Childress Vineyards: A Tuscan-style villa graces a hillside surrounded by neat rows of grapevines in Lexington. Owner Richard Childress (yes,
of NASCAR fame) fell in love with California wines while racing there, and he became a vintner back home. It's a good place
to start your spirited journey, especially if this is your first visit. Step up to the dark-wood bar, and choose from three
tastings. From delectable sweets to a reserve merlot, talented winemaker Mark Friszolowski crafts something for everyone.
Our Pick: 2004 Merlot ($17)―smooth, very food friendly; Pinnacle Meritage ($15)―long finish, a nicely crafted wine, good with Stilton cheese or a big steak.
Shelton Vineyards: At the north end of the valley in Dobson, Shelton Vineyards boasts a gorgeous setting, complete with a babbling brook coursing
under fall trees. Brothers Charlie and Ed Shelton converted this 400-acre former dairy farm into a gravity-flow winery in
1999 (it uses the incline of a hillside to move the juice and wine). There's a restaurant on site as well as a new Hampton
Inn & Suites with a wine bar nearby at I-77.
Our Pick: Salem Fork Blush ($8)―very peachy and sweet; Yadkin Valley Reisling ($12)―refreshing with just a hint of sweetness.
Westbend Vineyards: As the oldest vineyard in the valley, Westbend, near Winston-Salem, started growing grapes in 1972 and helped smaller operations
get their starts. Owner Lillian Kroustalis and winemaker Mark Terry continue to win awards. "We do custom-crush service for
smaller wine producers," says Lillian. The rural setting, with a handsome patio and pavilion, invites you to linger after
Our Picks: 2004 Merlot ($15)―a nice red, very drinkable; 2004 Pinot Noir ($16)―perfect with Thanksgiving flavors, a good crossover wine for white and red meats.
RayLen Vineyards and Winery: RayLen's 38 acres of grapes produce excellent estate wines. The red blends are the most popular, with the Category 5, a full
Bordeaux-style, offering fine aging potential. Whites intrigue too, including the Yadkin Gold. The gift shop features furniture
and accessories made from oak barrels at affordable prices.
Our Pick: Yadkin Gold 2004 ($13)―a tad sweet, would be nice over ice.
RagApple Lassie Vineyards: The success of growing grapes enables Frank and Lenna Hobson to continue to plant corn, wheat, tobacco, and soybeans. Named
for Frank's pet Holstein, this vineyard features agrarian architecture. Stairs in a silo lead down to the aging cellar, while
guests stroll on a catwalk above the winemaking facility. An outdoor stage features concerts and folk art fairs throughout
Our Pick: 2004 Chardonnay ($15)―a good balance of fruit and oak with a nice finish.
Raffaldini Vineyards: Save the airline ticket to Italy, and visit Raffaldini in the Swan Creek area of the Yadkin Valley. You'll meet a family
that's been making wine for more than 650 years. Their tasting room opens onto a sunny deck and gardens with a stunning view
of the Yadkin River beyond.
Our Pick: 2005 Fiori ($13)―good with cold salads and spicy Asian foods; 2005 Chiara ($13)―sweet, tastes more like a blush than a traditional rosé.