Here’s something the folks in Napa Valley wish they could keep a secret: Before Prohibition, North Carolina was the top producer of wine in the whole country. The industry withered away, but in recent decades, it has grown to include more than 100 wineries across the state. Chiefly among North Carolina’s wine-producing regions is the Yadkin Valley. Grapes are fickle and need to be grown within a fairly narrow latitude range, and the foothills of the Tar Heel State are one such place where they can thrive with the right care. So here’s to growing and thriving, as we ever were.
All Lexington locals have their preferred spot for barbecue, but out-of-towners will get a great introduction to the city’s famed food at Lexington Barbecue. Fast-talking servers wearing smocks will jot down your order, which will often be on your table before you even have time to fiddle with the salt and pepper shakers. You’ll want the chopped pork plate, and the red slaw is a must. The slaw’s tartness cuts through the smokiness of the pork, proving that while the menu here is simple, there’s a true science behind it.
100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington • (336) 249-9814
Drink: Childress Vineyards
When NASCAR legend Richard Childress would race in California, he enjoyed visiting wineries so much that it prompted him to open his own in his home state. Located right off the highway in Lexington, you could call Childress Vineyards a “pit stop,” but that doesn’t quite get at how elegant the Italian Renaissance-style estate actually is. When visiting a winery, you expect to walk away knowing your new favorite wine. But with the help of a top-notch sommelier at Childress’s tasting bar, you also walk away with a more appreciative palate, discovering types of wine you weren’t even expecting to like. Childress has a number of events that take place throughout the year, but be sure to get your toes prepped for some squishing at the annual Grape Stomp Harvest Party on September 18. (And yes, some attendees do dress up and channel I Love Lucy for this one.)
Photograph courtesy of Childress Vineyards photograph by Childress Vineyards
Stay: The Rockford Inn Bed and Breakfast
The Rockford Inn Bed and Breakfast, which is located in a historic home built in 1848, offers respite to anyone looking for it. Oak trees shade the grounds of the inn, creating the perfect setting for a pleasant evening walk.
Both paddling pros and novices will enjoy a kayaking excursion on the easy, Class 1 Yadkin River. Yadkin River Adventures offers several different trip options for varying lengths of time. You’ll have several wineries to squeeze in today, so stick to the two-hour, five and a half-mile trip. Before hitting the water, visit the nearby Rockford General Store to load up on sandwiches and snacks for a picnic lunch when you reach the halfway point on your journey.
“When we hung our stars on everything we ever owned, we hoped that it was going to become this,” says Lenna Hobson, who owns RagApple Lassie Vineyards with her husband, Frank. Frank is a lifelong farmer, and the farm, which formerly grew tobacco, has been in his family for 110 years. “My husband’s soul is connected to the earth,” Lenna says. “Raising grapes, growing grapes, is farming.” The vineyard specializes in dry wines. Be sure to try the Hobson’s Choice, a blended wine comprising cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, merlot, and zinfandel. Upon first taste, your palate will pick up on a rich blend of cherry, chocolate, and blackberry essences.
When Italian-American Jay Raffaldini realized he wanted to open a vineyard, he knew he wanted to draw on the bold flavors of his family’s native country in his own wines. That would require finding a place that could grow the particular variety of grapes he wanted, which is what led him to Ronda, of all places, which has a population of fewer than 500 people. Step out onto the patio of the vineyard’s Tuscan-style villa and enjoy the afternoon sun along with a glass of Sangiovese, a flagship red variety of wine that’s medium-bodied and slightly fruity.
Photograph by Stacey Van Berkel photograph by Childress Vineyards
Stay: Glade Valley Bed and Breakfast
Unwind at Glade Valley Bed and Breakfast, which is located inside a homey log cabin within walking distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch the morning fog roll while rocking away all your worries and cares on the front porch.
Rise early for a hike at Stone Mountain, where the views are as impressive from down here as they are from up there. The obvious focal point of one of our largest state parks, the 600-foot-tall granite dome, is striated and has been made smooth by millions of years of erosion. While there, discover the three W’s: waterfalls, wildlife, and white whiskey — well, whiskey stills, anyway. Dozens upon dozens of moonshine stills can be found in the park, remnants of an illicit industry that once offered a livelihood to the families producing it.
3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap • (336) 957-8185 • ncparks.gov
Eat & Drink: Shelton Vineyards
Turn off of one of Dobson’s hilly, winding roads, and you’ll happen upon Shelton Vineyards, where acres of verdant vines are bookended with colorful rose bushes. (They say the roses are there as the first line of defense against maladies that grapes are prone to. We just say they’re pretty.) Stop into the vineyard’s Harvest Grill for lunch. After a morning of hiking, we recommend the hearty Black & Bleu Grilled Steak Wrap. The subtle sweetness of its caramelized vegetables mellow the sharp taste of bleu cheese. The winery tour, which is a can’t-miss, happens on the half-hour and is $5 and includes five tastings and a souvenir wine glass. Those who work at Shelton Vineyards, which is family-owned and one of the oldest wineries in the Yadkin Valley, describe wine-making as “a hobby that’s gotten out of hand.” Just take one sip of the prized Estate Chardonnay, which has an immediate spiced vanilla flavor and a buttery finish. You’ll immediately reap the benefits of this so-called hobby.
The Sobotta Manor is a gem located right in the middle of downtown Mount Airy, which is known to the world as Mayberry. You’ll get a chance to explore Andy Griffith’s favorite spots tomorrow, but tonight, enjoy every cranny of this Tudor Revival mansion by curling up with a book in the cozy parlor or exploring the winding gardens out back. With rotating dishes that range from French Toast Bananas Foster to the innkeeper’s own melt-in-your-mouth quiche, visitors will sometimes stay at the manor for the breakfast alone.
The Andy Griffith Show has long been in syndication, but visions of Mayberry still remain in the small town of Mount Airy. Hop inside a retro squad car and cruise around town for a fun and informative tour packed with stories about the town’s history and the TV show. You’ll visit show settings and other fun stops along the way, including a replica of the courthouse. For a look at the life of Griffith, Mount Airy’s hometown boy, visit the small but interesting museum that honors him.
While Snappy Lunch might be one of only two Mount Airy business ever mentioned on The Andy Griffith Show, that’s not the only reason it’s famous. With its coleslaw, mustard, and chili, this pork chop sandwich is so good, it’s celebrity-endorsed. Pro tip: Be sure to grab a fistful of napkins before digging in. Closed Sundays.
Photograph by Travis Dove photograph by Childress Vineyards
Drink: Round Peak Vineyards
To round out your Yadkin Valley wine experience, make your final stop at Round Peak. Not only is the wine selection stellar, but those who have just about had their fill of wine can also try beer brewed on-site by Skull Camp Brewery. All wine at Round Peak comes right from grapes grown on the property.
765 Round Peak Church Road, Mount Airy • (336) 352-5595 • roundpeak.com
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