7.25.2015

Discovering Yadkin Valley: A NC Weekend Wine Adventure (Part 3)

A girlfriend’s weekend getaway to the Yadkin Valley wine region in North Carolina was quite a wonderful and educational experience for me. I learned three very important things in my two day journey.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.


  •  North Carolina is the only place in the world that grows every type of grape, and the Yadkin Valley wine region is a federally recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA). The establishment of viticultural areas allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers to identify wines they may purchase. In this region of N.C., you are going to find the European-style vinifera grapes, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier.


  •  I discovered that Yadkin Valley wines are really good. I mean really good, and can easily compete with some of the best wines in California, Oregon, and Washington.


  • This area of North Carolina makes a fabulous getaway for friends, couples, and even families. I concentrated totally on visiting wineries in this region, but there are a lot of outdoor adventures that you can tie in with winery visits, too.


NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.
In  less than 48 hours, we visited six wineries in Yadkin Valley. 




If you are just joining us in this series, you may want to start with part one of our NC wine series where we checked into our hotel and later explored Brushy Mountain Winery, a charming urban winery in downtown Elkin. On day two of our new wine journey, we were treated like queens, and were picked up by Parkway Tours to begin our wine adventure in Surry County.  We explored Shelton Vineyards and Grassy Creek Vineyard and Winery.

Wine Tasting at McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks


NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries. This is McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks.


As Billy drove us approximately 9 miles from Grassy Creek Vineyard to McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks in Thurmond, N.C., we could see a landscape change. It became hilly. McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks sits on 30 acres in the Blue Ridge mountain foothills. The tasting room, which I would describe as very Sonoma chic with large, picture windows and a front porch with a few rocking chairs, overlooks the vineyards. Immediately, you feel as if this is a place where you would like to hang out for a while, and forget that you had any care in the world. It’s tranquil, casual, but yet, you get the impression that the wine here exudes sophistication and class.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.  Pictured are owners of McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, Sean and Patricia McRitchie.


Owners, Sean and Patricia McRitchie, are living their dream of establishing their own winery after many years of working in the wine industry. They held top management positions at other prestigious wineries prior to Sean harvesting his own grapes in 2004, and establishing the winery in 2006. They also have the honor of producing North Carolina’s first hard cider.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.  McRitchie was the first winery in N.C. to produce hard ciders.


Their ciders are a blend of hand-selected heirloom cider apples from orchards in the Blue Ridge mountains. McRitchie produces both dry and off-dry ciders. None of the wines produced at McRitchie are sweet wines. Winemaker Sean McRitchie, is fond of using techniques found more often in France than in America.

Named after the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, this is McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks tribute. NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.


You are likely to find the vineyard’s Ring of Fire Red in specialty wine shops throughout North Carolina. This signature wine is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. The wine’s name is in tribute to the man in black, Johnny Cash.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.



The 2012 Pale Rider Dry Rose’, made with Sangiovese grapes became the absolute favorite wine of the entire trip for my friend, Michelle. McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks is located at 315 Thurmond PO Road in Thurmond, N.C.

Wine Tasting at Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery


View from Jones von Drehle. NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.


Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery is a family affair owned by two sisters and their husbands. It’s one of the newer wineries in the area and already, it has impressed some of North Carolina’s best Sommeliers. Jones von Drehle wines can be found on the wine list at some of the best luxury hotels and restaurants in North Carolina. Chuck and Diana Jones and Raymond and Ronnie von Drehle bought 65 acres of former pastures and woodlands in the Blue Ridge foothills in 2007, and that’s where the dream came to fruition.  The winery opened in 2012.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.


Jones von Drehle, located in the area of Thurmond in Surry County, is only a few miles away from McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks. Jones von Drehle was our last stop of the day after a wine tour day that started at 10 a.m. I really want to go back again and make this winery my first stop because after tasting about 20 other wines during the day, everything starts to be a blur for a non-wine expert, like me.

Rock and Rail wine from Jones von drehle in Surry County.


We met with winemaker Dan Tallman for a quick tour. We visited on Saturday at the end of May,  and on Tuesday, the Jones von  Drehle team were going to start bottling more wines that were ready for consumption. Dan led us to a room where wine glasses, half-full with wine ready for bottling, were being studied. It made me realize that winemaking is both a science and an art, which Jones von Drehle has mastered beautifully.

