7 Stunning Yadkin Valley Wineries to Visit This Fall
Winston-Salem is your gateway to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, where award-winning wine and unbeatable views await
Make no mistake, there's never a bad time of year to visit Yadkin Valley Wine Country. Warm weather, cold weather, in-between weather — it’s all good. But if we had to pick a favorite season to visit, it would have to be the fall. The air is crisp and comfortable, the harvest season is in full swing, and the area is bursting with fall color. For the winemakers, the harvest season is the culmination of efforts made earlier in the year, as grapes are plucked from the vine, sorted by varietal, and crushed (sometimes by foot). For visitors, fall represents Mother Nature’s final gift of the year, when the region’s rolling hills and vines are colored in fiery red, orange, and yellow tones.
If you’re looking for a wine-themed retreat this autumn, then Winston-Salem is a perfect home base. You’ll find 45 wineries within a 45-minute drive, most of which are scattered to the north and west of the city at the foot of the foot Blue Ridge Mountains. This is the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, the oldest and largest American Viticultural Area (AVA) in North Carolina. Here you'll find everything from boutique vintners focused on small-batch production to some of the largest operations on the East Coast. And while each winery offers plenty to see and savor, a few tend to shine extra bright this time of year.
Here's a look at seven stunning wineries worth drinking to this fall.
Enjoy the sweet life, or, as the Italians say, la dolce vita. When successful Wall Street hedge-fund manager Jay Raffaldini decided to open a winery, he could have done so anywhere, yet he opted for the rolling hills and temperate climate of the Yadkin Valley. That’s where he built a breathtaking Tuscan-style villa and planted his first vine in 2001. The rocky soil and warm climate are perfect for producing classic Italian varietals, earning the winery the nickname “Chianti in the Carolinas.”
A lively calendar of events includes charcuterie classes, wine dinners, live music, and food trucks serving everything from lobster to brick-oven pizza. Raffaladini’s signature event happens each fall, Festa Italiana, a celebration of Italian culture featuring food vendors, musicians, and craftsmen from across the region. This year’s Festa Italiana will be Sept 16-17. Admission is $25 and includes wine plus a commemorative wine glass. For details on this and other events Raffaldini, check the Events section of their website.
Natural beauty abounds as far as the eye can see at JOLO, with stunning views of nearby Pilot Mountain and Cox Lake. The winery exudes charm at every turn, from the outdoor picnic tables with flower-filled barrels to the mountain lodge-esque tasting room and stone fireplaces. Its onsite restaurant, End Posts, was voted one of the top 100 brunch spots in America by OpenTable and features a full lunch and dinner menu. A traditional tasting flight includes one sparkling wine, white wine, rosé, three reds, and a choice of dessert wine. JOLO also offers a premium tasting event, the Cuvée Experience, multiple times throughout the year. The tasting is available to all visiting guests and includes five different wines paired with four different courses, plus a bonus wine.
Brothers Charlie and Ed Shelton founded this vineyard in 1999 in an area once dependent on tobacco farming. At the time, North Carolina was home to fewer than ten vineyards. Today, Shelton is the state’s largest family-owned estate winery with 25,000 cases produced annually. Spanning 406 serene acres, the winery features walking trails that wind through its manicured grounds, passing by grapevines, rose bushes, streams, and ponds. There are plenty of scenic spots to enjoy your wine here, including several picnic tables along with the walking path that winds around the lake. Another great place is Shelton’s on-site bistro-style Harvest Grill, which is adjacent to the winery and open daily for lunch and dinner (including Sunday brunch). Its food, service, and decor earned a three-diamond rating from Triple-A.
You’ll find a variety of events happening throughout the fall, including Shelton’s Music on the Terrace series each Saturday and Sunday. Fall is also when you can experience Shelton’s annual Harvest Festival, featuring a variety of food trucks, local craft vendors, live music, hayrides, and more. This year’s event is Saturday, Oct. 7, and admission is free. Find more details here
Encompassing 1,500 acres, this high-end, high-altitude winery yields bold Bordeaux varietals. A long, winding driveway leads to the Dynamis Estate, set amid rolling green fields and lush orchards in the shadow of the Brushy Mountains. The property includes four distinct vineyards and six acres of fruit and pecan orchards. Casual tastings with small bites are offered along with in-depth, sit-down experiences. You can find more details on Dynamis’ hour-long Vineyard Flight experience as well as its 90-minute Estate Tasting package on its website.
Nestled on 91 acres in the Yadkin County town of East Bend, NC — less than 30 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem — this unique vineyard and tasting room just happens to be on the Southeast’s largest llama farm. Grab a bottle of wine and sign up for a llama trek, a 2.5-mile scenic hike with llamas that ambles through rolling hills and alongside a creek. Then, visit one of the featured food trucks or enjoy a picnic on the grounds while sampling one of the featured wines. Reservations are required for the Llama Trekking experience, which costs $50. Families welcome.
If your visit to the Yadkin Valley happens to fall on a Sunday, Elkin Creek is your destination. That's when the winery's kitchen opens for made-to-order brick oven pizzas, which just so happens to pair perfectly with its award-winning wines. If you can't make it on a Sunday, don't fret. The scenery here is open daily. The winery takes advantage of its unique location, placing its tasting room just up the hill from Elkin Creek. A covered outdoor patio overlooks the waterway, and you'll often see visitors with wine glasses in hand enjoying a walk along the creek.
Fall is served in a glass at McRitchie Ciderworks, a rustic winery in the map-dot town of Thurmond, NC. In addition to producing a variety of award-winning wines, McRitchie holds the distinction of being the first winery in the state to produce hard cider. Owner Sean McRitchie learned the craft from his father, who was a winemaker in California and Oregon. Now he and wife, Patricia, are dedicated to sustainable growth and low-intervention winemaking. The couple prioritizes quality over appearances. A simple, understated tasting room stands at the center of the 30-acre property, surrounded by heirloom gardens, horse pastures, and the gentle slopes of the Brushy Mountains. It's the kind of backdrop that pairs perfectly with McRitchie's sparkling cider, which is crafted from apples grown near the property.
MORE VINEYARD VIEWS
There are dozens of wineries dotting the Yadkin Valley, and each one has something special to offer when it comes to scenery. Here are a few more spots to enjoy vino with a view:
- Jones Von Drehl Vineyards
- 964 Old Railroad Grade Road, Thurmond, NC, 28683
- Pilot Mountain Vineyards
- 1162 Bradley Road, Pinnacle, NC, 27043
- Piccione Vineyards
- 2364 Cedar Forest Road, Ronda, NC, 28670
- RayLen Vineyards & Winery
- 3577 Highway 158, Mocksville, NC, 27028
- Round Peak Vineyards
- 765 Round Peak Church Road, Mount Airy, NC, 27030
- Serre Vineyards
- 364 Beast Trail, Mount Airy, NC, 27030