The Our State Wine Guide: In this series, we’ll tell you where to go, what to do, and, most importantly what to sip in beautiful wine regions across the state. This month, we’re kicking things off with a weekend getaway to the Yadkin Valley.
Pack your bags! We’re taking a weekend trip to the rolling foothills and rambling vineyards of some of North Carolina’s most beautiful wine country. For a getaway filled with tasting-room tours, winery wandering, and downtown exploring, look no further than the Yadkin Valley.
It wasn’t long ago that the Yadkin Valley was considered to be one of the state’s key tobacco-farming regions. Today, a new Carolina crop is thriving in the loamy soil: grapes. The area is filled with dozens of vineyards, wineries, and restaurants. Take a sip, explore, and stay awhile!
You’ll be transported to Napa Valley at this vineyard owned by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress. Take a tour of the wine-making facility and learn about the history of the vineyards. After your tour, grab a late lunch at the Bistro restaurant, which overlooks the property. Then, head to the tasting room. You’ll have plenty of options — Childress produces more than 30 different wines, from dry reds to sweet muscadine varieties. Before you leave, stop by the gift shop, where you can pick up a favorite bottle to take home. Plan to stay for a few hours to enjoy all that the winery has to offer.
The barrel room at Childress Vineyards can be booked for private parties. photograph by Childress Vineyards
The spotted silo and the metal cow sculpture at this vineyard hint at RagApple Lassie’s rural roots. Owner Frank Hobson Jr. is the third generation to farm this land, and he and his wife, Lenna, went to great lengths to maintain the original charm of the former tobacco, cotton, and cattle farm. In the warehouse tasting room, order a selection of Ashe County Cheese and a glass of wine — we recommend the award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, which pairs well with Cheddar and Gouda. Make sure you plan to spend at least an hour here.
A perfect romantic dinner is just a 12-minute drive from RagApple Lassie at Kitchen Roselli. With classic red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and twinkly string lights, this Main Street spot is an inviting place to dine after an afternoon spent sipping wine. Order the meatballs simmered in red sauce or the cheesy lasagna. Between courses, enjoy wine selections from nearby Childress and Raylen vineyards. And, whatever you do, don’t miss the cream puffs — profiteroles filled with vanilla custard and covered with a rich dark chocolate ganache.
After wining and dining, make your way to the Rockford Inn. This charming 1848 antebellum farmhouse features heart-pine floors, hand-planed ceilings, and hand-hewn logs. With just three guest rooms, it’s the perfect place to find some peace and quiet. Plus, it makes an excellent home base for exploring the Yadkin Valley — it’s surrounded by vineyards, with four wineries within a five-minute drive.
One of the largest vineyards on the East Coast, Shelton Vineyards is the perfect place to spend a few hours exploring — with a glass of the award-winning 2 5 9 Dry Rosé in hand, of course. Stroll along the walking trail, which winds through the grounds and around a lake. Then, take a tour of the winery for an overview of the wine-making process and a tasting of five wines. For lunch, simply pop over to the Harvest Grill, Shelton Vineyards’ on-site restaurant, for some sophisticated seasonal comfort food, such as the brisket grilled cheese with Gouda, caramelized onion, and bacon jam. From the patio, take in views of the surrounding vineyards and the kitchen garden, where many of the restaurant’s fresh ingredients are grown.
Shelton Vineyards is surrounded by breathtaking views. photograph by Shelton Vineyards
Wander around downtown Mount Airy Mount Airy
Your designated driver will be happy that your next destination is just 20 minutes away. Get a feel for Mayberry at the Andy Griffith Museum, and stroll and shop along Main Street to work up an appetite. You’ll need it for Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, a bakery that has earned national acclaim. All of the fruits used in the pies are grown on Miss Angel’s 65-acre farm and orchard — try the moonshine sonker.
Once you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, head to Old North State Winery on Main Street for drinks and dinner. Take part in a tasting tour — there are five to choose from — and soak in your surroundings: Old North State is housed in a historic hardware store built in 1890, and the building still has its original pressed-tin ceilings and solid oak floors. Then, settle in at the in-house farm-to-table restaurant. Order a glass of the award-winning Seersucker Social, a sweet white muscadine wine, and the shrimp and grits. After your meal, stick around: On weekends, the winery has live music from 8 to 10 p.m.
Sure, this weekend is all about wine, but sometimes you just need a cup of java and a chocolate muffin. This local café is as homey as your living room — just with better espresso and delicious smoothies. Grab a drink to go or settle into a comfy armchair and sip slowly.
After you fuel up on coffee, take a short drive over to this 80-acre estate to spend a couple of hours. Here, you’ll find stunning views of Pilot Mountain and Cox Lake. Sit on a cozy couch on the patio, where you’ll be surrounded by the natural beauty of the vineyards, or venture into the tasting lodge, as charming as a storybook cottage, to enjoy a sampling of seven JOLO wines, such as JOLOTAGE, a full-bodied red blend. Hungry? No reservations necessary for JOLO’s casual on-site restaurant, End Posts, which serves up fresh tapas, light bites, and entrées. Beginning in the spring, the winery has live music from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Sit a spell on the grounds of JOLO Winery. photograph by JOLO Winery
Less than 30 minutes from JOLO, a herd of 60 llamas grazes among the grapes. At this vineyard-meets-llama farm, you can meet the divine llamas, stroll the grounds with a glass of wine, and even purchase a scarf knitted with llama fiber. Try the Cabernet Franc, aged in French, Hungarian, and American oak barrels for 18 months, or the Red Rita Rosé — named for the matriarch of the llama herd — a blend of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Divine Llama is also one of the few wineries in North Carolina offering Chardonel — a light, crisp cross between Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc.
We’ve highlighted just a handful of the wineries in the Yadkin Valley, but there are so many more to explore in this area. Be sure to come back for another weekend, or feel free to make this itinerary your own. Consider including: