While North Carolina gets a bad rap for being heavy on muscadine wines, let’s give our state’s vineyards a chance. Fifteen wineries in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley are within a one to two-hour drive away and actually boast award winning wines. Follow the Surry County Wine Trail for wines such as Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Syrah and many others.
JOLO Winery & Vineyard’s 2016 Pilot Fog received the Platinum Medal at the 2018 International Winemaker Challenge Wine Competition in San Diego.
“We’re winning platinum medals against the finest wines in the world in California competitions,” JW Ray, owner of JOLO, said. “Most of my counterparts are making primarily elegant European style or even New World style high quality wines that are looking to compete at the highest levels.”
Yadkin Valley aspires to be the Napa of the East.
“People are beginning to identify the Yadkin Valley with quality wine,” Pat Colwell, owner of Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery said. “Our wine industry is at a point where we really need to focus on the quality and continually improve it.”
Colwell attributes the changes in the region’s wine to intentional programs developed in recent years. A wine competition for North Carolina fine wines supports an educational scholarship for students interested in hospitality and wine industries. The North Carolina Winegrowers Association initiated a Quality Assessment Program (QPA) for wine makers. Wine makers can voluntarily send in two bottles of wine to be blindly tested for faults, such as bad tastes and smells. The winery receives the feedback privately.
More than anything, wine makers are gaining experience.
“We have more and more wineries that are now ten years into making wine,” Colwell said. “They get better and better. I say that because that’s what we hear in the tasting room all the time.”
The Surry County Wine Trail Map is online, or you can request a hard copy here. Tours and tastings vary by winery, but typically range between $5 and $25 per person and include a tour, four to eight tastings and the wine glass as a keepsake.
The Winter Wine Passport is available through March 18. It includes tastings at ten participating wineries and discounts at shops, restaurants and lodging. It is $99 for a couple and $64 for an individual. Wineries on the trail include Adagio Vineyards in Elkin, Hutton Vineyards in Dobson and Round Peak Vineyards in Mount Airy. Purchase tickets online.
Make it a wine tasting weekend and stay onsite at one of the vineyards. Here are a few options: JOLO’s honeymoon chateau is a one-bedroom with French inspired décor and is $225 per night. The Hampton Inn at Shelton Vineyards is $139 to $222 depending on room and season. Elkin Creek Vineyard and Winery has four modern cabins, ranging from $139 to $159 per night.
Several wineries have a restaurant onsite, bring food trucks or sell snacks. Many offer live music and special activities on the weekends. Check with each winery for its events schedule, and policies about dogs and allowing outside food on property.
Combine your wine with an upcoming festival: The Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention is April 6 and 7 at Surry Community College. And if you need to include the beer drinkers in your life, hit the Budbreak Wine & Craft Beer Festival on May 5 in Mount Airy.
Photos Courtesy of Surry County Tourism