by Michele Williams
Where are the best wines in the world produced? If you answered France, Italy, California and maybe, Long Island, New York, you would be right. But you forgot one — North Carolina. The state boasts more than 525 vineyards and 185 wineries. Where do you even begin? Yadkin Valley’s Surry County Wine Trail is a great starting point. There are 17 wineries located throughout the valley.
Here’s a taste of what you will find.
Yadkin Valley’s soil is similar to Tuscany, Italy’s “terra rossa,” meaning red clay-like earth. The south’s warm climate is reminiscent of Bordeaux, France. Also, North Carolina’s latitude lines up perfectly with the southern tip of Sicily, Italy. This blending of a long growing season, rich soil and similar latitude as Sicily creates the perfect setup for award-winning wines. The list of wines bottled in Surry County is comparable to those found in regions of Europe famous for their fine wines.
Located in Dobson, this is one of the largest vineyards on the East Coast, producing 30,000 cases a year. Charlie and Ed Shelton established the vineyard in 1999. The former tobacco crop has made the soil in the area a perfect starter for grapevines. Shelton grows malbec, tannat, petit verdot, reisling and petit manseng. Events at Shelton include tent picnics, gazebo tastings and “meet the winemaker” events. Harvest Grill, the upscale bistro with a view of the grounds, is a lovely place for lunch or dinner. The menu includes southern favorites with an innovative flair — Carolina chicken, shrimp and grits malacca and pulled pork gordita.
Haze Gray Vineyards
An 85-acre farm is home to this other Dobson winery. Deane and Becky Muhlenberg produce first estate wines. Tastings are on weekends or by appointment. The nine varieties of grapes on nine acres include chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot and tannat.
JOLO Winery and Vineyards
In 2019, Trip Advisor named this Pilot Mountain winery one of the top wineries in the country. JW Ray, President, CEO and winemaker, named the vineyard after his two sons, Joey and Logan. The vines planted in 2010 were ready for harvesting in April of 2014. In 2019 Pilot Fog was one of the winners of the Jefferson Cup Invitational, a prestigious award in the world of American wineries. End Posts, the onsite restaurant, serves comfort food for lunch or dinner. The extensive menu includes tapas, wraps, salads and entrees. Whatever you order, save room for the triple chocolate brownie.
Round Peak Vineyards
If you plan to stay a few days, Round Peak Vineyards in Mount Airy is a perfect choice. Their cabins can accommodate a family reunion, including the family dog. The Winery House and the Vineyard House are spacious and have full kitchens and lovely views of the vineyard and surrounding mountains. Owners Ken Gulaian and Kari Heerdt offer several events at the winery during the year. Harvest Party celebrates fall and the grape harvest. Camp under the stars in October, complete with dinner from the Skull Camp Smokehouse, drinks and s’mores. The spring fling introduces new releases. Try your hand at winemaking at “Winemaker for a Day,” and you could see your creation on the Signature Series List. You can also try one of their excellent wines, tramelot, dry rose, montepulciano, non petit, or a fruity red sangria.
Old North State Winery
Also in Mount Airy, this winery is housed in a historic 1890s mercantile. The grapes are grown at the nearby vineyard then processed in the basement of the restaurant. The Old North State Restaurant occupies the main floor. Every Friday and Saturday night is Chef’s Table when Chef Wishart prepares a seven-course meal with wine pairings from across the globe, chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier.
Mount Airy is also home to Serre Vineyards — perfect for wine tastings and weddings. As one of the latest winery owners in Surry County, Melissa Hayes and her husband, Christian Krobiseh, have plans for a vineyard on the grounds, along with space for a pavilion and music platform. Listen to live music, pack a picnic or make a purchase from the food trucks on the premises. The focus here is on fun and hospitality.
Elkin Creek Vineyard
Owners Nick and Jennifer White and Louis and Carrie Jeroslow met while working for the Blue Man Group. With a shared dream of opening a vineyard, they purchased Elkin Creek Vineyard. The four acres produce merlot, sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. Plan a stay in one of the four cozy cabins to hear the gentle flow of the nearby creek and enjoy a walk to the waterfall and old mill. Enjoy a salad with the brick oven pizza in the Harvest Barn.
Jones von Drehle
This Estate Winery produces dry, European wine on their 30 acres in Thurmond. The Joneses and von Drehles are in-laws who began this joint venture in 2007. The vineyard produces tempranillo, merlot, steel chardonnay, rosa dia and other fine wines. They offer a wine pairing once a month in the tasting room (no appointment necessary).
Need a ride?
Enjoy a relaxing day of winery hopping with the Elkin Vine Line. They offer four different routes through Surry County and beyond. You may choose to meet the “Winery Hopper” at Heritage and Trails Center or schedule a pick up at your hotel. The Vine Line operates on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are made 60 days in advance.
After a long day of tasting and touring, consider spending the night in one of the area hotels. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Elkin offers AAA Members a discount and the chance to earn Marriott Bonvoy Points. Members also receive discounts and reward points at Best Western Plus Yadkin Valley Inn & Suites in Jonesville. Contact your local AAA Travel Agent, or visit AAA.com/GoTravel to book your accommodations.
Visit YadkinValleyNC.com and request your free Surry County Wine Trail map.
Photos: Sam Dean Photography