PART TWO
Shore to Pour: Exploring the OBX’s Expanding Craft Beverage Scene – Part 2

By on March 20, 2024

Photos courtesy Brian Tress)

By Brian Tress  | Outer Banks Voice

(This is the second of a three-part series on the craft-beverage industry on the Outer Banks.)

In the first part of this three-part series on the Outer Banks’ craft-beverage industry, we examined craft beer brewing here. This story takes readers inside local wine bars, wineries and vineyards.

The wine industry in the US has experienced significant expansion over the past few decades due to advancements in technology, an increasing number of wine-producing regions, diversification of offerings, wine tourism, and a growing appreciation for wine as a cultural and lifestyle product. According to the Wine Institute, wine consumption in the US increased from 194 million cases in 2000 to 331 million cases in 2020, with wine tourism contributing over $7.2 billion annually to the US economy.

Wine Bars

Consistent with the trends, wine bars have recently emerged on the Outer Banks. The two featured for this article, Nouvines and Wild Goose Wine Bar, opened in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Both offer a significant number of varietals by the glass that are also for sale by the bottle, and are owned and operated by friendly “semi-retired” couples with a strong sense of purpose.

Nouvines is located in an historic building in downtown Manteo and has a warm rustic motif that invites you to hunker down and drink on a rainy day. Wild Goose is in the popular Timbuck II Shopping Village in Corolla and has a modern comfortable vibe for sipping vino pre-, post-, or instead of dinner. Both places invite patrons to sit down, relax and sample wines from across the globe and pricing spectrum.

After living in the DC area for 40 years, the owners of Nouvines, Lori Wilkinson and Garret Cameron, retried at the end of 2019 and moved to Manteo, where their son already lived. They decided to open the bar because they were bored and wanted to do something fun. Cameron says, “We get here in the morning and leave at the end of the day happier, refreshed, and less stressed. We want our customers to have the same experience.”

When asked about their background in wine, Cameron replies, “We drank a lot of it over the years and know what tastes good.”

Nouvines focuses on small batch wines and estate reserves with no additives or preservatives; the majority is organic and self-sustaining. “We have wines from places like Uruguay, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonian, Armenia, Bulgaria, and a lot more,” says Wilkinson. “You can take your trip around the world and never leave your seat!” The bar uses the WineKeeper system, which applies a pressurized blanket of argon gas to protect wine from oxidation and spoiling. As a result, they can keep as many as 40 open bottles fresh for a month and offer lots of options by the glass.

Nouvines, Manteo (nouvines.com)
Couple enjoying an early vino (l), Historic façade (c), Owners Lori Wilkinson and Garret Cameron.
(Courtesy: Brian Tress)

Most important to them, their customers. “We attract locals, and we are proud that they keep coming during peak season,” says Wilkinson. “We’re not about turnover – we never try to rush you out.  So many people have made new friends here because they had to share a table.”

Rob and Liz Marx, owners of the Wild Goose Wine Bar, moved full-time to Corolla in September 2020. Combining their love of wine with Liz’s background in business planning and Rob’s in technology, they opened the Wild Goose in September 2022. Both are sommeliers.

Liz reflects, “Wine is still a growth area on the OBX. Our goal is to make wine accessible to everyone, at every price point, at every taste profile.”

The wines at Wild Goose are definitely accessible – they come out of vending machines, ranging from an excellent, lower-priced South African red blend to the top-tier Opus One. Rob says, “Everyone likes the unique concept. Try an ounce. Get a glass. Buy a bottle.”  With the place fully automated, Rob’s background in technology has come in handy. “People love the self-service, and it lets us support the place ourselves and interact more with our customers.”

Wild Goose Wine Bar, Corolla (wildgoosewinebar.com)
Sunset through a glass of wine (l), Co-owner Rob Marx (c), Detail of wine vending machine (r)
Courtesy: Wild Goose Wine Bar (l), Brian Tress (c)(r).

Liz adds, “We’re not in it for the money. We wanted to engage socially and collaborate with others about wine.” She says that their black glass tastings – where patrons have to guess the varietal, if the wine is white or red, or if it’s old world or new world – is a bonding experience. “We seat everyone on a first come, first serve basis, so you end up sitting with people you don’t know. We schedule an hour, from 6 to 7, but people end up staying until 9:30.”

Wineries and Vineyards

A must-stop for many loyal vacationers is the OBX Winery in Kill Devil Hills, owned and operated by the charming and affable semi-retired couple Lorraine and Duncan MacRae. The establishment is in a small, highly accessible strip mall along the Bypass with an innocuous façade that might denote a dry cleaner as much as a winery. Inside, a tasting bar divides a small space between the customer domain and a confluence of white plastic tanks where the wine is made.

