Visiting the Yadkin Valley doesn’t just have to be about wine tastings and vineyard tours. Sanders Ridge proves that with a broad experience involving bird tours, cooking classes, an organic farm, a restaurant and a zip line tour.
Sanders Ridge has been family owned for 164 years now. What was once covered in tobacco, cattle, soybeans, corn and timber is now filled with rows and rows of grapevines.
“I farmed here all of my life on a conventional farm,” Owner Neil Shore said. “We started the vineyard in 2001.”
Shore said that he decided to make the transition from tobacco and cattle to a vineyard in order to keep his children interested in the farm.
“I wanted them to have something they could enjoy,” Shore said. “I knew they wouldn’t want to farm conventionally like I had. I understood that, so I wanted something that would allow us to branch out.”
The winery is owned and managed by Shore, his wife Cindy, and Shore’s daughter Jennifer Hiatt.
Vineyard and Winery
Stretched across 15 acres, the Sanders Ridge vineyard is maintained and grown by the Shore family. The winery only offers estate grown wines.
The vineyard features nine varieties of grapes. Seven are vinifera, traditional wine making grapes. There are also red Noble Muscadine and white Carlos Muscadine grapes.
Sanders Ridge owners are especially proud of their winemaker. Being a native of Yadkin County, Sara Wooten is able to have a better understanding of the soil and how things grow in this region.
“Sara grew up with my kids, and I’ve known her all of her life,” Shore said. “She grew up just down the street from me. It’s kind of unusual to have a native winemaker; most winemakers come from California or New York.”
Wooten insists on being a part of the wine-making process from start to finish. She is a part of everything except for harvesting.
“Our winemaker crafts the wines in the same soil that she’s been a part of her entire life,” said Hiatt, Sanders Ridge’s manager. “She brings a little bit of local knowledge and local flair to our wines.
“She goes through and hand picks [the grapes] after they’ve been harvested to choose only the best quality grapes to make her wine out of. Then she goes and makes the wine and bottles it with a team of other folks. Her hands-on approach ensures that we have a really nice, high quality wine.”
Sanders Ridge offers 12 wines. The winery offers five whites and seven reds.
“Since 2007 we’ve won 68 awards internationally and locally,” Shore said. “We are the only winery in North Carolina that has had two wines win best in show at the same competition.”
Wine lovers have a couple of choices when visiting Sanders Ridge for a wine tasting. One tasting allows you to choose any five of their 12 wines for $5. Another tasting allows you to try all 12 for $10.
The Restaurant and Organic Farm
The restaurant has been a part of Sanders Ridge since it opened. Offering a variety of new southern cuisine, the restaurant at Sanders Ridge is run by Chef Starr Johnson.
Johnson’s culinary history ranges from Noble’s Grill and South by Southwest in Winston-Salem to Childress Vineyards in Lexington and her own restaurant Starr’s in Mocksville.
The Restaurant at Sanders Ridge offers lunch Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a Sunday brunch in addition to the regular menu.
Thursday night dinners are a special night at Sanders Ridge. The restaurant hosts a family style dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Groups can visit the restaurant and enjoy a meal served in large bowls to be shared amongst everyone.
Groups can enjoy a meal with a different entrée each week complete with sides and vegetables. Diners can enjoy live bluegrass music during their meal as well.
“Thursday nights are just something we thought would be fun,” Shore said. “It’s been real successful for us, and we’ll always have it. We always fill up on those nights, and Starr’s fried chicken nights are the nights we really get packed. We do fried chicken nights twice a month. We get a lot of local folks in on those nights.”
The restaurant features mostly North Carolina fresh fish. It also features vegetables and fruits grown in the winery’s own organic farm. Shore’s wife Cindy runs the farm.
“My wife Cindy is the only certified organic farmer in Yadkin County as far as I know,” Shore said. “We supply the vegetables here at the restaurant, and she has a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] of about 30 to 40 families that she takes food to every week. She also goes to about five farmers markets.”
Big Woods Zipline
One major feature that sets Sanders Ridge apart from the rest in the Yadkin Valley is the Big Woods Zip Line tour. Sanders Ridge teamed up with Big Woods Zip Line in 2010, a pairing that Shore thought could be beneficial to both parties.
“The zip line was something that we decided that would generate traffic for the restaurant and winery. That’s worked out and been a good marriage so far,” Shore said.
The zip line tour features 12 lines and 14 platforms. The entire course stretches across a mile of the woods surrounding the vineyard property.
Zip line riders are suspended from a cable from a pulley system and gravity pulls riders from platform to platform. Zip line guides are present at each takeoff and landing point to ensure the safety of the riders.
Winemaker Sara Wooten also acts as a tour guide for the zip line.
“We like to bring fun crowds out here on the lines,” Wooten said. “The louder the crowd during the tour, the more fun we have.”
Big Woods Zip Line has recently added a new feature to its tour. Riders now have the choice to participate in a nighttime zip line tour on Fridays and Saturdays through August. Nighttime rides are $75 a person.
Zip line prices are $45 for ages 8 through 13; $65 for ages 14 to 64 and $45 for ages 65 and over. Group rates are available and the tour occasionally features special pricing around holidays. Reservations are required to ride but walk-ins are accepted on Saturday and Sunday if space is available.
Big Woods Zip Line is open year round. For more information or to make a reservation call 336-677-1509.
Birding and Nature Walks
Once a month Sanders Ridge offers a birding and nature walk, which is hosted by former North Carolina Zoo Director Ron Morris. The tours are free to anyone who wishes to participate, and they take place at 9 a.m.
Each month’s tour is different because of the migration of birds into the area. Morris points out birds and plants in the area and gives background information and answers questions about each of them.
“The birding and walking trail is an easy to moderate trail, and it features a lot of different birds that migrate here,” Shore said. “The walks were just something we wanted to offer to get people out and about on the property.”
Walkers are encouraged to bring sturdy walking shoes and binoculars. While the tour is free, hikers have to register at least a week in advance. The remaining hike dates are Aug. 11 and Oct. 13. Anyone interested in registering for a hike can call 677-1700.
On the second Saturday of the month from June through October Chef Starr hosts cooking classes at the Sanders Ridge Restaurant. The classes start at 9 a.m. and last about two hours. Each class has a theme such as “how to boil water” and “tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.”
Class participants receive a hands on teaching class, a ball cap and to-go box of the meals they make during the class. The class is followed by a wine tasting of your choice of any five of the wineries 12 wines.
The cost for the class is $75 a person. Class sizes are limited and require a reservation. Three classes remain this year. On August 11 Chef Starr will teach a class called “southern style.” During this class she will focus on classic southern comfort foods and teach participants how she makes her homemade mayonnaise, homemade pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and grits.
There are also classes scheduled for Sept. 8 and Oct.13, these class themes have yet to be announced.
If you’re interested in signing up for a cooking class call 336-677-1701.
The Shore family hopes to continue with Sanders Ridge growth. They have plans to install a machine that will allow them to make boxed wine as well as plant a larger variety of grapes. Due to the growing demand of white wines, they plan to increase their white wine collection.
The Shores also hope to add cabins to the property in the coming years.
“That’s really the only thing that we don’t offer our guests,” Hiatt said. “There are a lot of really nice bed and breakfasts and guest houses nearby but we’d love for our guests to be able to come here and relax and spend their whole weekend here with us.”
Hiatt said that the most important part of the farm for her is getting to work closely with her family and friends.
“It’s really dear to our hearts because it’s our family farm,” Hiatt said. “It’s fun that we can share it with other people. We can work side by side with our friends and family and do something that we love. There isn’t any other job where you can do that.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.