Yadkin Valley North Carolina Winery Reviews
Brushy Mountain Winery - Located in historic downtown Elkin, we made a mid-afternoon stop at this unique North Carolina winery. The building is the former location of the Elkin Canning Company, which used to canned fruit brought in by local farmers. The rustic decor of the tasting room fits the area perfectly and I found it an enjoyable place to spend some time. We took a couple of seats at the wooden tasting bar and our hostess greeted us and invited us to taste some wine. She presented us with a wine list and told us about the tasting options. We had been visiting other wineries in the area and the tasting fee at Brushy Mountain was the highest we had come across ($10 per person to sample all the wines), but we had plenty of time and decided to do the full tasting.
I read on the winery's website that the town of Elkin moves at a more relaxed pace - and you will definitely want to keep this in mind when stopping in for a tasting. The entire process took more than an hour-and-a-half, which is a seriously relaxed pace. We did have small samples of approximately 12 different wines, ranging from a dry Chardonnay to a sweet Raspberry dessert wine. I found all of my samples to be well-made and I was impressed with the quality of the wines being produced there. My favorite of the day was the Booger Swamp White, a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay with a touch of Niagara and Petit Manseng. It was a very refreshing wine which totally hit the spot of this warm August afternoon.
Although I wished at times our tasting was moving along a bit faster, our hostess was very nice and I did enjoy the stories that were being told throughout the experience. Brushy Mountain produces a wide selection of quality wines. Whether you enjoy dry, sweet or something in between you are sure to find some wines you will want to take home with you. Being in a downtown location there was no outdoor seating available, but there were a few spots inside for visitors that want to stay and sit for a spell with a glass of their favorite.
Childress Vineyards - WOW! Just a short drive south from Winston-Salem, this Lexington, North Carolina winery is a great destination for veteran wine drinkers, novice wine enthusiasts and race fans alike. One could easily spend the day taking-in a tour and tasting, dining in the bistro and listening to live music from the balcony or the patio. And I haven't even mentioned the wines yet...which are certainly top-of-the-line with enough of a variety to please each and every visitor.
We arrived at opening time on a Sunday, and plenty of visitors had already arrived. From the parking area, the Tuscan-style building beckoned us to come inside. I had a feeling before we had even stepped in the door that we were in for a treat. Upon entering, we found ourselves in a grand entranceway complete with high ceilings, a fountain and ornate furnishings. All the visitors seemed to pause when they entered the building to take-in their surroundings. The Bistro was open for brunch, but the tasting room and gift shop didn't open for another 10 minutes. We had an appointment when the tasting room opened to meet with Kathleen Watson (Childress Vineyard's Director of Marketing) and we took a seat in the foyer and waited for the large tasting room doors to open.
When the doors opened, we entered and asked for Ms. Watson. While they were letting her know we had arrived, we took time to browse through the Childress gift shop. As far as winery gift shops go...this is one of the biggest and best we have seen. They offer a ton of wine-related items, gourmet foods and Childress Vineyards souvenirs. One could spend quite a while looking through their wide array of merchandise. My son loves the color blue, and I discovered a bag of blue chocolate covered blueberries and decided to take them home to him. Gary's a big racing fan and he found a Childress Vineyards Christmas ornament he wanted to purchase for his tree.
Kathleen Watson arrived and introduced herself to us. While talking with her, we found ourselves happy to be partaking in a private tasting with her. She was so friendly and charismatic...and she truly loved the winery and the wines they produce. We soon realized that we couldn't have a better hostess during our visit to Childress. She guided us to the tasting counter and set us up for a Signature Tasting complete with large, crystal glasses. 28 wines are offered for sampling and we couldn't possibly taste them all. We were confident that our hostess would be pouring the wines that we shouldn't leave without sampling.
