Wine, dine, and feel right at home in Yadkin Valley, where you’ll not only find great wine but Southern hospitality, too.
I am sitting by the fireplace inside the tasting lodge of JOLO Winery, an elegant mixture of rustic wood beams and crystal chandeliers above. Sipping the winery’s Pilot Fog ($29), which outscored a Napa Valley bottle ($190) at an International Wine Competition, I find it hard to believe that I’m less than a two-hour drive from Charlotte—or that there are more than 35 public wineries surrounding in the lush, rolling hills of the Yadkin Valley.
JOLO’s winemaker JW Ray and his wife, Kristen, show me around the vineyard and its musky barrel room. I’m intrigued that a couple from South Florida packed up their family to make wine in Pilot Mountain, N.C. (Population: 1,447).
“We wanted to leave a legacy for Joey and Logan [the Ray’s children],” says JW. “A vine that we plant today, my great grandkids could harvest from. So, seven generations later, they’re trying what I planted today. That’s kind of cool.”
The Rays are fairly new to the Yadkin Valley wine scene but plenty passionate. From planting and picking to crushing and fermenting, winemaker JW is hands-on from start to finish. This dedication to craft is apparent in the perfectly balanced dry red in front of me.
Of course, JOLO is just one of many wineries in the valley home to passionate people making award-winning wines. Just 16 miles west is Shelton Vineyards, opened by locals Charlie and Ed Shelton in the late ’90s. In 2003, the Shelton brothers led the effort to have the Yadkin Valley approved as an AVA (American Viticulture Area), making it North Carolina’s first. Soon after, the area grew from around 14 wineries in 2005 to more than 35 by 2013.
Down the road from Shelton is Elkin Creek Vineyard. A century-old mill turned winery, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to spend the afternoon or even the weekend. Its creek-side swings are perfect for kicking back and sipping wine, while on-site cabins offer a laid-back getaway. Within a few miles of Elkin Creek, there are several other tasting rooms to keep you busy—from Adagio and Grassy Creek to Brushy Mountain and RagApple Lassie. In addition to proximity, Yadkin Valley wineries also share a commonality when it comes to product. Though their styles may be different—some grow only Italian-style wines, while others grow French-American hybrids—they’re as far from muscadine as you can get. Check out any tasting room around and you’ll be stunned by the wide viniferous selection—from chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon.
Yadkin Valley’s charming towns are also well worth a visit—from Mount Airy (Andy Griffith’s hometown) to Elkin, known for its gorgeous hiking trails, antique shops and local food purveyors. And though a weekend in the valley is not enough, it will give you a taste for a hospitable community thriving on great N.C. grapes and the passionate people harvesting them.
To plan your Yadkin Valley wine trail and to read about all of the area’s wineries, visit ncwine.org.
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Local tapas and light bites perfect for wine pairing.
Harvest Grill at
Bistro-style upscale dining offering seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.
Elkin Creek Vineyards
Wood-fired pizzas every Sunday. Call ahead to reserve your dough (it sells out).
Old North State Winery
Mount Airy tasting room serving Southern-inspired tapas, flatbreads and deli options.
The Living Room
Quality coffee, farm-fresh eggs, N.C. cheese, local pickled goods and pastries.
Barking Coyote Farm
Store & Coffee Shop
Fresh baked goods, local canned foods, sauces, jams and more.
Elkin Creek Cabins
Cozy, creek-side cabins with fireplaces and kitchenettes, on-site at Elkin Creek Vineyard.
Hampton Inn at
On-site wine bar and complimentary bikes, perfect for riding to the tasting room.
Rustic log cabins on-site at Grassy Creek Vineyard, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms.
Explore Elkin Creek’s moderate to strenuous trails.
Check out Mill Greek General Store
An eclectic mix of health foods, old-fashioned candy, Amish furniture, and more in the heart of Mount Airy.
Photos provided by vendors.