By Doc Lawrence.
The Andy Griffith Museum is in Mount Airy, North Carolina, a lovely place that the actor called home through high school. It’s also the place where you can still rub elbows with cast members. The museum houses an impressive collection by Griffith’s close friend Emmett Forrest. “Andy Griffith Show” fans marvel at the memorabilia like the iconic signs from the show’s courthouse doors along items from Griffith’s movies and his music career. The collection contains donations by Francey Knotts, widow of Don Knotts who played Deputy Barney Fife. Actress Betty Lynn played Thelma Lou. Now residing in Mount Airy, she also donated to the collection.
The museum serves as the launch for visits to the region’s renowned wineries. Downtown Mount Airy headquartered Old North State Winery and Brewery (www.carolinaharvestwines.com) was the first stop in the burgeoning Yadkin Valley wine country. The winery operates 308 Bistro where you can dine and enjoy boutique wines to compliment your meal. The bar tasting experience is popular and romantic.
Sipping Through The Valley
Once tobacco country, the Yadkin Valley has emerged as a major force in America’s wine culture. Located between the Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains, the ancient soils and spectacular scenes manifest four beautiful seasons.
Yadkin Valley’s majestic Shelton Vineyards (www.sheltonvineyards.com) is the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina. Showcasing a spacious visitor center with a tasting bar, beautifully landscaped Shelton offers everything from tours and tastings to an outdoor summer concert series. Paul Lange, Harvest Grill’s Executive Chef, continues to earn acclaim for masterminding the winery’s dining experience. North Carolina wine pioneers Charlie and Ed Shelton are primary influences in catapulting Yadkin Valley into a wine and tourism mecca.
Benny Myers’ ancestors came to Yadkin’s Swan Creek region from England in 1773 as farmers. Alongside wife Kim, Myers farms the land as a vineyard and preserved the beauty of the valley by planting French Vinifera. They named it Laurel Gray Vineyards (www.laurelgray.com) for their two children.
According to Kim Myers the vineyard currently produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Gris with awarding-winning estate wines available in the tasting room. With a mission to “share our centuries-old winemaking experience with the New World,” Raffaldini Vineyards (www.raffaldini.com), also in the Swan Creek area, makes handcrafted Italian wines described by the owners as “designed with a sense of place by utilizing winemaking skills that have been refined throughout the ages.” The new two-story Villa Raffaldini tasting room is gloriously beautiful.
Buck Shoals Vineyard and Winery is a true “family” affair while Dobbins Creek Vineyards (www.dobbinscreekvineyards.com) is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Yadkin Valley vista with the tasting room offering spectacular views.
Historic Elkin is home to Ann and Matthew Mayberry’s Brushy Mountain Winery (www.brushmountainwines.com) producing an array of highly regarded wines garnering prestigious awards. We dined at Elkin’s heralded restaurantTwenty One & Main. Joined by McRitchie Vineyards (www.mcritchiewine.com) owners Sean and Patricia McRitchie, we celebrated in old historic charm with modern eclectic menu selections paired with Brushy Mountain wines and McRitchie hard cider, a delicious North Carolina artisanal delight.
Pat and Clyde Colwell’s Carolina Heritage Winery (www.carolinaheritagevineyards.com) produces organically raised and handpicked grapes made into naturally delicious wines. Pest control? A flock of fat Guineas released each morning devour anything resembling an insect. The 2008 Chambourcin-Cynthiana is a red wine that begs for good barbeque.
The delightful Divine Llama Vineyards (www.divinellamvineyards.com) features a tasting room nestled among acres of vineyards and pastures for gentle llamas and miniature horses. Handcrafted wines include Chardonel, Traminette, Merlot and a memorable Cabernet Franc. The Llama excursions into the bucolic countryside work up a powerful thirst and the guided trail walk includes a terrific wine picnic in the wild.
Lenna and Frank Hobson opened RagApple Lassie Vineyards and Winery (www.ragapplelassie.com), Boonville’s first winery and are widely respected leaders in North Carolina viticulture. Perfect hosts, ever-ebullient Lenna and Frank oversee the production of a wide variety of vinefera and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle of their outstanding Viognier because it sells out instantly. The attractive bottle design is distinctive, reflecting the exceptional quality of the wines.
Sanders Ridge Winery (www.sandersridge.com) is on land farmed by Neil Shore’s family for 163 years. True to a love of the fertile land, the Shore tradition continues today, growing grapes and making award-winning wines led by the skills of winemaker Sarah Wooten Cooper. Her prized wines include Cahmbourcin, complete with a smoky nose, a crisp Viognier and Cabernet Franc that will cellar nicely.
Flint Hill Vineyards (www.flinthillvineyards.com) has a popular gourmet restaurant, Century Kitchen, many events and weddings and produces a memorable Chambourcin, a medium-bodied French / American hybrid red wine with a wonderful finish that inspired me to join the band in singing “Carolina in my Mind.”
Completing The Journey
Cody Creek resort (www.codycreekresort.com) in Dobson is home to the Depot restaurant, an unforgettable experience for those who love great food and fine wine. Carl White, the legendary host of the hit TV show, “Life in the Carolinas,” describes it as “a gourmet restaurant with the most wood of any place I’ve seen. Freddy and Kathy Snow serve great food, wonderful wines and are such nice people.”
The Yadkin Valley experience harkens to original America: good people, breathtaking natural beauty, small town charm and bedrock values. The food friendly wines are very American. Visitors from the four corners find quiet enjoyment here, so close to heaven.