Our tasting led us through many of the varietals, the reserve wines and the signature wines (each signature bottle is personally signed by Richard Childress and winemaker Mark Friszolowski). Even though I was quite impressed by the quality of all of the wines we sampled - I had some clear favorites. I'm not known for my love of dry whites...but they are growing on me. I liked the Trio very much - a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Semillion - dry, but light enough for summer sipping. I also enjoyed the Pinnacle - a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - it had a wonderful, lingering aftertaste. I found the 2005 Merlot to be very good - balanced and silky. I also loved both the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - the latter had a longer finish. The 2005 Reserve Cabernet Franc was also right up my alley with a finish of oak, cocoa powder and sweet chocolate. Childress Vineyards offers one rose wine - Rose of Cabernet Franc. I loved this light wine - completely dry with flavors of strawberries. I also need to mention their 2006 Late Harvest Viognier. I think the Viognier grape makes one of the best late-harvest wines...and this one reminded me of Canadian Ice Wine.
After our tasting we were taken on a tour of the entire facility. I've been on many tours, and the winemaking and bottling areas were the cleanest I have ever seen. We could tell that Childress Vineyards takes great pride in every aspect of the winemaking process. In the back of the building, we were taken out onto the deck with a view of the vineyards. Plenty of seating was available on the deck and the patio. There was live music playing below and many people had already gathered for the entertainment. I found myself wanting to grab a bottle of the Rose of Cabernet and join them for the festivities, but it was our first stop of the day and we still had three more wineries to visit.
We had a fabulous time while visiting Childress Vineyards. This winery certainly has it all - a gorgeous Tuscan-style building, a beautiful tasting room, on-site bistro, state-of-the-art winemaking facility, wonderful outdoor seating with vineyard views, a friendly and knowledgeable staff...and the icing on the cake...their wines are exemplary. We plan to stop by Childress again next time we're in the area so that we can stay awhile longer and enjoy everything they have to offer. Favorites: 2005 Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Trio, Rose of Cabernet Franc, Pinnacle and 2005 Merlot.
Elkin Creek Vineyard - We truly enjoyed our visit to this Elkin, North Carolina winery which describes itself as "a hidden gem in the heart of the Yadkin Valley". When one of the wineries we had planned to visit this particular day was closed, we decided to make an unscheduled stop here - and I'm so glad we did. The site is a former grist mill situated at a spot where two creeks join together. On this Friday afternoon we were the only visitors and we had the entire tasting room to ourselves. Our friendly hostess (one of the owners) promptly greeted us upon our entry into the tasting room and invited us to sit down for some sampling.
We took a seat and looked over the list of wines, while our hostess explained to us they were sold out of their whites and only the reds were available for tasting. Dry reds tend to be my favorites anyway...so I was perfectly fine with an all red sampling. We sampled six different reds - a Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and four other blends. I loved every one of them and it was very hard to choose a favorite, but my final sample, Remembrances, turned out to be the best of the bunch. Their Remembrances wine is a bold blend of Merlot and Sangiovese with a very smooth finish and I instantly fell in love with this one!
The outdoor surroundings were so pretty we decided we couldn't leave without taking a walk down to the creek. We ordered a glass or Remembrances to share and made our way to the water's edge. There are several small seating areas in this wooded setting available for visitors, as well as a small beach with Adirondack chairs overlooking some rapids in the creek. The old grist mill building is also creekside and it makes for a peaceful place to stay and drink some wine. On a side note: before purchasing the winery the owners were part of the production team of the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. While talking with our hostess I found out that I saw the Blue Man Group perform at the Luxor while she was still working out there. It was very interesting talking with her about the behind-the-scenes goings on of a Vegas show.
Flint Hill Vineyards - This charming winery is located on a quiet, country road in East Bend, North Carolina. The tasting room and restaurant (Century Kitchen) are located in a restored farmhouse on land that has been in the owner's family for over 100 years. The family farm has recently become a vineyard and the tasting room opened its doors in 2005. Flint Hill currently offers seven wines - five varietals and two blends.
Flint Hill is such a charming little winery...and their restaurant is outstanding. With so very few dining options in the area, we felt grateful to have made reservations at The Century Kitchen and enjoyed such a wonderful meal served with some excellent North Carolina wine. When visiting the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, be sure to make dining reservations here so that you can enjoy all that Flint Hill Vineyards has to offer. Favorites: 2005 Syrah and 2006 Chambourcin.
Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery - Our visit to this State Road, North Carolina winery was one of the most delightful experiences we've had in the Yadkin Valley. The owners have honored the origin of the property, which was once a working dairy farm. The Red Barn Tasting Room and the winery, which is housed in a large white barn, are reminiscent of the days when the farm produced what became known as "the best chocolate milk in the world." A few of their wine varieties are even bottled in old-fashioned milk bottles, further celebrating the origin of this historic farm.
When we arrived we were greeted by one of the winery dogs, who walked us from our car right into the building. I got the impression that this particular dog enjoyed showing visitors where to go upon their arrival. The tasting room was quite large with an open, airy feeling. We walked over to the tasting counter where there were two other tasters and were greeted by the friendly man pouring wines that day. He offered us a tasting sheet and gave us some time to choose which wines we would like to sample. There were approximately thirteen wines to choose from - mostly dry with a couple of sweeter, fruity wines toward the end of the list. It didn't take me long to pick the six wines I wanted to taste, and after sampling them I found them to be fabulous. All the wines I had the pleasure of sampling at Grassy Creek were high-quality, well-produced wines. My very favorite was the Cabernet Franc - a big, bold wine - one of the best Cabernet Franc wines I've come across. Our host treated us to a fun and enjoyable tasting experience and I loved the Cabernet Franc so much I decided to stay to have a glass before moving on to our last stop of the day.
We each ordered a glass of wine and took them outside to explore - walking all the way around the building. The owners were outside preparing for an event that evening and were busy setting up the barbeque and getting the food ready. Once we returned to the front of the building we found a table and sat down to enjoy the rest of our wine - where our four-legged greeter found us once again and laid down beside us to keep us company. One of the owners came over to thank us for visiting and invited us to stay for food - which they said would be ready in about an hour. Although very tempting we still had one more stop to make that day and couldn't stay any longer. He asked where we were from, where we were staying and asked us to stop by if we were in the area again. We had a delightful visit to Grassy Creek, and this is certainly a winery we would make a point to revisit next time we're in the Yadkin Valley.
Hanover Park Vineyard - Before visiting the area, we hadn't heard much about Hanover Park...but our visit to this Yadkinville winery was an unexpected treat. This warm and inviting family-run winery is situated in a beautiful country setting. The tasting room is housed in a charming 1897 farmhouse that sits at the front of the property. Even though they've been producing wine for less than ten years, they offer a unique variety of 13 different wines sure to please any taster that comes to visit.
As we were walking toward the farmhouse tasting room, I felt like I was visiting an old friend as opposed to a winery. We immediately felt welcome and at-home when we walked in and were greeted by the woman behind the tasting counter. The counter was small (only enough space for 4-5 tasters), but as more customers walked in, our hostess was very good about getting tastings to others throughout the room. Being our last stop of the day, I wasn't sure if I could sample 13 wines, so I picked seven from the list that I thought I might enjoy.
While sampling my third wine, the wonderful aroma of Michael's Blend really caught my attention. It's a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and I wasn't surprised when they told me it was one of their more popular reds. The last wine I sampled, Vin D'Orange, was truly unique - a dessert wine made from oranges. I'm not sure what the alcohol content is on this one...but it certainly packs a punch.
Though not one of the bigger names on the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail, Hanover Park Vineyards is a stop well-worth making. Their selection of dry whites, dry reds, semi-sweet, dessert wines and even a Port is enough of a selection to please anyone. Let's not forget that yummy Vin D'Orange too. Everyone will be able to find a wine they like and it's a wonderful place to spend the afternoon sitting outside the tasting room or strolling the vineyard. Favorite: Michael's Blend.
Laurel Gray Vineyards - Morning wine tasting can be a little hard to handle sometimes. That first sip of wine isn't always easy when you're still tasting the crepes you just had for breakfast - but our morning visit to the Hamptonville, North Carolina winery was a very pleasurable experience. It was our first stop of the day and we arrived on a gorgeous, sunny August morning. The grounds are absolutely beautiful here at Laurel Gray where they have an 84-acre vineyard growing French Vinifera grapes. The property also features a lake, lots of flowers and a country-style tasting room, which is a restored milking parlor. Their slogan is "French Elegance with Southern Charm" which is right on the mark with the entire atmosphere.
