When Mark Greene, the original owner of Elkin Creek Vineyard, built his Wilkes County winery’s creekside tasting room, he constructed an essential centerpiece — an authentic, wood-fired pizza oven. “Mark’s
When Mark Greene, the original owner of Elkin Creek Vineyard, built his Wilkes County winery’s creekside tasting room, he constructed an essential centerpiece — an authentic, wood-fired pizza oven. “Mark’s grandmother was from Italy, and he had her starter and her recipe for sourdough bread,” says Carrie Jeroslow, who bought the winery with her husband, Louis, and their two best friends, Nick and Jennifer White, in 2012.
Today, the friends continue that tradition with Sunday pizzas, serving up specialties like the Bacon Brie, a white pizza with sautéed garlic, spinach, and caramelized onion finished with bacon, brie, and a sprinkling of fresh Asiago. “It pairs well with a white wine,” Carrie says. “All our wines are made to go with pizza; it just depends on what your favorites are, but with the Bacon Brie, I like the Chardonnay stainless steel-fermented.”
If you want to see the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains, feel the salty breeze roll off the Albemarle Sound, or just have fun with friends while enjoying world-class wines, North Carolina has the winery for you.
Paying homage to a quote by the famous wine critic Michael Broadbent — “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures” — wineries across North Carolina have opened restaurants hailed equally for their food and their wine. Prepare your palette for a visit to these six spots.
It’s hard for JW Ray, the owner and winemaker at JOLO, not to wax philosophical — particularly about a bottle of wine. “It’s history in a bottle,” he says. “Every bottle is a time capsule. You’re getting a taste of the earth, the hail, the rain, the frost, direct from our backyard.”
Ray is proud that he and his wife, Kristen, make each bottle by hand. It’s a legacy that started with their two children (JOLO is a combination of their names, Joey and Logan), and one they hope to build for their great-grandchildren.
They’re well on their way. In June, Pilot Fog, made from the Cynthiana varietal, won Best in Show at the Wine Makers Challenge in California in the Native American category; Golden Hallows won the gold medal for the International Critics Challenge; and the Rosé won Best in Show.
Guests who make a reservation at JOLO’s End Posts restaurant can pair the vineyard’s award-winning wines with menu items like filet mignon with reduced demi-glace, mashed potatoes, and veggies. “People go ga-ga for that,” JW says. “Another favorite is the seared sea scallops on a Tuscan bean puree.”
Through End Posts’ grand, sun-drenched windows, diners have a front-row view of Pilot Mountain, the property’s five-acre lake, and row after row of vineyards stretching 27 acres. “Wine is the ultimate in farm-to-table,” JW says. “There’s nothing more romantic.”
From your table at the Bistro at Childress Vineyards — the realized dream of former NASCAR superstar Richard Childress — it’s easy to see why the restaurant landed an enviable spot on OpenTable’s top-100 most scenic restaurants in America list.
“When I’m here, I feel like I’m in Tuscany,” says Bistro Manager Sarah Kneiss. Panoramic views of vineyards give diners a window into the winemaking process, as the fermentation, vine testing, and harvesting is all on display.
The menu changes seasonally to flatter seasonal vegetables, but one mainstay appears year-round. “Our fan-favorite sandwich, Richard’s Ruben, is named after the man himself,” Kneiss says. “It’s generously stuffed with corned beef, Gruyère cheese, sauerkraut, and a house-made Russian dressing.” Pair it with the Riesling, a refreshing, crisp wine that calms the sandwich’s spice.
Downtown Mount Airy bustles with breweries, boutiques, and charming storefronts in revitalized buildings that hail from the 1890s. When visitors stroll into Old North State on Main Street, they’re immediately struck by the original pressed-tin ceilings of the former hardware store-turned urban winery and restaurant.
From the lower level, the winery produces Old North State and Fish Hippie labels. Upstairs, the restaurant hosts guests indoors or on its inviting deck, adorned with overflowing flower boxes and shaded by colorful sail shades. On weekends, diners are treated to live music.
Chef Chris Wishart prepares a seafood-heavy menu that also features seasonal produce from 14 regional farms. Try the sea scallops or Maryland-style crab cakes, and for a remarkable culinary experience, reserve the Chef’s Table, where an eight-course meal is paired with eight different wines.
