Yadkin Valley, NC: Hills, Vineyards, Spirits and Sonker


Pilot Mountain, NC

Owned by JW and Kristen Ray, this elegant and inviting winery greets its guests with a modern outdoor deck complete with comfortable seating and water features. Located in the foothills of the Piedmont region, within the Yadkin Valley AVA, JOLO boasts majestic views of Pilot Mountain (for which Mount Pilot was named in The Andy Griffith Show). Multi-tiered crystal chandeliers glitter within the comforting rustic charm of End Posts restaurant and the tasting room. JW is a self-taught winemaker who turned his lifelong dream into reality. Varieties grown on the estate have been carefully selected to withstand the rigors of the region. Estate-grown varietals include Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Norton and Chambourcin.


Harris Leather and Silverworks

State Road, NC

In the 1960s, seated at her kitchen table, Mabelene Harris began hand tooling leather belts and purses in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. She and husband Ralph took her exquisite leatherwork to horse shows throughout the state and orders soon poured in. Today, second generation Phil and Eddie Harris, and third generation Preston, Stanton and Mary Gwyn, work in a shop opened by Mabelene and Ralph in 1978. Harris Leather and Silverworks now employs about 30 people including silversmiths, leather toolers, saddle makers and bridle makers. Crafting a Harris saddle takes an average of 80-100 hours for the leather tooling and 250-300 hours for the silverwork. Even those who don’t follow the horse show circuit will appreciate the time, talent and patience that go into creating Harris’s one-of-a-kind creations.


Peeled Poplar Farm

Pauline Hylton, who calls herself the creative one, and husband Tom, once a professional fisherman on “The Gyspy” in Clearwater, Florida, moved to North Carolina to try their hand at sustainable farming. Among other things, the Hyltons have 75 chickens, two Great Pyrenees Livestock dogs, 2,000 garlic bulbs, 1,200 zucchini and countless herbs. Pauline is well known for her mild and hot salsas, pestos and jellies made from her farm-raised produce. A favorite is her Pyro Pepper jelly – not for the faint-of-heart. The farm is not open to visitors, but if you happen to stop by a farmers market while in Surry County, be sure to ask for Pauline.


 The Sonker Trail

What’s sonker? Dating back to the 1800s this dessert is loosely described as a cross between a fruit pot pie and cobbler. Because no two recipes are alike, the seven-stop Surry Sonker Trail was born. For a little kick, don’t miss Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, where Angela and Randy Shur drizzle their sonker with a moonshine glaze. And at 4pm every day, they load up anything that hasn’t been sold and make deliveries to soup kitchens and food banks. Donations average 1,000 delicious treats per week.


Herrera Vineyards

Dobson, NC

Javier Herrera grew up in San Pedro, Coahuila, Mexico where he worked in a local vineyard and developed an appreciation for the growing process. After moving to America and finding success in the metal building business, Javier and his wife acquired land nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Herrera Vineyards prides itself on nurturing, cultivating and harvesting premium fruit to produce a variety of dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines. In 2012, influenced by culture and heritage, Herrera bottled the first Red Sangria in the Yadkin Valley. Sample in the tasting room, then choose a bottle to enjoy with a variety of appetizers, small plates, entrées and salads offered in the restaurant.


Rockford Inn Bed & Breakfast

Dobson, NC

Enjoy modern conveniences in this Antebellum, circa-1848 home perched on the crest of rolling hills in the center of the Yadkin Valley wine region. The historic Rockford Inn offers three distinctive guest rooms and common areas featuring hand-planed ceilings, heart-pine floors and hand-hewn logs. Walk the grounds where century-old oak trees tower near 100 blueberry bushes and three acres of muscadine grapes, both of which are used for homemade jellies. Take advantage of nearby attractions: hiking, biking, kayaking, golfing, horseback riding and of course “wining.”


Jones vonDrehle Vineyards

Thurmond, NC

Established in 2007, this 24,300-vine, 30-acre vineyard was planted in 2009 in the Roaring Gap area, which touts the highest elevation in the Yadkin Valley (15,000-16,000 ft). Winemaker Dan Tallman says, “the Roaring Gap drives the vineyard.” A graduate of UC Davis, Dan specializes in working with classic Bordeaux and Rhône grapes, crafting wines that express the unique terroir. Although tasting often is believing, Dan relies on the lab to “verify and confirm that we’re on the right track.” Large windows in the tasting room show off the vineyard vista and an outdoor patio lends itself to a relaxing sip with friends.


Adagio Vineyards

Elkin, NC

Drs. Jan and Tim Wahl have “violin making, winemaking, beautiful music and wonderful wines, all in the same place.” Jan and Tim are both dentists. Jan is a classical violinist and violin maker. Tim is a certified sommelier and has a certificate in winemaking from UC Davis. The Wahls are involved with every part of the vineyard and winery operation with help in the cellar from Sean McRitchie, of McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks. There are six acres of grapes, which include two red varietals, Merlot and Arandell, and two white varietals, Chardonnay and Traminette. Stop in and you may be fortunate enough to hear Jan play the violin.


Shelton Vineyards

Dobson, NC

Shelton Vineyards offers a beautiful vine-lined entrance, estate-grown wines, tours and tastings every half hour, Shelton at Sunset outdoor concerts (May-September), wine clubs, corporate events and “sophisticated comfort foods” at Harvest Grill. Charlie and Ed Shelton, born and raised in the Yadkin Valley, planted their first vines in 1999 and currently grow 10 different varieties. They have approximately 136,000 vines spanning 145 miles. All grape skins, stems and other natural byproducts are composted and worked back into the soil for enrichment. The Sheltons are proud of the fact that their wines reflect the terroir of the Yadkin Valley, “as far away from Napa as you can get.”


Mayberry Spirits Distillery

Mount Airy, NC

Distiller Vann McCoy spent 25 tranquil years in a monastery before answering to a different calling. The first legal whiskey distillery in Mayberry since Prohibition, Mayberry Spirits is handcrafting small-batch Crystal Moonshine Sorghum Whiskey, Toasted Oak Sorghum Whiskey and Toasted Vanilla Sorghum Whiskey with plans to expand their offerings. The spirits go from a handmade copper still to toasted oak barrels for aging. Take a tour, shop for unique gifts including hand-rolled cigars, handmade Moonshine Mash Soap, barn quilts and of course taste something to lift your spirits. Open Fridays and Saturdays, 12-6.


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