As the region’s reputation for great vintages continues to grow, here’s a look at the first of this century’s vineyards and wineries, it’s most recent, and the school where students learn the various aspects of the wine industry.
HANOVER PARK VINEYARD
There’s a touch of romance behind Hanover Park Vineyard in Yadkinville, the area’s oldest establishment of its kind.
“We took a month-long honeymoon to the south of France in the summer of 1996, and we came back with a love for old world wine and the countryside,” said Amy Helton, who owns and operates the vineyard with her husband, Michael.
Upon their return to North Carolina, the two art teachers found 24 acres to purchase in the Yadkin Valley, just 20 minutes from their home in Winston-Salem. They used some savings to launch Hanover Park Vineyard, the first operation of its sort in Yadkin County.
Helton said the couple planted two acres in 1997, two more in 1998, had its first harvest in 1999, then planted four more acres in 2001 and 2002.
The property came with a farmhouse on it that was built in 1897.
“We built the winery from scratch about 15 years ago. The studio and event center was bought about nine or 10 years ago,” Helton said.
Their first harvest in 1999 produced 375 cases, and the tasting room opened in July 2000. Today, Hanover Park Vineyard produces about 1,500 cases each year, Helton said.
She oversees running the tasting room, events planning, marketing and branding for the vineyard. In turn, husband Michael makes the wine and takes care of the vineyard.
“We are self-taught,” Helton said. “We are teachers.”
In those pre-Internet days their learning involved talking to people, including Ed Schwab of Autumn Hill Vineyards in Virginia, who became a valued friend, mentor and advisor. The Heltons also took a return trip to France in the summer of 2002 to meet with winemakers and to further understand their methods and blends.
Helton has seen the Yadkin Valley grow as a wine-producing region, with about 40 vineyards operating within a half-hour drive from Hanover Park Vineyard. People used to pass through on their way to beach destinations but now many come specifically to stay and enjoy the wines the area has to offer.
Past the pandemic, Helton said she’s seen a shift in how visitors spend their time. While many used to see how many vineyards they could visit in a day, the trend now seems to be visiting just one or two spots at a leisurely pace.
“People have learned to relax,” Helton said.
At Hanover Park Vineyard, guests can enjoy six types of red wine and two white varietals along with some dessert and fortified wines. They can bring their own food for a picnic.
“There are many great wines coming out of North Carolina. Come visit,” Helton said.
For more information, see hanoverparkwines.com/.
DYNAMIS ESTATE WINES
Dynamis Estate Wines, the Yadkin region’s newest winery, sitting at 1640 feet elevation and framed by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains on a stunning 1,500-acre estate, provides guests unique, luxurious vintages as well as an epicurean experience.
“The property has a long history of agriculture, and grapes are very happy to be here,” said Jennie Hess, the winery’s director of estate hospitality.
Still, the land remained fallow for nearly 40 years before it was purchased and redevelopment operations began. Grapevines were established, and by 2017 there were 30 acres of wine grapes, along with five acres of apples and another acre of peaches.
In 2022, Dyamis harvested more than 100 tons of grapes. Dynamic vintners select grapes from their favorite vineyard sites, and the winery sells the rest to local wineries in the state.
The grapes grow in rocky soil and at a higher elevation, contributing to their distinct flavor profile.
Local winemakers Katy Kidd and Matheson Worrell took notice of the grapes’ qualities. Duly impressed, they wound up becoming the creative force behind Dynamis Estate Wines.
“Their goal is to create a product and experience unlike anything else in North Carolina,” Hess said.
Kidd and Worrell both graduated from the program at the renowned Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology and share a passion for innovation. With their wines, they combine the time-honored traditions of Europe’s centuries-old winemaking with the advances offered through today’s technology.
Grapes at Dynamis Estates Wines are picked by hand in the fall, just before temperatures reach the freezing mark, and are harvested in 40-pound containers. Wines are handcrafted in small lots.
“Every drop is monitored with surgical precision creating a time capsule in a bottle to enjoy for years to come, one vintage after another,” Hess said.
Dynamis Estates Wines launched as a brand in 2019, and offers five styles including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and two proprietary red blends, all from Vitis vinifera grapes.
The tasting lodge opened in June 2022 in a renovated, historic building. While just 45 minutes from Winston-Salem in Jonesville, the final leg of the journey involves guests taking a two-and-a-half mile drive through the estate, up the easternmost ridgeline of the Brushy Mountains, to reach their destination.
Once there — and by reservation only — guests can enjoy an ambassador-guided or self-guided tasting experience, replete with detailed wine notes, conviviality and breathtaking views. Seasonal light bites are available, too, through a partnership with the Barking Coyote Kitchen in Elkin.
“You will truly be transported,” Hess said.
For more information, see www.dynamisestatewines.com.
LEARNING ABOUT WINES
Complimenting the Yadkin Valley’s continued growth as a winemaking region has been the development of the Shelton-Badgett NC Center for Viticulture and Enology at Surry Community College in Dobson.
“The program has been growing in enrollment as the wine industry in North Carolina starts to grow and evolve,” enology instructor David Bower said. “Core wine consumers in the state are drinking closer to home, as there has been a renewed excitement for local wines. I think that has led to more interest in the program.”
Bower explained that enology is the science and production of wine, from when grapes arrive on a crush pad, to finishing and bottling.
Surry Community College has been offering wine-related classes since 1999 and established a two-year associate’s degree in 2001.
The Center’s current focus is on certification programs in viticulture, enology, wine marketing and in tasting room operations, the latter of which is offered solely online. Students can elect to take classes as they go with total flexibility on their schedule, Bower said.
“Viticulture involves all aspects of grape culture and care: site selection, variety selection, trellis selection, pruning, canopy management, harvest, pest and disease management, soil and groundcover management and other matters,” viticulture instructor Sarah Bowman said.
“There’s no other program in the Southeast with facilities quite like ours, and that makes our in-person instruction essentially like working in a commercial vineyard or winery. Students can learn and experience nearly all aspects of work in the industry, from grape to glass,” she said.
The Center is very much intertwined in the state’s wine industry.
“Most of the folks within this industry have at least taken a class with us, and many have degrees and certifications. We do field trips, have guest speakers and we help to place students in open job positions,” Bower said.
Bowman said many of the Center’s students work in wine-related jobs while they are taking classes. Many graduates are currently in full-time positions locally, regionally and nationally.
“We are here to educate and train anyone with the curiosity and courage to pursue a career in wine,” Bowman said.
On top of offering technical instruction and labs, the Center also involves its students in producing Surry Cellars, the label for wines produced at Surry Community College.
All Surry Cellars wines are made from grapes that students grow in the college’s five-acre vineyard located on the college’s campus. The wines are sold locally at various shops and restaurants.
“That makes the Center super unique,” Bower said.
For more information, see ncviticulturecenter.surry.edu.