Tasting and Sightseeing on the Swan Creek Wine Trail
Located about 35 miles west of the vibrant-yet-historic city of Winston-Salem and just west of Interstate 77 in Wilkes and Yadkin counties, six wineries make up the Swan Creek Wine Trail. All are relatively close to each other, and the entire winery trip can be less than 20 miles in total distance.
Swan Creek wineries specialize in varietal wines and blends, but each maintains its own atmosphere and winemaking approach.
The tasting room at Laurel Gray Vineyards is a converted 1930s milking parlor. Raffaldini uses a special drying process called appassimento to produce its bold Italian varietals. The Italian theme continues at neighboring Piccione Vineyards where a pavilion overlooks gently rolling hills. The porch at Dobbins Creek affords views of Grandfather Mountain to the west and the Winston-Salem skyline to the east. In addition to its dry wines, Shadow Springs makes some creative sweet wines, including “shortcake” strawberry wine. Windsor Run Cellars is home to not only a vineyard and winery, but also an on-site distillery.
1 Laurel Gray Vineyards
1 Laurel Gray VineyardsHamptonvilleSee on map
On land that’s been in the Myers family for 10 generations, Laurel Gray Vineyards grows 10 acres of French vinifera grapes. The soil’s sandy loam and the cool breezes of the Yadkin Valley provide ideal growing conditions. Structures on the farm reflect the property’s previous roles, such as the tasting room that was once a milking parlor and the red barn that now serves as a backdrop for wedding photos. It produces dry reds and whites, and several dessert wines. Scarlet Mountain, the customer favorite, blends merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and chardonnay for a medium-bodied red. You may bring your own picnics or order (in advance) gourmet picnic baskets.
2 Piccione Vineyards
2 Piccione VineyardsRondaSee on map
Piccione Vineyards traces its roots back to Sicily, home of the owner’s grandfather before he came to America through Ellis Island in the 1920s. That family history and passion for Italian wine led to vineyards’ 15 acres of grapes. It grows well-known varietals, such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, as well as lesser-known Italian grapes like nero amaro and vermentino. You’ll enjoy the pavilion with long-range mountain views in warmer weather and the cozy tasting room with a fireplace during the winter. Festive seasonal events include Easter egg hunting, pumpkin carving and chestnut roasting.
3 Raffaldini Vineyards
3 Raffaldini VineyardsRondaSee on map
The Raffaldini family name harkens back to Italy’s Lombardy province. The first thing guests see when they pull into Raffaldini Vineyards is the Italianate villa atop a hill. Vineyards planted with Italian varietals rim the tasting room, creating a scene reminiscent of the Old World. Once the grapes are harvested, Raffaldini uses the appassimento process to dehydrate its white and red grapes, concentrating the flavors to produce bold wines with a velvety texture. Visitors sip montepulciano and sangiovese, paired with cheese and chocolates, out on the patio with a Roman fountain.
4 Dobbins Creek Vineyards
4 Dobbins Creek VineyardsHamptonvilleSee on map
Many North Carolina vineyards once grew tobacco instead of grapes, and Dobbins Creek is a prime example. Throughout the 1950s, the King family grew tobacco here, and it wasn’t until 2002 that grapevines took up root in the soil. Ram Cat Red, a blend of estate-grown merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, reflects the nickname locals bestowed on this rural area. One of the winery’s newest additions is a Provence-style dry rosé. The log cabin tasting room showcases hickory flooring, a fireplace made of stone quarried in nearby Morganton and a bar covered in wild cherry wood harvested on the property.
5 Shadow Springs Vineyard
5 Shadow Springs VineyardHamptonvilleSee on map
Just west of Interstate 77, Shadow Springs Vineyard is the project of a former corporate executive who transformed this piece of old tobacco land into a vineyard. French vinifera and French-American hybrids go into 18 different wines. The stately tasting room overlooks the vineyard grounds. Tasting bars are located upstairs and downstairs, and a patio offers space for outdoor sipping. The wine list includes heavy-hitting reds, such as cabernet sauvignon and a Bordeaux blend, as well as stainless-steel-fermented chardonnay and seyval blanc. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the strawberry “shortcake” wine and Dark Shadow, a dessert wine that resembles a chocolate-covered cherry.
6 Windsor Run Cellars
6 Windsor Run CellarsHamptonvilleSee on map
Windsor Run Cellars prides itself on its wine variety. The barrel-aged cabernet sauvignon reveals bold tannins and a smooth finish. Summer Breeze blends muscat and riesling for a light, sweet wine best served chilled in the height of summer. Honey Moon is a golden mead made from wildflower honey. And Midnight Run, a port-style wine, combines chambourcin and petit verdot with Windsor Run’s own brandy. Tastings take place in the cabin-like tasting room with a rock fireplace and vineyard views. You can experience tours and tastings at both the winery and distillery.
When visiting any of North Carolina’s many wineries and vineyards, please drink responsibly. Designate a driver.