A Short Drive From Cary: The New Napa?

Story by Matt Young

Cary, NC – I grew up around grapes. Many of my relatives in Northeast, PA (yes, that’s the name of the town) had vineyards. When my family moved when I was a boy, I was surprised to learn that there were people that had never seen a vineyard or tasted home made wine. Standing in a vineyard is something very personal to me. I still make wine in my garage.

“We’re a short trip from the hottest wine-making region in the country and I’m going to write a story,” I told the publisher.

“You can’t expense a trip to California, Matt” he said.

“No, it’s right here in North Carolina,” I said. “An hour and a half away in the Yadkin Valley.”

North Carolina Has A Long History as Wine Country

The wine history here  in North Carolina is long.  In 1840, North Carolina was the number one wine producing state in the Union according to the U.S. Census. Over the course of a couple hundred years it was shut down and started back up for a number of reasons – some examples include The Civil War and prohibition. In the late 1990’s, land turned from tobacco to grapes. The Yadkin Valley was named as the state’s first American Viticultural Area shortly after that.

“(North Carolina) wine would be distinguished on the best tables in Europe, for its fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence.” – Thomas Jefferson

The State of North Carolina now ranks 7th in the nation in wine production. A nice history can be found at VisitNCWine.com. But the North Carolina wine and grape industry is not just muscadines, scuppernongs and sweet wines anymore. Our friends just to the west are growing the grapes and making and selling cabs, merlots, zins and chardonnays.

Making up stuff about wine. Photo by Trish Prestia.

Taking One for the Team

I planned a day-trip to Yadkin Valley – gathered up 3 other couples and my bride, we hired out a limo (about $100 a head, but it can surely be done for less). Sounds like a lot of money, but its something you may do once only every 5 years, and its what you might pay for a two-hour concert or a day at the State Fair.

Truth be told, I would have done this whether I worked with CaryCitizen or not. I chose Weathervane, Childress, Junius Lindsay, Native Vines and RayLen to visit.

Here’s the down-low in a nutshell:

Weathervane: Quaint, nice little gift shop, knowledgeable staff, informal. Tastings are $5 (you get a glass to keep).

Childress: Touristy, but great wines, huge selection and a great bistro for lunch. There was live music when we were there and a big crowd. Huge gift shop. Very knowledgable staff. Tasting are expensive at $10 and up, but you get a glass to keep. Great views.

Junius Lindsay – Small, outdoor tasting bar. Beautiful surroundings. Friendly staff. Wines feature Syrah and Viognier. Tastings are $5 (you get a glass to keep).

Native Wines – Very rustic. Down-home surroundings. Friendly, very informal staff.   They claim to be the first “American Indian Owned and Operated Winery in the US”. Tastings are $5 (no glass).

Ray-Len – This was my favorite, although all of the wineries had their own “personality.” Amazing, sensibly priced wines, huge vineyard and the staff was great. Highly recommended.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the wine. The scenery was beautiful. We had a lot of laughs as you can imagine. We were with good friends. We drank a lot of wine – a lot. But in small amounts over the course of 6 hours – we all had our wits about us on the ride home.

Yadkin Valley Wine Region Map

Here’s  Google Map of the Yadkin Valley Wine District. Rollover the dots to see the wineries.

View Larger Map

Feel free to email me at matt.young@carycitizen.com if you want some advice on planning a trip of your own or have a favorite NC winery to recommend. We are also interested in covering other “Short Drives From Cary.” Shoot me a line with your ideas!

“It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.” – Latin Proverb

10 replies
  1. Sandra Thomas
    Sandra Thomas says:

    It was great to see someone post an article on our area. The Yadkin Valley now has 34 wineries/vineyards. It never ceases to amaze me that people from our state don’t know how many there are in NC. Each winery has its own ambiance, from great views, to quaint tasting rooms. My husband and I have visited and tasted from all the wineries in this area and we feel that we have some great wines right here in NC.
    As bed and breakfast owners we have had people from NC, VA, WVA, SC, GA, FL, Ohio, Calif., Fingerlake region of NY, Canada; just to name a few. We love this area and hope that it continues to grow and people continue to discover the area. Thanks for your article.

  2. Leah
    Leah says:

    Matt – Thank you for visiting RayLen last weekend! I very much enjoyed having your group and I am happy you found some wines to enjoy. Visit again soon!

  3. MJ
    MJ says:

    Thanks for an excellent article! Having lived in California, Virginia, Germany and recently returning from a trip to Washington state (which included tours of both the Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia wineries), I’ve come to appreciate the offerings of a wide variety of vintners. We will definitely be checking out the Yadkin Valley Wine District.

  4. Matt Young
    Matt Young says:

    Debbie! Very cool. Guess I need to learn about that!

    I will tell you that I have made my own muscadine grape juice…which as you know means I squeezed a load of grapes (that my daughter picked)… I however promptly fermented them…LOL.

  5. Debbie Pullen
    Debbie Pullen says:

    Matt, loved your story. You drove right by another great story here in Davie County (we’re about 5 miles from Raylen). Nature’s Pearl Premium Muscadine Grape Seed Supplements are manufactured here, and we make delicious 100% Muscadine Juice & Cider, too – not to mention our Muscadine 20 Antioxidant Skin Care and Personal Care products. I think you’ll want a muscadine vat in your garage when you hear about the 100 antioxidants in them.

  6. Karyn
    Karyn says:

    Matt: Thank you for such a great article and a fantastic review. We appreciate your visit and look forward to seeing you again soon.

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