When we entered the tasting room we realized that a group of ladies out for a day of wine tasting had arrived before us. Since the tasting counter at Laurel Gray isn't very large, the eight ladies had the entire counter occupied. We were immediately welcomed by the employees behind the counter, who told us it would be about ten minutes before we could sample. I don't mind waiting at all as long as we are greeted upon arrival. We took this opportunity to browse the room which features a lot of unique gift ideas and their signature house-made sauces. When it was our turn we stepped up to the counter to do some sampling of their approximately 12 varieties of wine. Some of the samples were paired with their sauces (BBQ, Vinaigrette and Chocolate) which I thought was a great way to showcase everything they had to offer. My favorite wine was their Dry Rose' - a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It was their first offering of a Dry Rose' and they did an excellent job with this one. There are so many different grapes that winemakers can use to produce a rose' - and a good one really hits the spot on a hot summer day.
Since it wasn't even noon yet when we completed our tasting, we certainly couldn't stay for a glass of wine - but it would have been a great place to do so. The outdoor atmosphere is so pretty and peaceful with plenty of cozy spots to sit for awhile and sip one of their wonderful wines. Hopefully next time we're in the Yadkin Valley we can stop back later in the day for a glass of Dry Rose' by the lake so we can enjoy the scenery at Laurel Gray Vineyards.
RagApple Lassie Vineyards - You'll find cows, cows, and more cows at this Boonville, North Carolina winery. The owner, a former 4-H member as a child, named the winery after his Grand Champion show calf - RagApple Lassie. Once a dairy farm ...then a tobacco farm....and now a vineyard and winery, our visit to RagApple Lassie was one of the most unique stops we made when visiting the Yadkin Valley wine region.
Walking into the winery itself is not the typical winery experience. The building is entered via a catwalk high above the fermenting tanks. It's impossible not to stop and look around from this high perch. The winery operations are immediately below the catwalk, and from where we stood we could see the tasting room and gift shop in the rear of the building. The tasting room had two smaller tasting counters and the large area also served as a storage facility for cases of bottled wine. Since all the cases feature a cowhide design on them, it added a rather decorative and fun atmosphere to what would otherwise be a warehouse. At the end of the catwalk were stairs leading to the lower level, and we were anxious to get downstairs and sample some wine.
There were only two other samplers in the tasting room, so we approached the first tasting counter where they were. The young lady behind the counter handed us a tasting sheet and we looked over the six wines that we would be sampling. Three of these wines really stood out to me. The first was a surprise to me because it was their Chardonnay. Chardonnay has never been one of my favorite wines, especially when oaked, and RagApple Lassie's Chardonnay is done 100% in oak. I really enjoyed this full-bodied wine and loved the vanilla and spice finish. I also enjoyed their Merlot - medium bodied with a great, smooth finish. My favorite was the First Blush - a blend of Traminette, Marsanne, Semillion and Malbec grapes. It was light and fruity, with floral notes...great for summer sipping.
Even though this winery seems to host many events, we didn't see an outdoor seating area. We did see a large lawn and figured visitors must bring their own seats for special events. It was our last stop of the day and we would have loved to sit somewhere and have a glass before heading to our B&B, but that didn't seem to work out for us. We did make a few purchases (I don't think anyone one can resist the adorable wine drinking cow on the bottles) and headed on our way. Favorite: First Blush.
Round Peak Vineyard - We first visited this Mt. Airy, North Carolina winery several years ago, but were informed by the new owners that they had made many improvements since our original review. We decided to return to Round Peak and see for ourselves...and I'm so glad we did. The new owners have transformed an average winery into something extraordinary. The quality of the wines has greatly improved and they are even brewing beer. Plenty of cozy seating has been added indoors and you can now find lots of tables on their new outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. I'm so happy we made the effort to stop by again to experience the new Round Peak Vineyards.
