When you meet Jay Raffaldini, it doesn’t take long to recognize he’s passionate about what he believes in — his business, community and the North Carolina wine industry. He brings the same energy and enthusiasm to each. Why wouldn’t he? He believes they’re all linked. Chances are, when you first encounter Raffaldini, he’ll have a glass of wine in his hand, and he’ll explain how he ended up in North Carolina.
In January 2000 on his 40th birthday, Raffaldini brought his interest in winemaking for personal use to North Carolina. “My family has a history of winemaking in Italy,” Raffaldini explained. “I wanted to find a place where I could bring that family heritage to the U.S. It was part of my retirement plan – be the gentleman wine-maker.”
As he does with everything, Raffaldini did his due diligence. He found the Yadkin River Valley in North Carolina was one of the best locations in the country to establish vineyards for grapes that could produce fine Italian-style wines. Raffaldini found his ideal spot in the Swan Creek area of the Yadkin Valley and started with 12 acres.
At first, Raffaldini planned for his winemaking venture to be small, catering to family, friends and local wine enthusiasts. After all, he had his hands full with a successful career on Wall Street, having led several investment firms since the late 1980s. But, his personality and philosophy led him to focus on making this venture the best – even if that meant changing his plan.
“I believe once you commit to something, you should be all in,” Raffaldini said. “The same approach I took to making my firms successful on Wall Street, I applied to Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery: focus, passion and the willingness to risk it all. You have to be willing to risk it all to be great. I’ve seen it throughout my career. I’m glad to say it has transformed Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery to be a much larger enterprise than I had imagined. But, it looks like I can’t really describe it as my retirement any more!”
Raffaldini comes from a family that has been willing to risk it all. His father, Lino Raffaldini, immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1952, where he met and married Theresa Di Renzo, a first generation Italian-American. Raffaldini’s father came to the United States with just the drive to succeed and desire to capture the American dream, which he did. He became the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of a New York Stock Exchange company, the first Italian born to do so.
“My father taught me so much about how to live and succeed,” Raffaldini said. “Have passion for what you do. Respect those who give 100 percent to their jobs and do them well – no matter their job. Have the courage to take risks. Support the family and the community. In fact, it’s my father’s signature you see on each bottle of Raffaldini wine. He epitomized the Raffaldini family motto: Audentes Fortuna Iuvat, or ‘Fortune Favors the Daring.’”
Well, it’s clear the grape doesn’t fall far from the vine, as Raffaldini has expanded his investment into Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery several-fold since the early 2000s. “As my father knew, you can’t succeed without taking risks,” he said. “I took a risk investing in a vineyard, but it didn’t stop there. I’ve yanked out the vines three times over the years. We had the wrong grapes, and then we had the wrong clone of the grapes. No matter the issue, I’m committed to making sure it’s right. I embrace the risk because opportunity comes from risk. Same as on Wall Street – no risk, no reward.”
And, as you might expect, Raffaldini’s thriving winery now produces approximately 80,000 bottles a year from the vineyard of more than 40 acres and his wine was presented by the White House as a presidential gift to the president of Italy on his birthday in 2008. The 2011 Raffaldini Sangiovese earned a 90 rating/Editor’s Choice by Wine Enthusiast. But Raffaldini believes his vineyard’s success is just the beginning. North Carolina, the Yadkinville River region and the vineyards and wineries that surround Raffaldini in the Swan Creek area are part of his plan for expansion.
Tasting Room Hours and Wine Tours
Raffaldini Vineyards is open Monday 11am-5pm; Wednesday through Saturday 11am–5pm; and Sunday 12pm–5pm. We are closed on Tuesdays. We are open on all holidays except for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Check our Events Calendar for additional information about our many special events throughout the year.
Wine tastings are $12 per person (plus tax) and include a taste of each of our wines currently available for purchase along with a commemorative Riedel wine glass. In order to comply with federal and local laws, please bring a photo ID which will verify that you are over 21 years old. We ID all customers.
Groups of eight or more need to reserve a private tasting package that will be held with an expert Raffaldini staff member. Package prices start at $20 per person. Please call 336.526.1078 or email us to check availability or make reservations for your group. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate groups of eight or more for wine tasting without a reservation. We do this to insure the highest quality experience for all our visitors.