Savannah to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina
In search of Fall color, and fun with friends, we are on our way to a Landings Auto Society outing at The Homestead in Virginia. The official Society soiree begins tomorrow, but we are getting a head start, along with four friends.
Our destination is Shelton Vineyards, in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina. The Yadkin Valley is home to about forty vineyards, but most are not open on Mondays or are far off our track to The Homestead. Shelton Vineyards is the perfect stop for us--once we get there, we are done driving for the day. The family that owns the vineyard also owns a Hampton Inn just a couple miles down the road--the only Hampton Inn in the country with a wine bar, they proudly proclaim--and we have dinner reservations at the Vineyard’s fine dining bistro.
The entry drive to Shelton Vineyards is beautiful--rows of vines stretch over the rolling hills on both sides of the drive, and rose bushes mark the end of most rows. The bugs that can be bad for grapes are also attracted to rose bushes, only more so. The rose bushes are not just here for their beauty--they are early warning systems to prevent grape pestilence.
We learn this interesting fact, and lots more during a tour of the 33,000 square foot winery, which is built into the side of a pretty steep hill, providing a natural wine cellar and gravity fed wine processing system. Two brothers developed the winery on tobacco farming land back in 1999 as a sideline to their “real business” of construction. The next generation of their family is in charge of it now.
Ah, the aroma of fermenting wine in the oak barrel filled cellar is heavenly. The winery offers people the opportunity to sponsor a barrel of wine. For the cost of an empty barrel (the most expensive--French oak--goes for $695), you can have a plaque with your message stuck on the barrel, claim a case of wine from that barrel once a year for four years, and at the end of the four years, carry your empty barrel away as a keepsake. Many weddings, anniversaries and birthdays are proclaimed therein. One of our favorites is a barrel that a couple bought in honor of their sons, whom, their plaque claims, drove them to drink;, another barrel was a gift to Richard Petty from his wife--he signed the barrel.
After learning all about how the wine is made, we proceed to the tasting room, where our guide, Linda, gives us all souvenir wine glasses and proceeds to pour us samples of five different wines, plus a couple bonus samples she has left in bottles that were used for a special tasting over the weekend. The whole tour and tasting experience is just $5, although we end up spending quite a bit more on wine and gift shop purchases.
After a short respite at the Hampton Inn, we are back at the winery to enjoy a spectacular sunset behind the vine-covered hills while dining on creatively prepared locavore food at the Harvest Grill. This must be the finest restaurant for miles around (or maybe the only restaurant for miles around), because it is packed tight on a Monday night.
Back at the hotel, we pick up milk and cookies from the lobby (our favorite part of staying at the Hampton Inn), and all retire to our rooms to rest up for our drive to The Homestead tomorrow.