YADKIN VALLEY WINE COUNTRY
If you like pastoral settings and cultural history, you’re going to love this route. If you also like to drink wine and see it being produced, you’re really going to love it. This route passes through the heart of the Yadkin Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA), which encompasses some 1,400,000 acres in the Yadkin River Valley. Designated as an AVA by the U.S. government in 2003, the official status allows winemakers to label their bottles with the Yadkin Valley name. Some two dozen wineries currently operate in the Yadkin Valley region, with several more in the works. Seven wineries are located directly along our route, but all of the others are only short side trips away. Most wineries provide literature about the region and directions to the other wineries.
In the past couple of decades, vineyards have made an important contribution to the North Carolina economy, as well as to its pastoral scenery.
A horse and buggy carries an Amish family to church at Windsors Crossroads. Route 16
Start out on U.S. 421, west of Interstate 77. From Exit 267, follow the signs to Raffaldini and Laurel Gray vineyards, then backtrack to U.S. 421. Head south on Windsor Road. Drive 6 miles to Windsors Crossroads, then continue straight ahead. Drive 3 miles, then turn left onto Barnard Mill Road. Drive 1 mile, then turn left onto U.S. 21. Drive 2 miles, then turn right onto Lone Hickory Road. Drive 6 miles, then turn right onto Fish Brandon Road. Drive 2 miles and cross U.S. 601 onto Courtney-Huntsville Road. Drive 2 miles, then turn left onto Brawley Road. Drive 2 miles, then turn right onto Old Stage Road. Drive 2 miles, then turn left onto Shacktown Road. Go a quarter mile, then turn right onto Styers Mill Road. Drive 2 miles, then turn left onto Old U.S. 421. Make a quick right turn onto Pilot View Church Road. Drive 5 miles, then turn right onto Rockford Road. Drive 5 miles, then turn left to cross Yadkin River. Drive 5 miles, then turn left on Stony Knoll Road. Drive 3 miles, then turn right onto U.S. 601. Drive 2 miles, then turn left onto NC 268. Drive 1 mile, then turn right. Follow the road 3 miles to Shelton Vineyards. (62 miles)
The first three wineries on the route Raffaldini, Laurel Gray, and Buck Shoals are located within the new Swan Creek AVA. Designated in spring 2008, Swan Creek AVA refers to a specific appellation within the broader Yadkin Valley AVA. Driving from Raffaldini to Laurel Gray vineyards, you can’t help but notice the miles of black rail fencing and the palatial brick house tucked away from the road. Notice those letters on the entrance gate? J. J. stands for racing icon and legendary moonshine runner Junior Johnson.
A few miles down the road from Buck Shoals Vineyard, in the community of Windsors Crossroads, there’s a good chance you’ll share the road with a horse and buggy. A small group of Amish families settled here in the mid-1980s and while not as conservative as their Old Order brethren (the Amish of Windsors Crossroads use electricity and some types of modern machinery), they still embrace the New Order Amish faith and lifestyle, which generally forbids automobiles. Just off the main route on St. Paul Church Road is Shiloh General Store. Owned and operated by an Amish family, the popular store offers a wide selection of baked goods, deli meats, cheese, and sundries.
Next up on the route is Hanover Park Vineyard, occupying an 1897 farmhouse. Not far from Hanover Park, you’ll cross back over U.S. Highway 421 and, after a couple of turns, end up on Styers Mill Road. Half a mile down the road is the Shore-Styers Mill Park, the site of several early gristmills. Only ruins of the mills remain, but the waterfall is impressive considering its location this far east of the mountains.
Nearly every mile of this route passes through agricultural land. At one time, most of the farms grew tobacco, like everybody else in the state. As health issues amplified and the market for tobacco dwindled, farmers began turning to other crops and means for support. As you have already discovered, one of those new crops is grapes. Many of the vineyards in Yadkin Valley are located on former tobacco farms. RagApple Lassie Vineyards, next up on our route, is located on a current tobacco farm. Its grape vines share the soil with golden-leaf tobacco. Having tobacco and alcohol covered, it seems the only thing missing for a clean sweep of the vices is a brothel!
Rockford is a delightful village situated beside the Yadkin River. The seat of a then much-larger Surry County from 1790 to the 1850s, the town retains a number of historical structures dating from the era and into the early twentieth century. Be sure to stop by the Rockford General Store, in continuous operation since 1890. Pull up a rocking chair, enjoy a Nehi soda, and try one of the dozens of varieties of hard candy sold by the pound.
Two more wineries await after visiting Rockford: Stony Knoll Vineyards and, at the end of the route, Shelton Vineyards. At Shelton, you can tour the winery, have dinner at the Harvest Grill, and enjoy an outdoor evening concert during the Sunset Concert Series held during the summer.
The Barrel Room at Shelton Vineyards is a popular stop on a tour of the winery.
Pilot Mountain breaks the horizon in this sunrise view of RagApple Lassie Vineyards.