Six Surry County Wineries
By Hope S. Philbrick
The Yadkin Valley is a picturesque wine region located in northwestern North Carolina just west of Winston-Salem. It sprawls 1.4 million acres across the Yadkin River valley from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains eastward into the Piedmont.
“Our views are great, our people are great and our wines are pretty good,” said Bobby Todd, executive director of the Yadkin Valley Economic Development Council. “That combination is, we think, reason enough to visit.”
He said that while speaking to a group of travel journalists (me included) in 2010. I discovered on a recent visit that, in the past six years, the wines produced by several of the region’s winemakers have evolved from “pretty good” to “great.”
Each Yadkin Valley winery has its own unique style, though most wines produced in the region are dry. The fun of exploring any wine region is uncorking and savoring sips at each stop—yes, you’re bound to prefer some wines over others, and that’s a perk of tasting before you buy.
The Yadkin Valley is home to more than three dozen wineries that welcome visitors. I recently visited six of them in Surry County.
139 Benge Dr. in Elkin
This small winery, which bottled its first vintage in 2013, currently produces less than 1,000 cases a year. “We do everything by hand, from vine to bottle,” said co-owner and winemaker Dr. Tim Wahl. It takes an acre of mature grapes to fill one of his fermentation tanks. “We have seven planted acres,” he said. “The main field is a mile from here.” Adjacent to the winery is a show vineyard planted with Cabernet Franc. A new varietal, Arandell, from the Finger Lakes has been planted; the first crop from those vines will be harvested in September. Traminette is Adagio’s primary grape. All wines have musical names, since co-owner Dr. Jan Wahl is a classical violinist and violin maker—some days, you might get to hear her play. ‘Adagio’ means ‘slowly with passion,’ and that’s the winemaking philosophy.
Taste four wines for $5 or eight wines for $8 and keep the tasting glass. Open Friday Noon-5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Elkin Creek Vineyard
318 Elkin Creek Mill Rd. in Elkin
Winemaker Louis Jeroslow’s motto is “put your best fruit forward.” The result is food-friendly wines that pair well with the winery’s locally-famous, made-to-order, wood-fire, brick-oven pizzas. The pizzas are available only on Sunday, but from Thursday to Sunday you can enjoy homemade sour-dough bread—“our sour dough starter has been going for 14 years at this point,” said one owner—with an antipasto selection of meats and cheeses or fresh jams and local cheese. The current owners are two couples previously affiliated with the Blue Man Group; they came to the area for a wedding and fell in love with the place. It’s easy to understand why.
Wine tastings $7 per person. Open for tastings Thursday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment.
Jones von Drehle Vineyards & Winery
964 Old Railroad Grade Rd. in Thurmond
When I saw how clean and hyper-organized this winery is during my recent tour, I couldn’t help but ask co-owner Chuck Jones, “Are you an engineer?” I explained what sparked my question and he smiled with pride, “Telecommunications. We try very hard not to overlook anything here.” This family-owned estate—the partners are two couples: Diana & Chuck Jones and Ronnie & Raymond von Drehle; Diana and Ronnie are sisters—was established in 2008 on 65 acres. The first vintage was bottled in 2012. “We’re committed to operating with as little impact on the environment as possible,” said Chuck. “We try to use as few chemicals as possible in the vineyard and winery.” The winemaking philosophy: “We’re ‘fruit focused’ more than ‘fruit forward’,” he said. “We want you to taste and recognize the varietal. The terroir this site gives us is very special. We’re not trying to save a family farm, we’re trying to create one.”
Tastings $8 for up to eight wines, keep the tasting glass. Open Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
Old North State Winery & Brewery
308 North Main St. in Mount Airy
This winery, located in downtown Mount Airy—actor Andy Griffith’s birthplace and childhood home town, which served as the basis for Mayberry on his eponymous hit TV series—is housed in a renovated 1890s building. It’s allegedly haunted. According to Emily, who was pouring wines when I sat at the tasting bar, “This building was built in the late 1800s as a hardware store. We know of at least one robbery.” Her history lesson continued: “Mount Airy is home to the largest open-face granite quarry and one explosion there blew the storefront off. When the building was renovated in the 1900s, a human arm bone was discovered.” That explains the label on the winery’s popular “Restless Soul” red wine. Has Emily ever seen a ghost? “No,” she said. “But some people have reported seeing lights swinging, shadows.” The winery, which was launched in 2002, currently produces 16,000 cases a year—the third largest in the state. Initially, grapes were sourced from 38 different vineyards; currently the grapes are estate grown.
Wine tastings daily, $6-$15 per adult. Open Monday & Tuesday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday Noon-5 p.m. Hours subject to change due to special events.
Round Peak Vineyards & Skull Camp Brewing
765 Round Peak Church Rd. in Mount Airy
Purchased by current owners Kari Heerdt and Ken Gulaian in 2008, the vineyard’s 13 acres grow vinifera varietals. “We loved the view,” said Heerdt of the property. “We were struck by how beautiful it is.” Indeed, the patio boasts an enviable view; snag a seat and savor it for awhile while sipping whatever suits your mood. “My husband is the winemaker and brewer,” she said of Ken. “We added the brewery because by 2012 we realized that a lot of people who come wine tasting are with someone who prefers beer. Now we have something for everyone.” Ken had been micro-brewing since the ‘80s; he started with a half-barrel system he quickly outgrew. “The vineyard was planted in 2000; it was started by two couples. We’ve since added an acre,” said Kari. “We took out some Sangiovese, added some Tannat. “We do small batches of wine,” she said, adding that 250 cases would be a big batch for them. “On average we produce 1,500 cases a year.” The Round Peak wine label is for dry wines; second label Skull Camp wines are sweeter.
Wine tastings $1 each. Open daily for tastings and tours: Sunday-Thursday Noon-5 p.m., Friday Noon-8 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (and until sunset June through August). Note: Closed Monday through Thursday from January to March.
286 Cabernet Lane in Dobson
Shelton Vineyards is the largest winery in the Yadkin Valley and one of the largest vineyards on the East Coast; 200 acres are planted with multiple vinifera varietals. To learn more about Shelton Vineyards, read my interview with winemaker Gill Giese published by Wine Tourist Magazine.
Wine tastings $6 per person for standard or $25 per person for reserve wines. Tours and tastings daily. Open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
Where To Stay…
Fairfield Inn & Suites
628 CC Camp Road/NC 268 Bypass/Exit 85 off I-77 in Elkin
Eye-popping décor and top-notch customer service elevate this award-winning location above brand standards.
- Free parking
- Free high-speed internet
- Free local calls
- Free breakfast
- Microwave ovens, refrigerator/freezer in all guestrooms
- Heated indoor pool and whirlpool
- Exercise facility
- Odds of Encountering Children: Possible, of course, but lower than average for the brand. Yadkin Valley is inherently an adults-oriented destination.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.