“Our sommelier puts together an outstanding wine program with local and international wines,” Chris says. “We cook with the seasons and we are always striving to bring out bright flavors in the food and the wine.”
To taste a range of wines, including Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and muscadine, cozy up to the main bar upstairs, or reserve a private tasting and tour of the cellar in the Barrel Room.
In the woods outside of Boonville lies Sanders Ridge Vineyard and Winery. Run by fifth-generation farmer Neil Shore, his daughter Jennifer Hiatt, and his wife, Cindy, Sanders Ridge offers great wines and dishes featuring produce from their organic vegetable farm.
“People come here for the wine, of course, and for the incredible views from our great big porch outside the tasting room,” Cindy says.
The lodge-like tasting room, complete with an inviting stone fireplace and vaulted ceiling with exposed beams, overlooks the farm’s forest, lake, open fields, and 15-acre vineyard. Here, guests sample off-dry Muscat Cannelli, French-style reds, easy-drinking white blend Trillium, and the winery’s State Fair-winning Carlos Muscadine wine.
A rotating menu of tasting room snacks and plates come from the Maker’s Kitchen, a spacious, shared kitchen facility managed by Cindy. Maker’s Kitchen hosts guest chefs who prepare a daily menu of small plates for the tasting room, and on Sundays visitors can reserve and enjoy a Southern plate lunch featuring a seasonal protein, two vegetable sides, and a dessert.
“Our Sunday plate dinners are incredibly popular and we always sell out, so I encourage people to make reservations,” Cindy says.
Sanders Ridge also invites guests to bring their dogs and kids to explore the grounds. “Everyone gravitates outside,” Cindy says. “It’s such a beautiful, casual spot to spend the day.”
The vines are so close you can almost touch them from your car window as you drive through the gates at Shelton Vineyards. This family owned estate vineyard was one of the first established in the now booming Yadkin Valley.
“Everything is estate grown and produced on-site,” says winemaker Ethan Brown. “We have 72-acres of vines in the ground and around 25 different wines for people to try in our tasting room.”
The 400-acre estate is a destination for visitors who come for the wine, concerts at the outdoor amphitheater, idyllic creek-side walking paths, and the sophisticated, locally sourced comfort food at the Harvest Grill.
“Our seasonal menu changes four times a year, but we always keep our guests’ favorites on the menu — our crab cakes, salmon dishes, and mushroom strudel — and our four-course wine pairing menus are always evolving,” Chef Frances Draughn says.
The seafood dishes pair particularly well with Shelton Vineyards Rieslings, Bin 17 Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel, and Cabernet Franc.
The Country Squire in Kenansville started as a log cabin restaurant in 1961: “Joe West, a schoolteacher in the area, had a dream of opening a restaurant on his family’s land,” says Iris Lennon, the current owner, who started her career working alongside West 44 years ago. “He came back from the service with a Korean barbeque beef recipe, and it’s been a favorite ever since.”
Lennon has watched the Squire grow from a log cabin to a bustling restaurant, complete with tasting room, inn, and guest house. She’s witnessed an entire generation of families building memories at the Squire. “And I’m fortunate to have employees who’ve been with us for 50-something years,” she says.
Lennon’s daughter and son-in-law, Loraine and Robby Smith, planted the adjoining vineyard in 2006, which keeps the glasses filled — and provides the empty wine bottles that serve as vessels for tabletop candles in the romantic, pub-like restaurant.
Along with the Korean beef, crowd-pleasers include the marinated turkey and prime rib. Robby suggests pairing the beef with the Highlander, a Cabernet-Merlot blend. “And with the turkey, I’d recommend Pride of Scotland, a Chardonnay, or Jester’s Folly, a Pinot Grigio.”
Save room for the Squire Delight, Lennon says: “We start with ice cream, roll it in toasted pecans, toasted coconut, and crushed Oreos, and then sandwich it in between puff pastry and pour hot fudge all over it.”
There’s more to know about North Carolina’s wine scene. Read the first article in The North Carolina Winery Guide to learn about interesting activities available at wineries around the state.