The Our State Wine Guide: In this series, we’ll help you plan a fun wine tour getaway and tell you where to go, what to do, and, most importantly, what to sip
The Our State Wine Guide: In this series, we’ll help you plan a fun wine tour getaway and 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 heading back to the Yadkin Valley for round two.
Spend a long weekend rambling between rows of grapevines; eat dinner and enjoy live music in historic small towns in the Foothills; stretch your legs in one of North Carolina’s best state parks; and retreat each night to a secluded creek-side cabin.
Once steeped in moonshine and NASCAR, the rolling hills of the Yadkin Valley are now home to dozens of award-winning wineries. Less than 45 minutes west of Winston-Salem and a little more than an hour north of Charlotte, the valley boasts clay similar to that of Tuscany, Italy, and a warm climate that mirrors Bordeaux, France, making it an ideal spot to grow European grapes. Ready to explore?
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In 2001, Benny and Kim Myers planted Laurel Gray’s first grapevines on their 84-acre farm in the Yadkin Valley, where Benny’s family has cultivated the land for 10 generations. Now, the rolling property — still a working farm that produces wheat, corn, and more — features more than 10 acres of French grapes. In the tasting room — a low, white, metal-roofed building constructed in the 1930s that once served as a milking parlor — sample the wines, including the award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Scarlet Mountain, a customer favorite, as well as artisanal sauces like Italian vinaigrette and red-wine chocolate. Plan to spend at least an hour on the front porch or the covered patio out back, and make sure to stop by the property’s gardens to smell the roses — and the lilies, peonies, and daisies. Tip: Laurel Gray and other neighboring wineries are part of a region within the Yadkin Valley called Swan Creek, which has a cooler microclimate and mineral-rich soil. In this area, the nearby Brushy Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to a day of exploration.
Located six minutes away, this 3,500-square-foot general store in the heart of North Carolina’s Amish country offers a wide array of handmade food items perfect for a picnic at your next stop. The shop’s bakery produces fresh bread each morning, and its coolers and shelves are stocked with Amish-made cheeses, pickles, relishes, preserves, jellies, and fresh-ground nut butters. Pick up the $5 value meal — a made-to-order deli sandwich on fresh-baked bread, plus a bag of chips — or the fixings to prepare your own. Sit for a spell on the front porch and watch for horses and buggies passing by.
Just two (yes, two!) minutes away, you’ll come across Windsor Run, where you can tap into Yadkin County’s moonshine roots. The first winery and distillery in North Carolina to share the same roof, Windsor Run specializes in classic French wines, as well as meads and wines fortified by the spirits produced in the on-site still. Settle into the winery’s sunny, cabin-like tasting room, where you can try the popular Island Holiday, a Cabernet Franc blended with pineapple, mango, and coconut; as well as Midnight Run, a port-style wine fortified with brandy.
Following Windsor Run, make time to stop into Shadow Springs, just a couple of minutes down the road, for more traditional wines. Here, you’ll find eight different grape varietals — six French Vinifera and two French-American hybrids — growing across 11 acres. Sip Petit Verdot or Seyval Blanc on the patio, which overlooks the vineyards and a picturesque two-acre pond, or stroll over to the charming gazebo for a quiet moment. On chillier days, cozy up on the couch in the tasting room.
Round out your day with delicious Southern food on Main Street in Elkin. This charming two-story restaurant serves soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as heartier entrées, like shrimp and grits, pan-grilled pork medallions, and cornmeal-crusted trout. Start your meal with the brussels sprouts, which are tossed with bacon and caramelized onions, and end your meal with the blueberry sonker.
As the sun sets, retreat to one of Frog Holler’s five secluded cabins on 28 wooded acres overlooking Big Elkin Creek — and unwind from your wine-imbued day with a soak in your personal hot tub on the back deck. The rustic, 400-square-foot cabins feature hardwood floors, a full kitchen, and a gas fireplace, and are just minutes away from several area wineries. Tip: If you sign up for a wine tour, Frog Holler will serve as your designated driver.
