Raffaldini Vineyards

A few weekends ago my husband and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon doing a wine and cheese tasting with some friends. One of our stops was Raffaldini. I have to say that this winery boasts the most beautiful view of any in the Yadkin Valley.

It’s likely quite a shock for first time visitors. You find yourself in what seems to be the middle of nowhere in a little corner of Wilkes County. You drive up a gravel road and at the end of it, an Italian villa awaits. You walk through a lovely garden pathway, pass a little fish pond and round the corner of the villa. There you catch a glimpse of the vineyard with a most stunning view of the mountains in the distance.

This vineyard is well-known for its wines as well its scenic views. They frequently have weddings here. Here are a few gorgeous shots from my friend Mary’s wedding.

And now, to the wines! Raffaldini is the only vineyard in our region that produces solely Italian style wines. On our last visit, our tasting host Mikaela described some of the unique processes that are used to produce the wines. The grapes used in the 2013 Montepulciano Riserva are dried slightly before being processed. This is called appassimento, Mikaela explained, and is meant to replicate the drier conditions these grapes actually grow in in Italy.

The Montepulciano Riserva was definitely one of my favorites as was their blend known as Bella Misto. Mikaela suggested pairing the Montepulciano Riserva with a dark chocolate.

Raffaldini boasts a wonderful patio area with fantastic view of the vineyard and mountains beyond. It is definitely a must see if you are planning a visit to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.

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Wine tasting with a dear friend at Raffaldini a few summers ago.

 

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Windsor Run Cellars

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Wine with friends at Windsor Run Cellars

At the risk of repeating myself and always saying how unique our Yadkin Valley wineries are, I just have to say Windsor Run Cellars is so unique. It is fantastic to live in an area with a plethora of wineries (and isn’t it always a good day when you get to use the word “plethora.”) But truly, what is so great about our wine region is that each winery really has its own style and personality.

Windsor Run Cellars is particularly  special as they are the only winery in the area (maybe even the state?) that is also a distillery. Not only can you taste wonderful wines here, you can also sample some brandies as well. I will admit that the fortified beverages are a bit too much for me, but it is still such a neat experience.

Last Sunday we visited Windsor Run during a cheese tasting event and we had such fun. They were serving up samples of a delicious bleu cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Company. 

Two of my favorite wines from Windsor Run are actually not wine-flavored at all. Windsor Run features several really unusual wines and one of those is actually an Apple Mead.They typically serve it chilled during the tasting, but they recommend serving it warm also, especially during the holidays. It is actually a fermented apple drink with spices like cinnamon and clove right in the mix. It literally tastes like autumn.

I found a new favorite while there this weekend. The name of the wine caught my attention immediately, it’s called Island Holiday. Our host for the tasting referred to it as the Jimmy Buffet of wines. I’m a huge parrot-head so I knew I had to try this one.

The nose on this wine (that means how it smells) is literally tanning lotion. That might be a problem for some, but not me. Just a whiff of this wine and it took me back to my teenage years sitting on the shore and coating myself down in Banana Boat or Hawaiian Tropic. I love that smell. I never thought I could drink that smell, but I can and I did and I bought a bottle to go! The wine is a Cabernet Franc blended with pineapple, mango and coconut.

This wine is a vacation in a bottle. This wine would be great to take on vacation, and also great if it’s the middle of winter and you are wishing you were on vacation somewhere tropical!

Another really special thing about all of the wineries in what is known as the Swan Creek region, is that they are smack dab in the middle of Amish Country. It is not unusual to see a horse and buggy going by. We saw just that as we were leaving on Sunday. It’s not a great picture because this guy was moving along at a pretty good clip, but I wanted to share it anyway.

Until next time, wine wishes and sparkly dreams from yours truly!

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A horse and buggy trots down the road near Windsor Run Cellars

 

 

Laurel Gray Vineyards

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Wine tasting fun with friends at Laurel Gray Vineyards

On Sunday my husband and I went wine and cheese tasting with friends and our first stop of the day was Laurel Gray Vineyards.

The vineyards of the Swan Creek area within the Yadkin Valley Wine Region hosted a joint wine and cheese pairing event featuring the Ashe County cheeses.

Laurel Gray is such a sweet little place. It’s a lovely little cottage surrounded by rose bushes and a duck pond. Of course, in early March those roses have yet to bloom, but it’s still a wonderful experience to sample wines there.

 

Do a Virtual wine tasting at Laurel Gray!

Though not typically a white wine drinker, I do love their Viognier and came home with a bottle. This is just a lovely light, crisp and clean wine that would be perfect for sipping on the front porch this summer.

All of the dry reds at Laurel Gray are extremely good as well. Perhaps one of the most unique wines they offer is called Encore. Encore is a dessert wine that is actually infused with black raspberries and chocolate! Need I say more?

Another thing I love about Laurel Gray is they have entire line of dips and sauces. As you do the wine tasting you are also given little samples of the dips and sauces to try. It really makes for such a neat experience.

If you’re ever in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina, I highly recommend a stop in at Laurel Gray Vineyards!

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Super cute tea towel at Laurel Gray Vineyards

A wine and cheese adventure

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A wine (and cheese) tasting adventure in the Yadkin Valley

I love where I live. One of the very best things about it is that we are right in the heart of the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. There are around 40 wineries within a 20-mile radius of my home, and many more that are practically in my back yard.

