In the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina lies the Yadkin River Valley. The pastoral countryside is marked with fields of vivid colors of yellow, brown, and greens that vary with crops like a giant quilt of nature’s patterns. Nestled among the soybeans, corn, and tobacco, an increasing number of fields are vineyards. In fact, the valley has been recognized with an official wine appellation, or recognition as a wine-growing region.
On a bright, sunny September day we toured four of the vineyards and wineries in the area sampling the varieties of wines they produced. The beauty of the countryside was enhanced by the elegance of their ordered rows of grapes highlighted by grand tasting rooms and restaurants with gorgeous views. I’ve never toured the Napa Valley or the Russian River of California, but my companion said the area reminded him of the rolling hills of Pennsylvania even though they don’t have the vineyards.
We visited in the middle of the harvesting season but unfortunately missed seeing any of the actual operations since we came either on the day before or the day after they had been harvesting. The winemaker determines which grapes are ready for harvest, and the crews are called out only then and it varies with the type of grape and the weather conditions. You really can’t plan it advance because they don’t know that far in advance when they will be in the fields.
Some of the vineyards do allow volunteers in the fields, and others do not. Most have harvest festivals, or special events including concerts, special tours, and family activities. These are usually scheduled on the weekends, and we traveled mid-week just to avoid the crowds.
Vineyards are springing up all over North Carolina to claim the productivity that North Carolina had prior to Prohibition. The wineries in the Yakin Valley grow European variety grapes, but the Duplin Winery down east grows only the native Muscatine and scuppernong grapes. You can tour the wineries any time of year, but late summer or early fall is the most scenic time of year.
Several helpful guides and web sites are available: A Guide to North Carolina Wineries, second edition by Joseph Mills and Danielle Tarmey published by John Blair gives a detailed history of most of the wineries. The bi-monthly magazine North Carolina Winepress can be found in most wine shops and also online on their web site: North Carolina Winepress The NC Wine & Grape Council of the NC Dept. of Commerce has a printed brochure of a guide and map to North Carolina Wineries that is also available at Discover North Carolina Wines. The Yadkin Valley Winegrowers Association also has a map and a web site of their wineries at Yakin Valley Wineries The web site Yadkin Valley Vineyards also lists all of the vineyards as well as the wineries.