By Kathy Chaffin
YADKINVLLE — It was a perfect day for the 12th-annual Yadkin Valley Grape Festival.
With comfortable temperatures in the low 60s, great music and wine, craft and food vendors and people from all over North Carolina and some from other states, how could it not be?
Joyce Allman of Badin and her boyfriend, John Cheek, who lives on Badin Lake, were at the festival for the very first time. “We read about it online,” Allman said, “and we liked the setup. We thought it was well organized.”
Cheek said he had heard a lot of good things about the Yadkinville festival.
Allman said she and Cheek had visited 45 North Carolina wineries over the past 13 months that they have been seeing each other as well as wineries in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina, where she has a home in North Myrtle Beach.
“We love travel and we always find a winery to visit,” she said. “A lot of times we run into people that we know or who knows somebody that we know.”
Cheek met a lot of different people while working as a high school football and basketball coach in High Point, she said, “so there’s a network there that we run into.”
Allman described the Morgan Ridge winery near Badin Lake as their home base. “They have a lot of music and food,” she said. “It’s more than just about the wine.”
She said they were very pleased to discover that there was a shuttle from their hotel, the Comfort Inn in Elkin, to the festival. “That way, we don’t have to worry about driving,” she said.
A little later, when asked about the wines they had sampled, Allman said, “They’re all good. He likes drier wines, and I like semi-sweet and sweet, and the blends.”
Jamie Johnston of Pilot Mountain, an administrative assistant for the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival, said the festival has grown every year. About 4,000 attended last year, she said.
“We’ve got a steady number of visitors coming in,” Johnston said an hour into the 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. event, “so it looks like we’re going to have a great day.”
When the Chamber first started talking about a festival, she said members “wanted to do something to help promote the wineries of the Yadkin Valley area. It’s the reason we do this, to continue promoting and advertising for them.”
“Each year, we have new ones that come on board to participate in the festival.”
This year, Johnston said there were two new wineries among the 23 wine vendors: Sweet Home Carolina Vineyard & Winery, located at 3423 Old U.S. 421 Highway East, Yadkinville; and Chestnut Trail Vineyard, located at 640 Cedar Grove Church Road, Mocksville.
Chestnut Trail Vineyard is a family venture by John and Claudia Ellis, their son, Rob and his daughter, Sherry, and their daughter, Christine Summers and her husband, Eric. The family started the vineyard 10 years ago as John Ellis’s retirement project.
“We made wine for ourselves for about five years,” Christine Summers said, “and everybody seemed to like what we were doing.” As the vineyard kept maturing and producing more and more grapes, Christine said they decided to turn it into a family business.
They presently offer three premium muscadine wines — Estrellita, Legado and Primo, which are Spanish names for the Peruvian Paso horses Claudia Ellis raises.
“We only bottle what we grow at the vineyard ourselves,” Christine says, “and we grow everything organically.”
People tasting the wine offered very positive reviews, and some purchased bottles to take home with them. Maggie Calloway of Boonville said her sample of the Legado wine was very good.
Julie and David Brittain of Newton were among the people lined up to sample the offerings of the other new winery, Sweet Home Carolina Vineyard and Winery. Sweet Home Carolina is owned by John Koren and Lyn Layton-Koren, the resident artist and winemaker. Their boutique winery specializes in Lyn’s small batch wines. Guests can join them barside to talk with Baby Bird Bella, their resident horse-herding Moluccan Cockatoo.
“This is good,” Julie said of the Sweet Home Carolina sample, her sentiments echoed by her husband, David. People around them also gave very positive reviews.
The Brittains said they’ve been regulars at the Yadkin Valley Grape Festival for seven, maybe eight years. They said they have three or four they really like, but their favorite winery is Shadow Springs. “That’s the first place we go because they always run out,” Julie said.
Among the wine-related crafts being sold at the festival were decorated wine bottles with lights inside being sold by Debbie and Bud Cayton of Winston-Salem. This was their first year at the Yadkin Valley Grape Festival, and both said they were impressed by the large turnout.
Tina Woosley of Clemmons and Trisha Hope of Winston-Salem paused to look at the apparel items at the vendor next to them.
Couples Suzette and David Diddulph and Alice and Dana Fogle have been driving from Florida to the Yadkin Valley wine festivals for eight or nine years in the spring and fall. They were camping at the Holly Ridge Campground on River Road in Boonville and rode a shuttle bus to the festival.
“We love North Carolina rural wineries,” Alice Fogle said.
Among their favorites are the Divine Llama Vineyards in East Bend, and they like the Category 5 wine at Raylen Vineyard in Davie County, which they said is usually at the festival but wasn’t this year.
Bands playing included The Rockers, which has members from Yadkinville, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, from 11:30 to 2:30, and Phatt City, another popular area band, from 3 to 5 p.m.