New winery to feature unique hybrids

By Kitsey E. Burns kburns@civitasmedia.com

July 3, 2014

YADKINVILLE — Wine lovers in the area will soon have a new tasting room to visit in the Yadkin Valley wine region.

John Koren and Lyn Layton-Koren hope to have Sweet Home Carolina Vineyard and Winery, located at 3423 Old U.S. 421 Hwy E., open by late summer or fall and their goal is to provide a unique and different experience for wine drinkers.

“All of my wines are a little bit different because I want to give everybody something new to come to and new to try,” Layton-Koren said. “I think maybe that’s the artist in me coming out. I want to create something different and unique that nobody around here has really experienced.”

The couple, who lived in the Virginia Beach area until they retired, spent some time traveling the country in a motor home in search of a new place to call home. After visiting her brother in Clemmons, Layton-Koren said she and her husband decided to move to North Carolina.

“We didn’t know we were in the middle of wine country,” she said. “So once we discovered that, we started on Sundays, it was kind of a neat thing to do to go the different little wineries, have a glass of wine, taste the wines, sit on the porches and just visit with people and we got kind of hooked on the whole tasting room experience and the country tasting rooms especially. All of them are different. Everybody’s got a different unique something about them.”

They enjoyed visiting the area wineries so much, in fact, that they decided to try their hand at wine making.

“I started in our garage making wine,” Layton-Koren said. “The hobby kind of got carried away and before I knew it I had an entire tiny little winery in my garage.”

The wines were served for friends, but an idea soon began to germinate about taking things a step further.

“We started entertaining the notion, sitting on the front porch of Hanover Park [Winery] at Michael and Amy’s, and talking about doing our own winery and tasting room and vineyard,” Layton-Koren said.

After planting their first grapes, six different hybrids, and making wine from their own grapes, they knew there was no turning back. Despite set backs with health concerns and other delays, the two kept moving forward with their dream of opening a winery.

The first bottling was done in June of a wine called Pure Country made entirely from tart cherries.

“The aroma, the taste, everything takes you back to your childhood,” Layton-Koren said. The original intention was to sweeten this wine with some added sugar, but upon tasting it, she said there was no way she could make any changes to it.

“It smells just like fresh picked tart cherries, it tastes just like fresh picked tart cherries and the taste was so perfect and the aroma was so perfect I said no we can’t mess with it,” she explained. “We just can’t because to me it’s something that stirs memories from when you were younger. That’s the sort of the thing I like to bring out with wines is to try and stir up memories from things that have happened in your life. That’s what I try and shoot for.”

When the tasting room opens later this summer, Sweet Home Carolina will offer 13 different wines, made from hybrid grapes not typically seen in this area. Planted on the property is a grape called Diamond, a favorite of Layton-Koren’s and something she felt was fated for her to grow as it was the only surviving plant from the harsh winter.

In addition to being made from some unusual hybrids like Edelweiss, Brianna and Noiret, the wines at Sweet Home Carolina also have unique names like Spirited, Wild Thing, Rebel without a Cause and Baby Girl. The inspiration for some of the names, Layton-Koren said, came from their beloved miniature horses, donkeys and their cockatoo called Baby Bird.

Visitors to the winery will get a chance to see Baby Bird, miniature horses Tinka, Candy, Daz, Clover, Diva, Enya and Esme and miniature donkeys Ruby and Jubilee. The wine labels also will feature images of the animals.

The goal, Layton-Koren said, for Sweet Home Carolina is to create a magical place for people to visit and enjoy wine, but most of all a place where people feel at home and comfortable.

“I’ve always believed a wine expert is somebody who knows what they like,” she said.

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.