Though Stony Knoll Vineyards' first harvest didn't take place until 2002, the winery's 48 acres of cropland have been part of the Coe family since 1896, making it a North Carolina Century Farm. For most of that time, the land yielded tobacco, but now, under winemaker Lynn Crouse, its two vineyards grow grapes for 12 wines. That selection ranges from two cabernet francs to the signature SKV Plantation White, a dessert wine fashioned from handpicked chardonnay grapes.
Samples abound inside Stony Knoll's tasting room, which is nestled high in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, overlooking the scenic vines below. Elsewhere on the picturesque estate, Stony Knoll hosts weddings and overnight guests in its Wine Lodge. The lodge, which was built in 1860, was originally a rural homestead, but it now offers modern amenities for its guests, including a two-person jacuzzi and flat-screen TVs.
The Yadkin Valley Wine Tours travel among the vineyard rows and through the dark cool of barrel cellars, letting guests get up close and personal with the wineries of the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills. Chauffeured excursions by van or bus roll along back-country roads and scenic highways and make stops at wineries along Swan Creek, Shallowford Trail, Yadkin River Trail, and others.
At each winery, the guide unveils a little piece of North Carolina's winemaking heritage, explaining why the area's grape-growing climate is considered similar to that of Burgundy and the Italian Piedmont, just with much, much more distant views of the Alps. Afterward, a wine tasting lets everyone drink in the local flavor and learn proper tasting technique. Tours often follow the themes of the season, combining wine tasting with mining for gems in the summer, taking in the changing foliage in the fall, and stops at toasty fireplaces in the winter.
Inspired by a trip to the wine-producing hills of Italy, Joe and Joyce Neely were determined to start a winery of their own once they returned to North Carolina. Since 2000, they've worked with winemaker Steve Shepard to produce RayLen Vineyards & Winery's impressive roster of award-winning varietals. Visits to the winery typically start with a tour that explains the process from start to finish and includes some surprising revelations, such as the fact that wine is made from grapes. The finish, of course, is the best part; inside RayLen's tasting room, guests can sample up to 16 wines.
Anton Steinhart has always been a philanthropic man?one who had always dreamed of helping others, but wasn't sure how to use his skills to make a real difference. Having spent years in the wine distribution industry, one day it finally dawned on him: why not put that knowledge toward fundraising to help prevent homelessness, a cause close to his heart? That's how Wines for Humanity started. Today, the nonprofit functions as an educational, in-home tasting experience, wherein a knowledgeable staffer travels to a client's home to conduct a private tasting party. Guests and hosts are also given the opportunity to order any of the wines they enjoyed to later drink at home or mount like a prize on the living room wall.
The Raffaldini family has been making wine since before Shakespeare started writing plays. Centuries later, their North Carolina vineyard carries on tradition, hosting more than 8 grape varieties on highly specialized soil.?
In fact, the location is so key to the wine's flavor that the family looked at more than 60 prospects before deciding on the Swan Creek AVA in the Yadkin Valley. Its microclimate produces unique grape clusters that are then sorted by hand, macerated, and aged. But the wines aren't the only remnant of Italy that the Raffaldinis brought with them: they also built a Tuscan-style villa, complete with Italian art and a tasting room with mountain views.
Guests to the vineyard can explore this remarkable building during tours and events, such as seasonal tasting dinners. The outdoors are just as welcoming, and the villa's spread of picnic-ready food encourages visitors to snack and drink on the grounds. The vineyard also houses its own certified wildlife habitat, so be on the lookout for butterflies, birds, and herds of migrant corks.
After their wedding, Michael and Amy Helton planned to take a month-long hiatus from their careers as art teachers to visit Southern France. On the trip, however, they discovered a passion for viticulture and Old World winemaking that ended up transforming their lives. When they returned home, they did their research, purchased land in the Yadkin Valley, then planted vines and tastefully transformed the old farmhouse, built in 1897, into a tasting room. In 2000, several years after the trip that changed their lives, they opened their doors to the public, serving their very first harvest of original wines made to honor the flavors they discovered in France.