NC Wine Adventures in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. Great for a getaway for girlfriends, families, and couples. In this post, we explore the wines of six different wineries.

Favorite wines of mine were the 2012 Chardonnay Steel, the Rock and Rail Estate Red, the 2012 Tempranillo, and the 2013 Viognier. Jones von Drehle is located at 964 Old Railroad Grade Road.

Dinner at 222 Public House in Elkin


Great meal at 222 Public House in Downtown Elkin.


222 Public House in downtown Elkin is a fabulous casual eatery in a sports bar atmosphere. The Philly cheese steak sandwich and the hand-cut fries were excellent. Despite being in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, wine takes a backseat to craft beer here and very few local wines are even on the menu, if at all.  The craft beer menu is solid though. 

Wine Tasting and Brick-Oven Pizza at Elkin Creek Vineyard


Elkin Creek Vineyard in Surry County. On Sunday, the vineyard serves pizza.


On Sunday, Michelle and I visited our final winery for the weekend after we checked out of the Fairfield Inn and Suites.  Elkin Creek Vineyard was only a few miles away from the hotel and is the perfect place to relax. The vineyard is built around an historic grist mill built in 1896.

Elkin Creek Vineyard is built around an historic grist mill built in 1896

One of the vineyard owners calls the mill home now, but they do share their tranquil creek with guests. Elkin Creek Vineyard has four luxury cabins on property with full-kitchens available for rent.  Sunday is a special day at the winery because the Elkin Creek kitchen is open for brick-oven pizzas and its famous artisan sour-dough bread.

Every Sunday, Elkin Creek Vineyard lights the brick oven for gourmet pizzas.


Because of N.C. laws, the wine can’t flow before noon on Sunday, but the fire is hot in the brick oven for serving pizza as early as 11 a.m.

Gourmet pizza at Elkin Creek Vineyard in Surry County.


The story behind this vineyard is interesting. Two couples, who experienced the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, decided to leave their professional jobs working for the show “Blue Man Group” and live a more quiet life in rural North Carolina. They bought the vineyard in 2011 from its original owner. The focus at Elkin Creek Vineyard is on small-batches of hand-crafted wines.

Elkin Creek Vineyard focuses on small batches of hand-crafted wine.


I had a fresh palate here since it was my only winery for the day, and I loved every single wine I tasted. The 2014 Chardonnay really grabbed my attention, and I bought two bottles to take home. Those bottles are long-gone in my house now, and all I can think about is when I can go back to the winery and get more.

The view at Elkin Creek Vineyard.


With a background in entertainment and the arts, the owners at Elkin Creek Vineyard are definitely taking on the role as an advocate for the arts, especially for children.There are many fun family-friendly events scheduled throughout the year. Elkin Creek Vineyard is located at 318 Elkin Creek Mill Road.

Travel Notes on this area:


Travel writer, Leigh Powell Hines, takes you to some of the best places in North Carolina and beyond. Follow @HinesSightBlog on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Michelle and I had a fantastic time on this getaway. 

My advice on a trip for this area is to plan to stay several days, and visit one or two wineries a day. It makes a great girlfriend's getaway, couple's getaway or even a good vacation with families. You can easily combine the trip with outdoor adventure, too. Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain State Park are nearby to explore. The Yadkin River runs through Surry County, and is great for outdoor adventures that you can book with Yadkin River Adventures. The area is also home to Mt. Airy, which is also known as “Mayberry.”  Mt. Airy is such a nostalgic and charming place to explore, especially if you grew up watching the “Andy Griffith Show.”  Surry County is also located near the Primland Resort in Virginia, which is an outdoor adventure destination all of its own.  

For your trip planning:
Surry County Tourism
winetineraries.com


My thanks to Surry County Tourism for partnering with me on curating this special Yadkin Valley Wine Trip. Some expenses were my own and as always, so are my opinions

Be sure to read our other Yadkin Valley Posts
Part 1 (Fairfield Inn and Brushy Mountain Vineyard)
Part 2 (Shelton Vineyards and Grassy Creek Vineyard and Winery) 

7.10.2015

Explore D.C. and Taste the Grand Hyatt Washington Watermelon Martini

Summers can be balmy in Washington, D.C. The Grand Hyatt Washington D.C knows how to cool down its guests and I can't wait to find out when I check-in soon. The Cure Bar and Bistro, located in Penn Quarter near Chinatown, serves up a refreshing watermelon martini. It is refreshing and the perfect summer cocktail. This will be the first hotel you see on Instagram for our trip.

