MOCKSVILLE — Chris Bolcato, a transplant from New Jersey, finally saw his dream come true this past fall when he opened the doors of his winery, Lazy Elm in Mocksville. Bolcato’s grandfather made homemade wine and so this is not only a dream, but part of a family legacy. Bolcato has been a frequent visitor to the region for many years and moved here four and half years ago to turn his dreams into a reality.
Lazy Elm, at 523 Danner Road in Mocksville, is situated on a rise of farmland that always has a breeze, even on the hottest day, Bolcato said. The vineyard was planted two years ago and Bolcato hopes that this season he will begin to harvest some of his own grapes. He described sitting down for a moment after all the vines were planted and thinking to himself, “Wow, I have a vineyard.”
He said his dream was “a long time in the making” and he still felt overwhelmed sometimes at the magnitude of operating a winery. It’s not for the “faint of heart,” he joked. Bolcato is the owner, winemaker and tasting room manager. He does it all.
“It’s very, very rewarding and very overwhelming, but when you get it all done and you get to taste the wine,” he said it was all worth it. “Sometimes I amaze even myself. I make pretty good wine,” Bolcato said with a laugh.
He said he felt proud of himself for the work he was doing. His father, Louis, came up from Florida last season to help him process the grapes, all in a hand-cranked ratchet style press that Bolcato had from his home wine-making days.
“This is probably about as a hand-crafted as you’re going to get nowadays,” he said.
The winery features Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a dry Rosé, all made from grapes grown in Surry County. For those who enjoy something a little sweeter on the palette, Bolcato has a unique semi-sweet apple wine made from North Carolina apples. Bolcato said he plans to keep these wines on the menu in addition to the wines he will be making with his own grapes grown on the property. Varietals grown on site are red varietals Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre, Malbec and the white Vermentino grape.
Lazy Elm also features a red blend, aptly named “Damn Yankee,” and Bolcato said that it was one of the most popular wines so far.
“From a winemaker perspective, I’m hoping it’s because people like the wine, but obviously there’s a marketing aspect of it as well,” he said. When planning to do a red blend, Bolcato began brainstorming about a name. When he first came up with the idea to poke fun at himself with the name “Damn Yankee” he said he didn’t know if the government would approve the label or if people might be offended by the name. He soon found out that both the government and wine enthusiasts have a good sense of humor when it comes to Yankees.
At his official introduction to the Yadkin Valley wine region at the annual Yadkin Valley Grape Festival on Oct. 19, many customers came to his booth because they had been told about “Damn Yankee.”
“Everybody that is a Yankee wants to buy a bottle and everyone that knows a Yankee wants to buy a bottle,” Bolcato said. “It’s a good conversation piece.”
“Damn Yankee” will be the house blend at Lazy Elm, Bolcato explained and it will evolve over the years.
“I don’t strive to make this one consistent, I just want it to consistently be a good wine,” he said.
Bolcato stays busy not only as the sole employee of his own winery, but he continues to work a full-time job in Charlotte. He said when he does have a rare moment to be lazy, people will find him sitting at the picnic table under the elm tree, in fact the only tree on the property, at the entrance to the vineyard. With the breeze that blows almost constantly across the rise, putting the picnic table under that tree was one of the first things Bolcato did and hence Lazy Elm winery was born.
Lazy Elm is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.lazyelm.com or call 336-909-4914.
Kitsey E. Burns can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.