It seems like every time I turn around we find something new and exciting to do in our great state.  As I talked about in this post, Greater Charlotte’s flourishing economy and beautiful Lake Norman enticed our family to move away from the expensive, crowded Washington, DC area.  Little did I know, though, how geographically rich and economically diverse North Carolina really is.

Did you know that just 50 miles north of Lake Norman lies Yadkin Valley Wine Country? Nestled along the meandering Yadkin River on 1.4 million acres of old tobacco growing land, a collection of 42 vineyards are making a name for themselves in the wine world.  Who would have thought that our native loamy red clay soil and temperate climate provides ideal growing conditions for a variety of wine-making grapes?  In fact, this area, just west of Winston-Salem at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has a climate and growing season similar to some of the best wine growing regions in Europe!

Native grapes of the Yadkin Valley are the Scuppernong and Muscadine (the only place I’d heard of ‘muscadine’ before moving to NC was in country songs), producing a sweet red wine, while European-style vinifera grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay,  Riesling, and Viognier.

Like food, my philosophy with drinks (wine, beers, liquors) is to buy fresh and local whenever possible.  After being impressed by a Shelton Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc we recently bought at our local grocery, Nate and I decided to take the 45-minute drive north to the Shelton Vineyards Estate in Dobson for a Friday night date this weekend.

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery
Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

The beautiful rolling hills of the Shelton Estate includes 90 acres of vineyards, walking trails, a small lake, the 33,000 square foot state-of-the-art winery, and a gourmet restaurant, The Harvest Grill. Thirty-minute winery tours are held daily, providing an inside look at the wine-growing, fermentation, and bottling process.  Wrapping up work a little early, we high-tailed it up I-77 to make the last tour at 4PM.

Shelton Vineyards specializes in growing many European-style vinifera grapes including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. As explained on the tour, true “estate” wines are those where the grapes are grown, processed, and bottled on site. All of Shelton’s wines (except a champagne blend) are estate wines. The delicious and distinctive flavors infused into Shelton wines comes from oak barrel aging.  The Shelton winery has three oak barrel rooms, similar to the one pictured below.

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

Following the tour, we indulged in a five wine sampling in the spacious and unpretentious tasting room then headed outside, just in time to take in the late fall sunset as we toured the grounds.

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery
Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

Multiple sets of Adirondack chairs line the walking trails, just begging for you to open one of your newly purchased bottles and linger a while, savoring the spectacular views of the vineyards and lake with each sip.

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery
Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

Did I mention it was 70 degrees at sunest in mid-November? Oh yes, we lingered….

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery
Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery
Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

As the sun dipped beyond the vineyards, we made our way over to The Harvest Grill.  Another huge appeal of visiting the Shelton Estate was having an upscale restaurant onsite. If you’ve only got a few kid-free hours on a Friday night, you’ve got to be as resourceful as possible.

The atmosphere, service, and cuisine offered by Chef Paul Lange felt like we were dining in a big city, 5-star urban bistro, not a rustic-style dining room in the middle of nowhere!  The intimate French-country style environment was the perfect setting for indulging in local and seasonal offerings like trout and the creamiest, most succulent swordfish we ever tasted.  Served alongside seasonal vegetables, Harvati dill macaroni and cheese (I will be replicating this dish at home!), and an AMAZING gluten-free bread, dinner at the Harvest Grill was the perfect ending to a much-needed date night.

Sorry, but we have a no-phone policy at dinner – especially on date nights! –  so I don’t have any Instagram-style food pics for you.  All the more reason to get out to The Harvest Grill and try their delicious dishes for yourself!

Harvest Grill Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery

If you’ve never been to the Yadkin Valley wine region, I encourage you to plan a trip like we did.  More importantly, if you’re like us and feel like there’s never a break from the daily responsibilities and routine of work and family life, prioritize a date night with your spouse.  Carving out time for the two of you to spend time together doing things you both enjoy (this is important!) is vital for staying romantically and emotionally connected.   There’s something to be said about getting dressed up, having someone open doors for you, and visiting someplace different that evokes those “first date” feelings, and reminds you of why you’re with your partner in the first place.  The quick drive to the Yadkin Valley provides that romantic escape and an opportunity to reconnect.  We’re looking forward to exploring more of the area’s vineyards and all that the Yadkin Valley has to offer.

Shelton Vineyards North Carolina Winery