Wine Weekend Getaway
On this flavor-filled jaunt, you'll sample some of North Carolina's diverse and unique wines and meet some of the people behind them. For this weekend, we head south on I-77 from North Carolina's northern border, and then down east towards (but not to) Winston-Salem.
Along the way, explore the town of Mount Airy, the "real" Mayberry, and get a bird's eye view of North Carolina's wine country from a hot air balloon in Boonville, about 25 miles west of Winston-Salem.
2-Day Itinerary / Piedmont Foothills
Day 1 - Tasting, touring and a town made famous on TV
Day 2 - A restaurant that got the New York Times talking; a balloon ride that'll leave you speechless
With so much to see and do in the area, we recommend the following 2-day itinerary. Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.
Begin your tasting tour amidst the rolling hills of Round Peak Vineyard. Sample their award winning wines along with music and crafts of the area, with handmade quilts, pottery and jewelry for sale. Local musicians regularly perform Round Peak style music, which is a variation of "old-time" mountain string band music distinguished by banjo and melodic noting, and made famous by North Carolina greats Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham.
Head into the heart of Mount Airy for your next stop, Old North State Winery, home to the only cooperative of grape growers in North Carolina. Tour their winery and cellar housed in a beautifully renovated 1890's mercantile building on Main Street. Afterwards, take a stroll and explore the place that inspired the TV town of Mayberry. Andy Griffith grew up here and used many names of people and places from Mt. Airy on "The Andy Griffith Show."
Definitely stop at Snappy Lunch, the oldest eating establishment in Mt. Airy. It's where Andy ate as a young boy, and he's mentioned it on the show. Order the famous pork chop sandwich served "all the way". The restaurant is a local favorite and was even featured in Gourmet magazine.
Other nearby Andy Griffith-related attractions include Floyd's City Barber Shop, the Andy Griffith Playhouse, Andy's Homeplace, Aunt Bee's Room and Wally's Service Station, Squad Car Tours, The Old City Jail, and The Mayberry Courthouse.
Next, it's on to Shelton Vineyards, the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina. Pack for a picnic or purchase picnic supplies there. Look for their concert series during the summer months held on their outdoor stage. For dinner, the Harvest Grill located on the Shelton estate offers upscale dining with a bistro style atmosphere. Outdoor seating is also available.
Lodging options include various motels/hotels in nearby Elkin and Mount Airy. For a bit more charm, try the Rockford Inn in Dobson or the Maxwell House Bed & Breakfast at the Historic Merritt House in Mount Airy. A Hampton Inn is scheduled to open on April 1st 2007 two miles down the road from Shelton Vineyards.
At Stony Knoll Vineyard, Kathy Coe and her husband Van are continuing a successful family tradition of cultivating the land. The farm on which the vineyard is located has belonged to Kathy's family since 1896. And where tobacco once ruled as the staple cash crop, grapes now thrive. Their first harvest took place in the fall of 2002. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Syrah are currently available.
Follow the aroma of baked goods to Strudels, a European style bakery located just one mile from Stony Knoll. Everything is baked on the premises, and recipes are all "scratch-made." Indulge in "American" style cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, scones, danish, pies and tarts, as well as European pastries, tortes and cakes.
Head south on route 601 to Boonville and you'll find RagApple Lassie, one of the more interestingly named vineyards. Its namesake is the owner's prize winning show calf he owned as a child. Hence, the black and white cow on their labels. Owner Frank Hobson is the third generation of Hobsons to farm the land. Along with the help of his wife Lenna and Linda King, the winemaker, RagApple Lassie wines have won awards in international, regional and state competitions.
The vineyard is now also the balloon port for Yadkin Valley Balloon Adventures. Hop aboard a hot air balloon for a spectacular view of the Yadkin Valley. The trip takes about an hour, yet the memories will last much longer.
End your wine weekend with dinner at The Kitchen at Elkin Creek, a restaurant the New York Times is "still talking about." A recent article stated, "Most wineries sell picnic provisions, and a few... have pleasant restaurants. But the one we're still talking about is Elkin Creek ... The young chef, Jesse Williams, cooks everything from local vegetables to pork shoulders in a wood-burning brick oven. We left happy and full, understanding what the French must mean when they talk about terroir - the way foods are stamped with a keen sense of place."
The menu is subject to change based on season and availability. A recent offering included Roasted Cornish Hen, Red Currant and Rum Pork and Brandy Roasted Rabbit. The restaurant is located in Elkin Creek Vineyard just outside of Elkin, North Carolina.
added: January 2, 2009
updated: February 1, 2010
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