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On a serene slope near Roaring Gap, Jones von Drehle specializes in dry French wines and maintains a single-minded focus — which is why staff members are trained wine experts. Purchased by its current owners in 2007, the 110-acre property now contains 30 acres of grapevines. Sit on the veranda overlooking the vineyards while listening to a carefully curated playlist, and sip the award-winning Petit Manseng, a robust white, Cabernet Franc, a layered red, or the Steel and Stone blend. Be sure to say hi to Chloe the golden retriever, who spends weekends near the tasting room and weekdays accompanying vineyard co-owner Chuck Jones as he delivers wine to shops and restaurants across the state.
Just 10 minutes away, Stone Mountain Country Store serves the basics that’ll fill you up — hamburgers, subs, pizza, and deli sandwiches — but the star of the show is its wide selection of ice cream, from Moose Tracks to butter pecan to cookies and cream to black cherry. Treat yourself! You’ll want to fuel up before your next adventure.
Before heading to another winery, immerse yourself in the great outdoors at Stone Mountain State Park, just three minutes from the country store. Hike the 600-foot granite dome for which the park is named. From the upper parking lot, a moderate 4.5-mile loop trail will take you up and across the rock face (prepare for your calves to burn!), through Hutchinson Homestead, a restored mid-19th-century mountain farm, and past a 200-foot sliding waterfall. Pause at the summit to savor the panoramic views.
You’ll be transported to old-world Italy at Raffaldini’s Tuscan-style stone and terra-cotta villa, which overlooks 42 acres of vineyards and distant mountains. Owner Jay Raffaldini, whose family hails from the Italian region of Mantua, purchased an abandoned Wilkes County farm in 2000 and planted grapes including the Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Vermentino varieties. The winery employs the Italian process of appassimento, which involves drying harvested grapes, resulting in powerful, structured flavors. Sample a selection of seven wines in the tasting room, take a staff-led walking tour of the vineyard at 4 p.m., and check the online calendar for events ranging from European car shows to owner-led hikes through the woods of the 110-acre property. Plan on spending several hours here.
A 12-minute drive away, you’ll find downtown Elkin and the Art Deco-style Reeves Theater, which opened in 1941. Today, the bright blue event space offers live music on weekends, including performances by bluegrass and Americana bands. Grab a simple, fresh meal at the farm-to-table café in the lobby, then stick around for a show. And if you’re thirsty, the venue’s bar features a wide selection of Yadkin Valley wines and beers.
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Overlooking Big Elkin Creek and a historic gristmill built in 1896, Elkin Creek cultivates five acres of Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier grapes. Taste a selection of wines, like the French Chablis-style Chardonnay. Oh, and come hungry — on Sundays they offer raved-about made-to-order brick-oven pizza. Plan to spend at least an hour here, but we won’t blame you if you don’t want to leave.
End the weekend at Round Peak Vineyards
Your last stop of the weekend is about 25 minutes away. Laid-back Round Peak Vineyards specializes in dry French and Italian varietals produced with grapes grown on site. For those who want to mix it up, owners Kari Heerdt and Ken Gulaian also serve semi-dry and semi-sweet wines, as well as craft beers, under their Skull Camp brand. Choose from several flights — one option is the “Taste of France,” which features drier wines — and take a seat on the wide, covered patio overlooking the vineyards and, further out, the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you feel like exploring, Round Peak has walking trails and a free 18-hole disc golf course complete with baskets made of wine and whiskey barrels.
We’ve highlighted a handful of the wineries in the Yadkin Valley, but there are so many more to explore. Be sure to come back for another weekend — we even have another guide to the area — or feel free to make this itinerary your own. Consider including:
Blue Ridge Vineyards
Brandon Hills Vineyard
Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery
Chestnut Trail Vineyard
Divine Llama Vineyards
Dobbins Creek Vineyards
Flint Hill Vineyards
Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery
Hanover Park Vineyard
JOLO Winery & Vineyard
Junius Lindsay Vineyard
Lazy Elm Vineyard & Winery
McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks
MenaRick Vineyard & Winery
Midnight Magdalena Vineyards
Misty Creek Farm and Vineyards
Native Vines Winery
Old North State Winery
RagApple Lassie Vineyards
RayLen Vineyards & Winery
Roaring River Vineyards
Sanders Ridge Winery
Slightly Askew Winery
Stony Knoll Vineyards
Sweet Home Carolina Vineyard & Winery
Westbend Winery & Brewery
Yadkin Valley Wine Company