In recent years, I have taken to exploring more of western North Carolina, and my beach-loving heart has been captivated by the beautiful foothills and mountains in our west. For my birthday this year, I decided to celebrate in Surry County with the top North Carolina wineries. North Carolina wine is more than the muscadine wine that many people associate NC wine with and there is no better place to experience this than in the amazing Yadkin Valley Wine Trail.
On Saturday, I picked up my friend Katherine in Durham on the way to Dobson. Once we arrived, we dropped off our luggage at the Hampton Inn Shelton Vineyards. The Hampton Inn is located on the grounds of Shelton Vineyards and you can take a shuttle or ride one of the bikes on the property down to Shelton Vineyards. This Hampton Inn is also the only one in the chain that has its own dedicated wine bar. It also has a heated indoor pool and hot tub, which was a nice treat before heading out on Sunday morning.
Once we dropped our luggage off at the hotel, we took a car driven by Woody of Parkway Wine Tours. This is such a great option for enjoying the 30+ vineyards in the area, and Woody provided us with such pleasant conversation and information about the area. Parkway Wine Tours offers a variety of options, with transportation options for groups of two and up to 20 people. It was a cold and rainy day, so the service was even more convenient. Parkway Wine Tours also provides airport runs to Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh. It is a necessary part of touring the area and be sure you ask for Woody! He is the best!
Our first stop on our wine tour was JOLO Vineyards in Pilot Mountain. It is an absolutely breathtaking location, with amazing view of Pilot Mountain and Cox Lake on the property. The tasting room and restaurant are inviting and warm, and offers a delicious lunch and tapas restaurant that is open Thursday-Sunday. The location also has a one-bedroom chateau that is available for overnight stays on the property. Be sure to ask for Jerry Ann in the restaurant. She is retiring as a teacher in February and will be working at the restaurant full time. She had great recommendations for lunch and for wine!
Order: Deviled Eggs & Bacon, Crab Dip, BLT , Twinkles (a glass of bubbles for me), and Crimson Creek (award-winning red for KP)
After we ate lunch, we had a wine tasting the tasting room. I loved the personal touch with the hand lettered chalk board, and the information about the wine!
The next stop was at Round Peak Vineyard right outside of Mount Airy. There are beautiful mountain views of Skull Mountain and Round Peak, both namesakes of the products at the vineyard, plus it’s dog-friendly, with a fenced-in area for dogs to play. The location brews beer under the Skull Camp label, which also offers sweet and semi-sweet wines, while the Round Peak label offers dry and semi-dry wines. There are two cabins on the property for rental as well, plus a disk golf course.
Order: A glass of Nebbiolo & a locally made dog treat for your pup!
One of my favorite parts of our visit to this vineyard was the event that Kari and Ken host every year. They offer an opportunity for friends and couples to come to the event and make their own red blend of wine. You get to sample wine to create the perfect blend, and at the end of the event, there is a blind taste test. The winners get to see their blend bottled and sold in the tasting room!
We headed back to Shelton Vineyards for a tasting and tour. Shelton Vineyards is the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina. The vineyard was founded in 1999 as a new agricultural resource for an area that relied on tobacco farming, once a major cash crop for North Carolina. It is an amazing space and has the convenience of having a bistro, featuring sophisticated comfort food, and the Hampton Inn on its property. We had another great wine tasting sampling all the delicious wines that the winery offers. I definitely recommend trying some of the reserves and both their bourbon barrel aged chardonnay and red blend are outstanding!
Order: A glass of 2017 Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Blend
After our wine tastings and tours, we headed back to the room to freshen up and get ready for dinner down at the Harvest Grill. This restaurant is absolutely delicious and sources so many locally grown produce. We attended the 14th Annual Vintner’s Dinner, which featured lots of local ingredients and a great pairing for each course. Definitely consider attending the dinner next year! It was a truly amazing evening full of delicious food, great wine, and lovely company!
The next day, Katherine and I took advantage from our normally busy schedules and slept in, had breakfast and a little pool time. After checking out of our hotel room, we headed up to Elkin Creek Vineyard in Elkin for a wine tasting at the vineyard and a gourmet brick oven pizza for Sunday lunch. If you’re going for Sunday pizza, be sure to call ahead of time and reserve your dough! Seriously! The winery overlooks Elkin Creek, the historic Elkin Creek vineyard and mill. The tasting room is rustic with beautiful hardwood floors, exposed beams cut from trees in Georgia, and amazing antiques. There are also four upscale cabins that are available for rent right along the creek.
Order: House Made Sourdough Bread, Pesto Pizza* & a glass of Soft White
*pizza is only on Sundays
Be sure to take some time to explore the Elkin Creek Vineyard property. The picnic area right by the old mill has gorgeous views of the creek. It is a lovely piece of western North Carolina!
Deciding to celebrate my birthday in Surry County with the top North Carolina wineries was a great decision, and even better to spend it with my best girlfriend. The Yadkin Valley Wine Trail is known as the “Napa of the East,” and the grapes that are grown are French and Italian varieties. The wine industry provides jobs to people in the region, and the tax money generated from the vineyards and the tourism those provide positively impacts public education in the county. Additionally, I was thrilled to learn that the Surry County Community College offers several courses for continuing education around the wine industry.
If you are interested in planning your own getaway to the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail, use this website as a tool for planning your trip. Not local? Still consider a visit and use Parkway Wine Tours for airport pick up or shop the wineries online because they ship to most states! P.S. There is still time to purchase a Yadkin Valley Winter Wine & Beer Passport perfect for exploring the region!