Grand Hyatt Washington D.C. shares watermelon martini recipe and they have a great family travel package that includes museum admission.


Grand Hyatt Washington D.C. Watermelon Martini

Ingredients:

2 ½ oz Tito’s vodka
½ cup fresh watermelon cubes
½ oz simple syrup
Decorative green sugar (for glass rim)

Directions: 

Muddle watermelon
Add to shaker with vodka and simple syrup
Shake and strain into martini glass with green sugared rim


The Grand Hyatt Washington D.C. is currently offering the Explore DC package which includes admission to a popular D.C musuem and breakfast for two. Rates begin at $388 per night. Your museum choice includes:

Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C. is a unique wax attraction that brings history and pop culture to life. See, touch and take photos with some of your favorite celebrities and historical figures under one roof. Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C. is the only place in the world where people can see and interact with all 44 Presidents of the United States in 3D! 

Or visit the Crime Museum where you explore American History from a different perspective. Guests have the opportunity to dive into our Nation's history of crime and its consequences, law enforcement, forensic science, crime scene investigation (CSI) through a captivating interactive, entertaining and educational experience. 

With this Explore Package, you'll enjoy:


  • Full Breakfast Buffet in Cabinet for 2
  • Two Tickets to the Crime Museum or Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C.
  • 2:00pm Late Checkout

Neither one of those museums in this particular package worked for our family so we're visiting the International Spy Museum and Newseum instead. After talking with fellow writer, Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget, who just did a press trip to D.C., I felt the Crime Museum would be too much for my 5-year-old and she would be scared. She is also scared of mannequins so I knew a wax museum would upset her as well. 

At the time, I was curating this hotel trip, the hotel suggested these other attractions and I am so glad. I think we have found the perfect fit. When booking hotels, always talk to the hotels about the choices available, or if you have any questions at all about a certain package. Hotels are certainly there to help you have a great vacation. 

I'm excited about Washington D.C. We'll be staying five days and in three different luxury properties. 

7.08.2015

Enjoy Summertime with this Sparkling Lavender Lemonade Recipe


Sparking Lavender Lemonade from Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. Made with Lavender simple syrup. Perfect for summertime.

One of the hotels I will be staying in when I revive my "Pack Your Bags" hotel feature this summer is the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. When I began planning this trip during the spring, I asked my Facebook community the location they preferred to stay in when visiting Washington, D.C. Some people said Alexandria or Arlington were top choices because rates were typically lower than in the heart of D.C.

For this trip, I wanted to get a feel of what it would be like to stay in Virginia  in addition to D.C. I chose the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, with easy access to the metro. They serve afternoon tea, which I will be enjoying and they have an indoor pool, which the Hines kids adore on travels. And yes, rates are lower in Virginia. With the Family Getaway Package, rates start at $294 at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City property and it includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • Breakfast Buffet for two adults and two children, 12 and under, in Fyve Restaurant, daily
  • Metrorail travel passes for four guests, daily
  • Premium (multiple connections) high speed internet access in guest room
  • In-room movie
  • Late check-out based on availability
  • Complimentary use of Fitness Center, Indoor Pool and Sauna Facilities

This Sparkling Lavender Lemonade cocktail or mocktail is served in the Fyve Restaurant. I'm excited to share it with you as I prepare for my trip. You can fix this at home and have one with me when I'm on the road. 


Sparkling Lavender Lemonade 

LAVENDER LEMONADE INGREDIENTS:

1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup lavender simple syrup (recipe below)
1 cup sparkling water or champagne

LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. fresh lavender buds

DIRECTIONS:

TO MAKE THE LEMONADE:

Stir all ingredients together until combined. Serve over ice.

TO MAKE THE SIMPLE SYRUP:

Stir all ingredients together in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and refrigerate.



Sparking Lavender Lemonade from Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. Made with Lavender simple syrup. Perfect for summertime.


Be sure to follow HinesSightBlog on Instagram for my 3 hotels in 5 days Washington, D.C adventure.

I can't wait to get in this tub.

Gorgeous bathroom at Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City




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