Wine tasting is a favorite weekend hobby of ours. Since my husband works at a winery now, we haven’t been out wine tasting quite as often. We were so thrilled, however, that we are able to go wine (and cheese tasting) with our friends Ben and Allison over the weekend.

The wineries of the Swan Creek Appellation often hosts group events and this past weekend it was a wine and cheese pairing. We visited five wineries in the Swan Creek area and each had a special cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Company paired with one of their wines.

It was a perfect sunny early spring day in the Yadkin Valley and an ideal day to spend sipping wine with friends. The cheeses were also wonderful. Our favorite, and one that Allison raved about the entire day, was a cheese called Juusto which is served warmed. It was delicious.

The wonderful thing about living in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region is that all of the wineries are so unique and special. I’ll be posting soon with more details of each winery we visited and our favorite wines.

To top of a most delightful day, we saw an amazing sunset. Check back soon for more on our adventures at the wineries!

Vineyard weddings in the Yadkin Valley

I am extremely proud of the beautiful Yadkin Valley Wine Region I call home. I got married an one of our area vineyards, RagApple Lassie, and it was a magical experience. If you are in North Carolina and considering a wedding venue, one of our state wineries or vineyards is a lovely choice. Below is a piece I wrote for On The Vine magazine.


 

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Bridal portrait by Rod Hunter

The busy holiday season is over, but for many couples, excitement is building anew as they plan to start their lives together. The holiday season is one of the most popular times of the year for engagements and so as a new year begins, many are planning for that special day — their wedding day.

Following the all-important dress decision, the ceremony and reception location is one of the biggest decisions for a couple. Many of the wineries and vineyards of the Yadkin Valley play host to multiple weddings a year. Couples may choose to have their wedding and/or reception at a winery for various reasons, but most, said winery owner Lenna Hobson, love the atmosphere of a winery or vineyard.

“There’s a romance and a mystique attached to wineries and that’s part of what helps

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Mary and Blake Johnson at Raffaldini Vineyards | Ron Day Photography

to bring people to the Yadkin Valley,” Hobson said. Hobson and her husband Frank are the owners of RagApple Lassie Vineyard and Winery in Boonville.

“It’s romance, pure and simple. It’s a centuries old mystique that weddings and love and romance pairs with perfectly,” Hobson said.

While some of the couples who have been married at RagApple Lassie found the location by happenstance, Hobson said many have a connection with the winery in some way. Several couples got engaged at the winery and returned to have their wedding or reception there. Hobson said they often return every year to celebrate their anniversary at the winery as well.

When a unique building adjacent to their property became available a few years ago, the owners of Hanover Park in Yadkinville added on a special space just for weddings and other events. Amy Helton, who owns the winery along with her husband, said the new space has been a big hit with brides. Having a space separate from their winery tasting room also allows a lot of flexibility for couples to decorate and prepare their space in advance of the ceremony or reception.

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Jennifer K. Photography

Helton said couples who have been married at Hanover Park have been from all across the state of North Carolina and some from out of state as well. The unique setting of the vineyard provides a scenic place for a couple’s special day.

Those scenic views showcasing the beauty of nature get in the blood for some, including Jennifer and Nick White. In October of 2008, the couple said their “I dos” at Elkin Creek Vineyard where they became friends with the owner. Now, the couple, along with their friends Louis and Carrie Jeroslow, own the vineyard.

“Elkin Creek Vineyard speaks to couples who are looking for a wedding venue that

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showcases nature, is secluded, but is not remote or hard to get to,” said Louis Jeroslow. “The site of a Historic Grist Mill built in 1896, our special location features two creeks flowing through the property. One of our most sacred and symbolic places at Elkin Creek Vineyard is where the two creeks join together to form one. This extraordinary setting can host very intimate ceremonies and larger-scale celebrations.

“Elkin Creek Vineyard embodies the elegant-rustic qualities that are now so highly sought after,” Jeroslow added. “We have worked very hard to create wedding packages that are completely scalable to the size needed. We often provide an all-inclusive wedding experience to private elopements and can also host weddings up to well over 100 guests. The flexibility and personal touches are what really attract couples to want to have their wedding here.”

Local wedding photographer Jennifer Kleinheksel has photographed multiple weddings at Elkin Creek and other area vineyards. She said a vineyard setting for a wedding makes for beautiful images which will be treasured for years to come.

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Jennifer K. Photography

“I love photographing weddings at our area vineyards and wineries because I get to be a part of one of the most important days in someone’s life and at a beautiful location,” Kleinheksel said. “There is so much love and joy that is part of the day and it is a true honor to be the one to capture it all. It is my job to not just be taking photographs of the day, but to actually capture the essence and feelings that the couple felt so that every time they look back at their images, they will be able to relive and feel those feelings all over again.”

For couples looking to tie the knot at a Yadkin Valley vineyard, the best place to start is visiting area vineyards to get a feel for the setting. Most area vineyards also have information available on their websites or by contacting the location regarding wedding and reception options.

Wedding photos courtesy of Rod Hunter, Ron Day and Jennifer K. Photography