Lorraine says, “This place is just something to get up in the morning for.” Referring to her husband Duncan, she adds, “He likes to get up in the morning and come here right away. I like to get up and have my coffee, and then I’ll come here. We meet people from a lot of places and it’s fun. Gives us a sense of purpose.”

Duncan and Lorraine opened the winery in 2013 after moving to the Outer Banks from Florida, where they made beer and wine at home as a hobby. “We are a micro-winery,” Duncan says. “We call our distributor, and they send the grapes back to us in must format. Then we ferment it and add our own boutique touches, bottle it, label it and market it.”  In the context of winemaking, “must” refers to crushed grapes, along with the juice, skins, seeds, and stems.

OBX Winery, Kill Devil Hills (facebook.com/OBXWinery)
Owners Duncan & Lorraine MacRae (l), Made, labeled and bottled on-site (c), Duncan explains the process (r)
(Courtesy: Brian Tress)

The MacRaes say the most important quality of wine is drinkability. “Our creations are crowd pleasers,” Lorraine says. “We’re getting more and more requests for sweeter wine.  We make ice wine here, one of the sweetest types of wines – the grapes come from Upstate NY and Canada, where they are picked frozen.” She adds, “Sweet wines are nicknamed ‘deck wines’ – you can add ice and it won’t dilute it.”

Duncan says that sometimes it can get loud inside. “We get lots of bachelorette parties. During the summer we can have 20 to 25 people inside, primarily tourists, a lot of retired people. Locals think we are a wine store, or they don’t even know we are here.” Regardless of who the customer is, the MacRaes’ goal is “to make sure everyone walks out with a smile.”

While the OBX Winery gets its grapes from far-flung locations, Sanctuary Vineyards is a winery that harvests grapes from its own vineyards. Set on a seventh-generation family farm that has grown everything from potatoes to watermelons to corn, Sanctuary is located on the Caratoke Highway in Jarvisburg, about 13 miles inland from Kitty Hawk.

The idea for Sanctuary was born of necessity. “We started the vineyards in 2002 and opened the winery in 2011,” says John Wright, general manager. “My uncle came to the idea that we needed to do a different kind of use here at the farm. Everyone was worried that farming had become too top heavy – dominated by the large industrial farms. Wineries can grow out of small farms.”

Wright recounts that the decision was not made lightly, as the family was well aware of the risks. “This is a pretty good area for grape growing but not exactly a natural fit. We knew it could be done, but it wouldn’t come easy.” He explains, “The climate at times can be too windy, hot, humid, or wet during the growing season. Although the winters are mild, which limits damage to the fruit, a big rain during the harvest will cause a full loss.”

According to Wright, “Grapes don’t care how much you like them – they want to be in the right place.” Sanctuary chooses varietals that are not household names but are grown in similar climates. “Everything we do is about this location. We grow Albariños from northwest Spain, Tannat from Uruguay. These are our star performers.” Wright observes, “It’s hard to imagine a place closer to the ocean than this. It’s extreme in how marine it is – the grapes are growing in sand, which adds something distinct to our wine.”

Sanctuary Vineyards, Jarvisburg (sanctuaryvineyards.com)
From Vineyard (l) to Barrel (c) to Tasting room
Courtesy: Sanctuary Vineyards (l), Brian Tress (c)(r)

“Sanctuary is the anti-winery,” according to Wright. “We don’t prioritize luxury. Fun is first here – it’s about the experience. People that live within two hours think of us as a place where they can socialize and gather.”

A bit pensively, he adds, “We want to succeed but on our own terms. That means keeping everyone employed. Keeping it out of development’s way. Continuing a way of life that is worth saving.”


Brian Tress has been a consultant to the tourism and hospitality industry for the past 25 years, whose work and leisure time is a fusion of advising destinations on strategic issues and enjoying immersive travel experiences across the globe. In his past travel to nearly 100 countries, Brian has made it a point to sidle up to the bar for an artisanal beverage or two, where he has met locals and fellow travelers alike.

Brian is a freelance writer for the Voice covering multi-faceted issues related to tourism and hospitality that intersect with the major themes of local life.  He is a resident of Kill Devil Hills. 

SEE ALSO: Shore to Pour: Exploring the OBX’s Expanding Craft Beverage Scene: PART ONE Beer

Shore to Pour: Exploring the OBX’s Expanding Craft Beverage Scene:PART THREE Spirits

 

 



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