When we arrived the front of the tasting room looked exactly like I remembered, but I noticed a huge difference as soon as I walked through the door. Plenty of tables and chairs - plus other comfy seating - had been added and I immediately felt a warmer, more welcoming atmosphere than our first time at Round Peak. Since we were invited to come back for a visit, co-owner Kari Heerdt was expecting our arrival. It was a Thursday afternoon so there were not too many tasters - which was very nice because we pretty much had Kari all to ourselves. She took us on a tour of the winemaking facility and walked us out to the new back patio. This new outdoor seating area looking over the vineyard was very impressive. She also gave us a tour of their Winery House - an on-site rental house available to the public. The house is absolutely beautiful and is the perfect lodging for wine lovers...what better place to stay than right at the winery with a vineyard view!
After our tour we sat down at the tasting counter for some sampling. Round Peak produces a wide selection from dry to sweet - something for everyone. We couldn't possibly sample them all, but we did taste quite a few of them. Kari led us through their traditional "Round Peak" label wines - plus their second label "Skull Camp" wines with whimsical names such as "Flirtation" and Confusion. Although all of their wines are expertly crafted, my favorite by far was the Dry Rose'...which is simply a matter of personal preference. Several wineries these days are also trying their hand at craft beers, and Round Peak is also giving it a go and quite well I might add. After our wine tasting we were offered a sample of one of their most popular beers as well as a hard cider. Although I'm mainly a wine drinker I thought they were both delicious.
After we completed all of our sampling, we couldn't resist the urge to get a bottle of wine and spend some time on their new patio...and of course I wanted the Dry Rose'. We were given a couple of wine tumblers (not my favorite wine drinking vessel but I can understand why they don't want their stemmed crystal glasses outside, which will blow over in the wind) and we made our way to the patio. Being a Thursday we had our choice of seats and spent the rest of the afternoon sharing a bottle of wine overlooking the vineyard. I am so happy that we made a return visit to Round Peak because it has become one of the best wineries in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.
Shelton Vineyards - Along the lengthy driveway leading to this Dobson, North Carolina winery, markers are placed at the end of each row of vines alerting visitors to the types of grapes being grown. I thought this was a very nice touch...even though I thought the markers sort of resembled tiny tombstones. Once we were at the end of the driveway, we arrived at our destination and a "theme-park" feel took over. Most of the parking was rather far away from the entrance, a band was playing on the lawn and a tractor was parked in front of the winery loading passengers for hayrides through the vineyards. It was Memorial Day weekend and I figured this wasn't typical for the winery.
We trekked up the small hill from our car to the winery and entered the tasting room. There were customers on each side of the entrance talking to employees at registers. On the opposite side of the room, we could see the large tasting counter directly in front of us. We were confused about where to go, so we stood back for a few moments to listen and take things in. I gathered that the employee on the right was ringing up customers that were buying wine to take home, and the employee on the left might have more information for us because I heard her talking about tours. We walked over the lady on the left, and she asked us if we wanted to go on the next tour. We've been to so many wineries, that unless there is something spectacular, we normally don't go on the tour. We told her we only wanted to do some wine tasting. She told us wine tastings started every 15 minutes...so we paid our fee and she gave us two glasses.
We walked over to the tasting counter and stood behind the sign that told us to wait there for the next tasting to begin. Several people gathered behind us as we waited. After a few minutes, one of the girls behind the counter asked if she could help us with something. Confused, I told her we were waiting for the next tasting to begin. She told us that there was space at the counter, so we could go ahead and come up. Shelton Vineyards chooses daily wines for sampling...and we were told about the five wines that we would be tasting that day. I was disappointed because I probably would have only picked one from those five if I were choosing myself. Thankfully, the girl behind the counter told us that since they were not too busy, we could exchange any of the wines on the list for any samples of our choosing. I went over the list and picked myself out two dry reds (Cabernet Franc and Merlot), a blush (Salem Fork Blush) and two whites (Riesling and Madison Lee White). We had already tried the Madison Lee Red - which was offered at the restaurant we had dined at the previous evening and we enjoyed it very much.
My favorite of all that I sampled was the Salem Fork Blush - a non-traditional blush made from Merlot grapes. It had a distinctive taste and was so light and refreshing. I thought it was the perfect wine for a warm weather day. We ended up purchasing a chilled bottle and going outside to enjoy the sunshine. We found a cozy little spot on a rock ledge near a small pond. From there we were able to do some people watching and still listen to the band that was playing...without being too close to the music to talk.
