Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yadkin Valley Winery Tour + Harvest Host Tryout

Hi all -- Dianne here.
Just a reminder: The photos can be made larger for viewing by clicking on each one of them. Some of the landscaping in this blog is worth a click!

On our final day in Mount Airy, NC, Roger and I visited several wineries. The area, known as the Yadkin Valley Appellation, is developing as an area of dozens of wineries. Some of these are the result of former tobacco farmers switching to grapes as a crop.

We picked up a brochure outlining the various wineries in the area, and ruled out all but those offering dry wines that we prefer.

The first winery tasting room we visited was right in the middle of Mount Airy, the Old North State Winery. We didn't care for the reds, but we really liked some of their white wines. We left with a bottle of "Bare Bones Un-Oaked Chardonnay."

The next day we visited two wineries. The first one was about 25 miles south of Mount Airy. We were excited to see this winery, the Raffaldini Winery, as it was advertised as having Italian-type wines, which are our favorite.

The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and the setting did, indeed, remind us of our trip to Tuscany several years ago.

They have obviously taken great care in the landscaping and ambiance for their winery.

There were dozens of yellow rose bushes, all in full bloom.

My favorite wine is an Italian Chianti. I was very excited to try Raffaldini's Sangiovese; alas, though, even though I really
wanted to like it, I just didn't care for it.

We again preferred their white wine selection, and came away with a Pinot Grigio and several fun items from the gift shop, including some Raffaldini spaghetti sauce, which is reportedly heavily spiked with wine. (I also got a new cap, retiring a red one that is now pink -- R.)

After the tastings, Roger also purchased a glass of white wine to enjoy on the lovely patio.

There is a large fountain and beautiful hilltop views. If there had not been as many hardwood trees, it really would have looked a lot like rural Italy!

I'm including a photo taken from our Tuscany vacation in 2004 to illustrate what I mean. This photo was taken from the villa

(a working winery) we stayed in with a group of friends who pooled resources to rent it. We've been hooked on Italian wine ever since!

The next winery we visited was the Shelton Winery, closer to Mount Airy.

Another beautifully landscaped winery! We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the grounds and taking it all in.

There were more beautiful roses planted in the Shelton Winery landscape. I also noticed rose bushes planted next to each row of grape vines in the field. Turns out, this is like a canary in a coal mine for the vintners; the rose bushes act as an early warning system for disease or insect infestation which might harm the grape vines.

The woman who did our tasting was delightful, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

We struck up a conversation with a couple tasting next to us; turns out, they were also traveling in the area in their RV. In fact, they were just passing through on their way north from Florida, and their RV was parked outside in the parking lot.

More "damage" was done at the gift shop (see final photo below). In addition, we also actually liked the Shelton Winery dry reds, so we came away with six very large bottles of Red Harvest table wine. We liked it just as well as their more expensive labels costing twice or three times as much, so we listened to our frugal inner voice and came away with the equivalent of 12 bottles @ $5.99/bottle.

Roger here... The two wineries that we visited poured not only wine for their visitors, but also poured big bucks into their facilities. The Raffaldini visitors' area

was an imposing Italian structure at the top of a hill. The Shelton Winery building was every bit as impressive. One of the friendly employees referred to it as the owner's hobby gone wild.

I'll let Roger fill you in on our overnight stay at the Rag Apple Lassie Winery, part of the new Harvest Host system.

Roger here... We recently joined an RV visitation club called Harvest Hosts ( This new club has enlisted the cooperation of scores of wineries and working farms across the country. As members ($20/year), we are invited to park overnight for free (no hook-ups) in the winery parking lots. Since we knew that we would be spending next fall in California, visiting our older daughter, we thought it would be a good way to enjoy a little wine-tasting in a friendly atmosphere. Most of the original participating wineries are on the west coast, but many wineries across the entire country are now participating. It is a good deal for us, the membership pretty much paying for itself after one visit. It is also a great deal for the wineries due to the obvious purchases that are made.

While looking at the Harvest Hosts website, I noticed that one of the Yadkin Valley wineries, Rag Apple Lassie, was a participant, so I called to let them know we would be coming to spend our last night in North Carolina. We thought it would be fun, and it was.

Rag Apple Lassie

was named after the owner's grand prize-winning Holstein at the North Carolina State Fair. When the owner decided to convert many of his tobacco fields to other crops, including grapes, he decided to name the wine-making operation after the beloved cow of his youth. The company logo shows a black and white holstein cow sitting on a harvest moon while sipping a glass of wine - really pretty clever. All the cardboard cases and doors bear the black spots of a holstein on a white background. A modern metal sculpture of Rag Apple Lassie sipping a glass of wine while holding a wine bottle greets all the guests at the entrance to the winery.

The winery was voted as a finalist in the "Best New Winery in US" in 2007 by The Wine Appreciation Guild, San Francisco.

The building itself is unique. After passing a

silo, guests enter a metal building and find themselves on a catwalk overlooking the wine-making area below. Upon descending the stairs, guests can walk through the production area and into the gift shop/tasting room.

The person who greeted us and poured red wines for us to sample was the wife of the owner's son. She explained that this particular winery was not so much a hobby as part of a large family farm. (It was more of a working atmosphere than the upscale landscaped wineries we had visited earlier -- D.) We purchased three bottles of wine and then enjoyed a glass of Cabernet on the outside patio area in the shadow of

Pilot Mountain in the distance. We did like the Rag Apple Lassie dry reds: we purchased a bottle each of the cabernet, syrah, and red zinfandel. -- D.

I took the boys

on a walk along the outskirts of the vineyard

before we settled in for a quiet night among the landscaping.

Since we had no hook-ups and therefore no TV, it was a great night to read a book, listen to tree frogs, and relax.

I mentioned before that this was a good deal for the wineries - maybe a better deal than we intended it to be. Because of the beautiful atmosphere, we were tempted to purchase a few items in the gift shops - and that we did. We certainly did add to the local economy. Since we plan to utilize Harvest Hosts again when we get to California,

someone should notify the vineyards to stock up on their merchandise!

1 comment:

Margie and Roger said...

Visualizing your leveing attempts gave me a good laugh this morning, sorry. We also become testy during those type of RV moments. Nice to read and view photos of your winery visits. We have stayed at a winery before and it's a great idea.