!  Thank you to each and every one of you!

The Basics of Winemaking

Last post, we shared a few pictures of the harvest season in progress.  This post is going to pick up where harvesting leaves off: making wine.  If you’re new to winemaking or if you’re a seasoned pro, we’ll think you’ll enjoy this post.  So, open a bottle, pour yourself a glass of Swan Creek wine, and read on.

The steps to winemaking are essentially the same, whether you’re making a red, white or rose:  Pick the grapes, squeeze out the juice, ferment the grapes, age it, and then bottle it.  Of course there are variations along the way, but everything comes back to these basic steps.  We covered picking the grapes last time, so next up is squeezing the juice.

Getting Ready to Process Grapes

This step, also known as crushing, typically takes place out on the crush pad.  Freshly harvested grapes are brought to the winery in large bins.  The bins are emptied into a machine that crushes, de-stems, and extracts the juice.  Once the grapes are crushed, they’ll take a different path depending if it’s a red or white.

For white wines, the juice is separated from the skins and any other debris.  Red wines remain in contact with the skins for an extended period of time to allow for color and flavor extraction.  Fermentation also occurs during this time and the longer the wine stays in contact with the skins, the darker and more flavorful the finished wine will be.

Fermentation at Laurel Gray Vineyards

Fermentation starts when the winemaker adds yeast to the pressed juices.  Most wines are fermented until all sugar in the juice is gone (making a dry wine).  If any natural sugars remain, this will make a sweeter wine.  After fermentation is complete, the wine is filtered to remove the spent yeast.

Stainless steel tank or barrel, which do you like best?

Wine will age in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels from just a few months up to a year or two.  The aging time will allow wines to mellow and become much more smooth.

Windsor Run Cellars: The Bottling Line

Windsor Run Cellars: The Bottling Line

After the desired aging time, the wine is ready to bottle.  Bottles are filled, corked, labeled, and then boxed up. They need a few weeks before they’re ready to be sold.  At this point, you’ll can pick up a wine from one of our tasting rooms.  Come visit our vineyards and try one for yourself!

Harvest Time at the Vineyards

Harvest is always a busy time at the vineyards and this year is no exception!  Take a look at some of the activities that go on in the vineyard to make these great Swan Creek Wines.

Harvesting Grapes at Laurel Gray Vineyards


Chuck Hauling Grapes at Shadow Springs


Harvested Grapes at Laurel Gray


Jamey and the Grapes at Shadow Springs


Harvested Grapes at Laurel Gray Vineyards


Harvested Grapes Ready for the Winery


Getting Ready to Process Grapes


Fermentation at Laurel Gray Vineyards


Want to learn more?  Come visit our vineyards and see for yourself just how much is going on!  Stay tuned for our next post about the basics of wine making.

The Secret to Good Wine

You may have heard the phrase “great wine starts in the vineyard”.  Have you ever really thought about what that means? The Swan Creek Wine Trail takes great pride in the grapes we grow. We have first-hand experience in growing excellent grapes and we know that the secret to good wine is great grapes.  In this post, we’ll highlight a few important factors into growing great grapes.

What Makes a Great Grape?


Bud break at Laurel Gray

Grapes Flowering at Dobbins Creek

Throughout the growing season, there are several critical times that help shape the season to come.  Grape vines start growing as winter fades and the weather warms up.  Bud Break is the first milestone of the season. If the tender parts of the vine are interrupted during this phase, it can be disastrous for the rest of the year.  Next is Flowering and Fruit Set.  As you can guess, this is when the vines produce flowers which eventually become grapes.

Verasion at Laurel Gray Vineyards

After the grapes develop, they hang on the vines absorbing sunlight and nutrients.  They eventually change colors.  This process is called Verasion.  Here, sugars start to develop and acid levels drop to a normal range.  The grapes will hang on the vine until they are fully ripe.

Caring for Grapes

Bird Netting at Shadow Springs Vineyard

Throughout the growing season, vineyard workers take great care of the vines helping to direct energies and nutrients into the grapes.  Pruning, hedging, and leaf thinning are activities that help the grapes grow and ripen.  Another key activity is keeping pests and diseases at bay.  Birds are a particular issue.  Although they do keep bugs out, some birds like to eat grapes more.  Protecting the grapes from the birds usually involves wrapping the vines in netting.  It’s also important to keep the grapes nice and dry to prevent mold and mildew from forming.


Harvest at Windsor Run Cellars

Picking the right time to harvest is critical as grapes don’t ripen after they’re removed from the vines. Finding the right balance between sweetness and acidity is crucial.  The natural sugars in the wine ferment into alcohol and the acidity helps to make a wine flavorful and bright. Want to learn more about harvest?  Stay tuned for our next post to learn more or come visit our vineyards!