Shelton Vineyards is one of the larger wineries in North Carolina. They offer scheduled tours, tastings, a large gift shop, live musical entertainment and plenty of room to roam. They also have a restaurant and hotel: The Shelton Vineyards own Hampton Inn. Shelton isn't just a winery...but a destination. If you're looking for the total package in a winery experience, you should definitely stop by.
Slightly Askew Winery - We had a fun experience visiting this whimsical winery in Elkin, North Carolina. Located on one of Elkin's busy main streets, this small, unassuming building actually has something magical inside. The star of the show here is the "slightly askew" names they have given many of their wines. I'm not saying that they don't make some great wine....because they do....but stopping in to purchase wines such as "Numb Knutz" and "Slut Dog Sin" can be just as much fun as tasting the wine itself.
Slightly Askew does a great job of producing wines for every palate. They offer a sizeable wine list and produce everything from dry traditional-style wines to sweet fruity party wines. Since I prefer dry wines most that I sampled had tame names such as "Yadkin River Red" and "Mitchell River White". But even if you're not into sweet wines, who can resist sampling wines called "Nasty Bastard", "Black Jack BJ" or "The Grateful Red"? I certainly couldn't, so the clever marketing actually got me to try sweeter wines that I wouldn't normally taste. After tasting them (and they were excellent quality) I bought several as gifts for friends.
Our tasting experience here was very enjoyable - and as part of the tasting fee we were able to take home a nifty logo wine tumbler with us. We stocked up on bottles of interestingly-named wines for friends and I even bought a bottle of a Blush Scuppernong Grape Cider (non-alcoholic) for my son which he absolutely loved. While carrying our purchases out to the car I did notice a small area with seating, but it only overlooked the parking lot. It didn't look like an enjoyable place to drink a glass of wine, but honestly this isn't the type of winery where you hope to stay awhile. The best part of Slightly Askew is the tongue-in-cheek way they operate their business - and that makes this winery totally worth stopping by for a visit.
Stony Knoll Vineyards - WOW! Every time I walk into a winery, I hope I will be able to give the "wow" rating when I leave. Even though wine travel has become a side-line profession for me, I do want to have a good time and an experience to remember. I am happy that I was able to give the "wow" rating to this smaller family-owned winery in Dobson. Smaller wineries are great for personal service...but often they don't have the resources to provide an all-around experience. But, sometimes things just come together to make for a wonderfully enjoyable experience - and that's what happened for me at Stony Knoll Vineyards.
Stony Knoll is located in a peaceful, rural setting and their lovely tasting room sits high on a hill overlooking the vineyards below. Inside, the tasting room is quite spacious and offers comfortable indoor seating and a large tasting counter. One of the things I really liked about their tasting counter was that it had hooks underneath for hanging purses, umbrellas and anything else one might have carried in. Since I didn't have to plop my purse on the tasting counter or keep it on my shoulder (it's really heavy when I travel) it made for a nice tasting experience...I thought it was a nice touch.
One young lady was working behind the tasting counter - and there were approximately ten tasters. I was very impressed with the way she made everyone feel comfortable - regardless of their wine-tasting experience. She was also very good at working the entire counter making sure everyone's needs were met. Four of their wines really stood out to me including the 2006 Viognier (a crisp wine with a bit of a lingering banana taste), the 2005 Chambourcin (North Carolina certainly produces some great Chambourcin, and this one is no exception), the 2004 Cabernet Franc (a medium-bodied dry with a port-like nose), and the 2005 Syrah (dry and extra smooth).
Before the tasting, I had noticed what a beautiful vineyard view there was from the tasting room. It was such a pretty day, so I decided to get a glass of wine and go outside to take advantage of the gorgeous surroundings. It was very warm outside, so I opted for a glass of the 2005 Ardella Blanc - a sweeter white wine that was served chilled and perfect for the weather. I went outside, found a nice table and relaxed while I watched someone working in the vineyard below.
I had an absolutely wonderful experience at Stony Knoll Vineyards. It's a smaller winery, so you still get that personal touch...as well as exceptional wine, a gorgeous tasting room and a beautiful view. It's everything you want from a winery all rolled into one experience. Favorite: 2005 Syrah.