North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley – with its perfect climate and soil composition – plays host to a growing number of wineries. The Swan Creek area, tucked safely in the Yadkin Valley between the Brushy Mountains and the Blue Ridge, brings a touch of Europe to the Tar Heel state.
Wineries on the Swan Creek Trail offer French and Italian varietals, as well as a few uniquely North Carolina blends. Only five miles apart, the five vineyards on the trail offer a great daytrip either by car or bicycle. Just follow the purple and green grape cluster signs.
For more than 650 years the Raffaldini family has been making wine in Italy, and they have brought a little bit of Tuscany and a lot of winemaking know-how to the Yadkin Valley. The Raffaldini Vineyard and Winery has about 40 acres planted with Italian grapes like Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Barbera from which they make their Italian-style wines.
Raffaldini offers recent vintages in the 6,000-square-foot Villa Raffaldini tasting room. There you’ll find whites like Pinot Grigio and Vermentino, as well as reds like Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Laurel Gray Vineyards is the next stop, where you might say Benny and Kim Myers have turned milk into wine. For ten generations the family has lived and raised dairy cattle on this land. Now, they are raising primarily French varietal grapes for the production of wines that include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Laurel Gray’s tasting room and gift shop is in a converted milking parlor. Rockers and gliders lure visitors out to the tasting room’s front porch for fresh air and the scent of tea roses.
Now, it’s on to Dobbins Creek, which is set on what was once a tobacco farm near the headwaters of Dobbins Creek. Vines were first planted here in 2002, and a log tasting room was built on a high point in 2006. On a clear day, you can see Grandfather Mountain, 73 miles to the west.
Owner Charles King grows Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Riesling. Dobbins Creek participates in a number of events throughout the year, including Love of Chocolate and Wine the weekend prior to Valentine’s Day, and the Spring Herb Festival.
On its 10.5 acres, Shadow Springs grows six French varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Verdot, as well as two French American hybrids, Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc.
Shadow Springs is often the site of weddings and business events in its 5,000-square-foot tasting room that is decked out in technology ranging from Dish TV to a 650-watt Karaoke machine.
You won’t find just wine at Windsor Run Cellars. This is North Carolina’s only winery with a working, legal distillery under the same roof. The winery produces high proof brandy in the distillery.
In the tasting room, Windsor Run pours their own wines, as well as those from nearby Ferguson Vineyards. There’s quite a variety, ranging from white wine hybrid Chardonel and red hybrid Chambourcin to Cabernet Sauvignon and Apple Mead.
You can hit all five wineries within the space of a few hours for a great day trip. Most Swan Creek Trail wineries are open Wednesday through Sunday. Here’s a map to get you started. Check the websites listed below for exact operating times.
- Swan Creek Trail – http://www.swancreekvineyards.com/
- Dobbins Creek Vineyard – http://dobbinscreekvineyards.com/
- Laurel Gray Vineyards – http://www.laurelgray.com/
- Raffaldini Winery – www.raffaldini.com
- Shadow Springs Vineyard – http://shadowspringsvineyard.com/
- Windsor Run Cellars – http://windsorrun.com/