“Check around. Expect the unexpected. You never know what treasure you’ll find under a rock.”
A trip to a winery is a completely unique experience. The vines, the fruits set against the rolling hills and a blue sky. Just the atmosphere created is mindblowing when you consider that this fruit will be subjected to a centuries-old process that produces wine, a beverage shared by people like Moses, Caesar, DaVinci and so many other historical figures. The views, the people associated with the process all are truly remarkable. But what am I talking about here. Surely the fields in Tuscany are well known and documented and fit the description. These are wines that are known the world over for quality and diversity. Maybe the French Loire Valley with its delicate precision which gives us such beautiful wines. How about Australia or New Zealand with an alluring climate and attention to detail. Well, in this case, how about the Yadkin Valley? Yes, the Yadkin Valley. In North Carolina. Yes, our own North Carolina.
Now, much of the wine production in North Carolina begins with the muscadine grape. Ultra sweet and about the size of a small plum, this grape produces a very sweet wine, in my taste more for an after dinner drink. But the Yadkin Valley is home to several wineries that produce some excellent, dry wines which my wife and I had the opportunity to sample just last week. For our trip we picked the Shelton Winery in Dobson NC. The drive there was beautiful with a view of Pilot Mountain that I never imagined. Nature at its best, we drove the roads that led us to our hotel just outside the grounds of the winery. Greeted by a very friendly staff, we got into our room about three hours early, dropped our bags and headed to the winery for lunch.
The Harvest Grill is located about 2 miles from the hotel. The food was good and very well prepared and the service was nice, friendly and attentive, but not doting or intrusive. We were visited by one of the local gray squirrels, but he left after I told our waitress that I was not buying his lunch. Hope I didn’t insult him too much there. After, we walked to the winery for a tasting. We were given a choice and each of us picked five wines and we were amazed at how good they were. The reds ranged from a lighter blend to a Merlot and a Cabernet while my white was a Sauvignon Blanc. My wife also sampled the Riesling. I do have to admit that I kind of prefer Italian wines, but also gravitate to other European wines. I also like to check out the Australian and New Zealand wines and even some from South America. But never have I even considered a wine from what is now my home state. Huge mistake.
I have to throw in a little history here. Briefly, the Shelton Winery was founded in 1999 by brothers Ed and Charlie Shelton on land formerly used for tobacco farming with the idea of bringing a new industry to the area. Set in a breathtaking area of the state, this winery has grown in stature. But this would not have been possible without a product. A good product. Any business can start with an idea. But it takes a commitment to quality to sustain and grow.
The Sauvignon Blanc was very crisp and refreshing with a nice bouquet and a very slight taste of apricot and mango. Light, straw colored in the glass, it is very inviting and pairs well with snacks like light cheeses and seafood. An excellent addition to any collection as a conversation starter and as a nice alternative at any gathering if for no other reason it is local.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite of the stay, is full bodied, deep red, bordering on purple with a strong scent. On the palate it is bold and flavorful with a distinct nod to black cherry and berries and even a hint of tobacco. A nice touch, possibly a tribute to the history and agricultural past of the area. This wine is a good drinking wine for those who like flavor. It is good alone or would pair very well with stews, good steaks or beef ribs. It has the ability to stand up for itself, to keep its integrity with or without a meal.
A visit to this area is an education. There are many wineries just a short distance away from each other, and a short drive from where we now live. My advice? If you can’t afford a trip to Europe or the Lands Down Under, this is an excellent alternative. Nice people, great scenery, good food and wine! As we say down south…”It don’t get no better than that.”