Discover North Carolina's Yadkin Valley for wines and other
Winemakers who understand the science of
the land and the grapes are recognizing similarities to France's
Burgundy region in North Carolina, close to the border with
Yadkin is the name of the valley.
Families are intentionally choosing this
northwest corner of the state to relocate a grape-growing,
winemaking lifestyle, even leaving California's fabled wine
Others are launching themselves into the
wine life building knowledge in enology and viticulture with the
Surry County Community College $5 million center offering
intense-study degrees and a multitude of on-line courses too.
What's in it for the
Hotels next to vineyards. Cabins in the vineyard. Chefs pairing
fine cuisine with local wines. Estate wineries growing and
producing everything, and downtown tasting rooms and restaurants
serving wines whose grapes resonate with French names you've
If you'd also like some remarkable science
served with the Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Riesling
– four of the at least 11 grapes which grow well here, choose
this North Carolina valley. Here's some science:
Follow the Sonker
Yadkin Valley has
another trail too, luscious and sweet to embrace the
distinctive to this region and beloved by families who
prize their version as much as the reputation of others.
Think cobbler. Or pot
pie. Fruits cooked and blended, always with pastry
that's not really shaped.
The Surry County
Sonker Trail features eight stops within 35 minutes of
one another: coffee shop, general store, cafe, gourmet
restaurant, upscale yet casual steakhouse and two
bakeries plus Mayberry Pottery in Mount Airy to find
cookbooks and pots to make your own.
The climate mirrors Bordeaux,
The latitude matches Sicily
The soil tests out like Tuscany
The topography is ancient with
the Appalachian Mountains as old as the Himalayas.
This is not some brochure-writing notion;
this is extensive research documenting every aspect required to
designate a region - American Viticultural Area.
Shelton Vineyards is where I learned that.
The brothers behind this estate winery in Dobson don't intrude
with all they could brag about if so inclined.
I had to hunt up the backstory so I could
boast for Ed and Charlie Shelton. Seems they made a comfortable
living in the construction industry and wanted to create jobs
for others, growing the economy with grapes.
After all, tobacco was no longer the
region's agriculture titan. Not a whim, this planting in
By 2003 the research they launched
determined the Yadkin Valley is an American Viticultural Area.
Exploring the wine trails here rivaled my
winetasting walking tour in Santa Barbara a few years ago for
beauty, flavors, fun-to-talk-to winemakers and multitude of
Boutique or estate
Downtown or sprawling slopes
room or tasting only
Pleasant choices like those filled my
winetasting agenda in the Yadkin Valley. Stay several days and
enjoy each style.
Stay where? Hampton Inn & Suites Shelton
Vineyards has easy access from Interstate 77 in Dobson.
Wine bar in the lobby, open 5:00 – 10:00 p.m., and
Shelton wines for sale by the bottle in the next-door gas
station convenience store!
Free bikes to borrow for the two-mile pedal
to Shelton Vineyards,
or hop on the free shuttle for tastings and vineyard tours.
Linger because the Harvest Grill is three Diamond dining.
Romance in the woods is another lodging
possibility with four cabins at The Depot at Cody Creek, also in
Dobson, but neither pets nor children invited here. The
restaurant is full service with full portions and a rustic
Overnight romance and fine dining
distinguish JOLO Winery
& Vineyards, elegance in sight of Pilot Mountain on
81-acres. Spectacular, including the one cottage for rent.
JOLO Vineyards is an
elegant experience, with fine dining, grand views and
romantic overnight options.
Photo courtesy Craig
Dining at JOLO means full French service,
say owners JW and Kristen Ray, in the intimate 24-seat End Posts
restaurant. Allow three hours to savor seven courses.
Elegance is the mood in the JOLO tasting
room too with lead crystal glasses, a new one for each taste.
Ever seen a fine dining open kitchen in a tasting room?
You will in this boutique winery.
The Yadkin Valley also offers lodging in
Mount Airy, including the childhood home of Andy Griffith, a
1950s Mayberry memories motor lodge, a bed and breakfast and
Four creek side cabins, 400 square feet
each with queen bed, sleeper sofa and a kitchen, can be rented
at Elkin Creek Vineyards.
Downtown Elkin provides
the settings for art, live music, wines and
Photo courtesy Craig Distl.
Sleep at Elkin Creek and you'll be staying
with Blue Man Group performers from Las Vegas.
The two couples relocating for a wine life also present
wood-fired sourdough bread pizzas and farm cheeses from local
grass-fed cows—happy cows, they say.
Some people think Muscadine when they
contemplate southern wines. Change your mind if you are one of
Ten varietals grow well here: Merlot,
Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese,
Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot.
Discover an 11th when you visit
Round Peak Vineyards
in Mount Airy where Ken Gulaian works with Nebbiolo grapes.
"They're unique to this region and fairly
unique within the United States," he says, "yielding a robust,
dark medium-bodied wine."
Ken forecasts the Viognier will gain fame
as North Carolina's most distinctive wine.
He's also brewing three craft beers.
Take a picnic to Round Peak—named for the
fiddle playing technique of Tommy Jarrell who grew up at the
base of the mountain dominating the view here. Saturdays the
grills are fired up too.
Perform slowly with passion. That's what
adagio means to musicians and
knows the score.
Good chance this is the only winery owned and operated by
dentists, one of whom is also a classical violinist.
A winemaking violinist!
Find her at Adagio Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley.
Photo courtesy of Craig Distl.
Dr. Janice Wahl's skills extend to violin
crafting, and the tasting room features graceful pieces ready to
"We have violin making, winemaking,
beautiful music and wonderful wines, all in the same place,"
says Dr. Tim Wahl, a certified sommelier. "Adiago applies to
Choose a downtown experience in
Elkin at Brushy
Mountain Winery and also allow time on either side for walking
the wooded trails, exploring shops and ordering a good meal.
The two-story building known as 21 & Main
is a handsome gourmet deli, distinguished with art and bricks as
much as food as suitable for travelers as for local folks.
Good cheer is what I found at Brushy
Mountain where winemaker Jason Wiseman delights in discussing
the flavors of his dry wines "in this land of sweet tea and Coca
Large paintings by local artists fill the
walls of this 1900s-era cannery and a guitarist softly plays in
the front window, notes to match the wines, soft enough to allow
All the winemaking happens on site, Wiseman
says, in this building and for him that translates to this:
"Four days a week I'm lonely in the cellar and three days
happily up on top meeting people."
Brushy Mountain grapes have come from the
same vineyards and growers since the inception, leading to 12
wines and an occasional new varietal.
Mount Airy is a city destination all by itself, with or
without being a Mayberry fan club follower of Andy Griffith but
that's another story.
Trailing Yadkin Valley wines, the downtown
experience here is across the street from an excellent history
museum—way more interesting and broad thinking than one might
Old North State (ONS) is the tasting room,
a big space with a long bar and high stools for engaging with 12
to 15 wines, many in Fish Hippy labeled bottles.
"Drift off course" the logo encourages.
ONS serves deli and tapas-style lunch and
dinner, with live music many evenings, in this building dating
When you plan your trip
For another great winery article
check Fork in the Road