From milk to mother’s milk
On the drive into Shelton Vineyards, with dramatic views of the surrounding mountains, grapevines line both sides of the road and beginning in late summer they are ripe for harvesting — by hand. As far as the eye can see are row upon row of European varietals: cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, malbec, tannat, petit verdot, riesling, sauvignon blanc and viognier.
This stalwart of the North Carolina wine industry has come a long way since 1999 when Mount Airy brothers and successful developers Charlie and Ed Shelton planted the first vines in the unique clay loam soil. In fields that once sprouted tobacco and pastureland where dairy cows grazed, 72 acres of land was transformed and is tended by a vineyard crew of seven, all of whom are still at the winery 20 years later. One of the largest estates on the East Coast, the winery’s management has been passed on to the next generation of Sheltons, Mandy Shelton Houser and Charles “Chip” Shelton, Jr, who serve as co-presidents. Over the years Shelton wines have garnered more than 450 awards, including 13 best in show.
For the last two vintages, winemaker Ethan Brown has brought a lifetime of Yadkin Valley wine knowledge and experience to Shelton. Prepared in a gravity-flow facility with three barrel rooms, the wines age in French, American and Hungarian oak. For $10, you can sample three whites, four reds and three wines of the week. Of particular note are the Bourbon Barrel Chardonnay and Family Reserve Claret 2017, as well as a rarity in North Carolina, Port. Brown’s personal favorite? The Two-Five-Nine Tannat, an elixir of dark fruits and a hint of spice — with a deliciously long finish. But don’t overlook Shelton’s whites, which have historically been popular, as are a recent addition, wine slushies, especially enjoyable on the outdoor patio adjacent to the tasting room.
It’s fair to say Shelton has become a destination winery, given its on-site restaurant. The Harvest Grill serves up “sophisticated comfort food” such as pimento pups and fried green tomato stack appetizers, pulled pork entrées, sandwiches and wraps. Under Chef Frances Draughn’s direction, the seasonal menus of mainly locally sourced products are conducive to wine-pairing. A crowd favorite are the Murder Mystery Dinners, which sell out quickly.
Alternatively, you can enjoy the beautiful backdrops of a stream and a lake for picnics and wine sipping. The Shelton at Sunset Summer Concert series draws attendees from all over the East Coast and weddings are hosted at three locations with receptions held at two. Space for private and corporate retreats is available and can accommodate up to 100 people. The Hampton Inn & Suites at Shelton offers lodging for all events including package deals for the concerts with shuttle service for worry-free transportation, though if we had our druthers, we’d prefer to stay till the cows come home. h— Lynn Donovan
Shelton Vineyards, 286 Cabernet Lane, Dobson, (336) 366-4724; Harvest Grill, (336) 366-3590, sheltonvineyards.com