“moonshine” stills bring to mind men in overalls fleeing from the law with metal contraptions in their trucks.
There is a place Yadkin County residents can enjoy the perks of a moonshine still without having to look over their shoulders. Windsor Run Cellars in Hamptonville is the only winery in North Carolina that features a legal moonshine still.
Windsor Run Cellars was formerly Buck Shoals Winery. After falling on hard financial times, the previous owner put the property up for sale in December 2011. Chuck and Jamey Johnson saw this as the perfect opportunity. The couple owns Shadow Springs Vineyard less than a mile from the Buck Shoals property, and they had been looking into building their own winery.
“This was already done, and it was already a production facility,” Chuck Johnson said. “We needed to add things to it but for us it was already a done deal. We didn’t necessarily need another tasting room but the deal came with it.”
The winery also came with an educated staff and a moonshine still.
“This place has all of what we need to make great wine here,” Johnson said. “The stillery was kind of a bonus for me. It was a fun little thing that said we could do something real different here.”
After taking over Johnson realized that some changes needed to be made to the property. He set a goal to have the renovations completed by March 2012 and to be ready to introduce the public to Windsor Run.
First on Johnson’s agenda was to expand the existing tasting room. Since Shadow Springs followed Buck Shoals in wine tasting tours, Johnson said that he heard several complaints over the years that this tasting room was not equipped to handle crowds and people didn’t like having to wait so long.
“They had a very small tasting bar, and it was very cramped in there but they had a very beautiful deck on the back,” Johnson said. “We thought if we enclosed that deck and get almost double the tasting spots and we’d be able to put in a large bar where we could service the customers.”
Next Johnson went to work with Dana Acker, the winemaker, to revamp the vineyard. They decided to tear up three and a half acres of vines and replanted an acre and a half, leaving two acres to rest until next season.
“The previous owners, I think, were under some bad advisement of what grape varieties to plant,” Acker said. “They grew well in the countries they came from but not so well here.”
Johnson and Acker and other staff members went to work planting a more useful variety of grapes and are also looking into planting some hybrid plants to accommodate wines they want to make in the future.
When wine lovers visit they can experience two different tastings; a regular wine tasting and a fortified wine tasting. Johnson says that the 18 percent alcohol fortified wine tasting comes in a Windsor Run shot glass that can be taken home after your visit.
“The shot glass was a cool way of doing it because no one else does it, and it was different. We can show off our fortified wines with the moonshine in,” Johnson said. “We’ve had huge success with that so far. Is it the proper way to taste wine? Maybe not, but it’s fun and nobody has turned up their nose at it.”
Johnson says that they like to have fun with the moonshine culture, they’ve even incorporated the concept in the winery’s logo.
Johnson says that when people tour the winery they always want their picture made with the still. He is still considering some props, such as a rifle and old timey hat, so people can have fun with their pictures.
Johnson also has plans to add a 60-person tasting area in the winery.
“We’re going to do group tastings in the winery here,” Johnson said. “We want to be able to have buses and big tours, but we don’t want to upset our bar. So we have a place in the facility that we’re going to make that will be climate controlled and nice for groups.”
Windsor Run Cellars will also offer meads and fruit wines.
“We’ve got an apple mead that’s made from apple cider, honey, cinnamon and cloves all fermented together which will be released in another month or so,” Acker said. “We wear a lot of different hats here, so we have a lot of different things for people to try.”
The winery will be making the wines for Shadow Springs and other vineyards without wineries in the area. This is called custom crush, which means the vineyards bring their grapes to Windsor Run’s winery where they make and bottle the wine. Those vineyards sell it under their label at their tasting room.
Windsor Run Cellars made its goal of opening in March, and although they have yet to have their official grand opening and promotional campaign, Johnson says they have seen a noticeable increase in traffic. They plan to have a grand opening event this summer.
“We’re new, we’re a lot of fun and we make great wine,” Acker said. “Even though it’s a lot of fun and we joke and have a lot of neat things here, quality is still the number one thing that we’re striving for.”
Windsor Run Cellars is located at 6531 Windsor Road, Hamptonville. Their business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Wine tastings are $5 plus tax and fortified wine tastings are $4 plus tax. You can reach them at 336-468-8400 or by visiting www.windsorrun.com.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.