Destination: North Carolina
Number of Days Spent: One Week
Where we stayed: 4 nights at Jason's dad's house & 1 night with his sister, Amanda
Best restaurant: Jason's dad, Richard, makes THE BEST BARBECUE. Hands down, it is delicious! On the restaurant side, La Botana in Winston-Salem had amazing fish tacos! Thanks Stephanie, Jeb, Katie & Tom for taking us there!
Worst of: It can get a little cold up on the Parkway in December!
Most Memorable: Going up the mountains to pick out a Christmas tree from the tree farm. No, it wasn't a scene out of National Lampoons X-mas Vacation but there is something nostalgic about the whole process and the smell of fresh pine is intoxicating.
Useful Tip: Wines in this region are not quite on par with California or France yet, but that may be changing sooner than you might think. As the old adage goes, "Rome wasn't built overnight". SO go ahead and mix your Mayberry with your Merlot ~ we did.
After years of testing various combinations of spices and seasonings my dad finally perfected what we in the 'know' think is the best BBQ Sauce in the land. Together with a nice, slow, smoked pork shoulder or butt and a healthy topping of BBQ slaw you have one great sandwich. I still enjoy chewing on the skins although I know they are absolutely THE worst part to eat health wise.
Just up the road from where I grew up, Andy Griffith also grew up in the town of Mt. Airy. After his hit show of the 50's and 60's put the town on the map, little signs of Mayberry popped up here and there. New to the scene is a replica of Wally's Filling Station. The station sells vintage prints of the era along with old timey sodas and candy. You can also book a tour with one of the squad cars were a Barney Fife look-a-like leads you around town.
After checking out the 'Old Courthouse' we headed to modern day downtown Mt. Airy to try out Old North State Winery. The quality of wine reflects their young age as a vineyard, but they have a nice venue and there is some promise there.
We have been to Shelton's several times as my mom used to stare at their grapes from her front porch and I picked up straw here in this very field as a kid. Shelton's is now the largest vineyard on the East Coast and many of their wines can go head to head with established vines on the West coast. Our favorite is their new malbec and our second is their port, both surprisingly good!
Cutting though dense forest and passing around mountain passes, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the highlights of any trip to the Appalachian Mountains. Dotted throughout the length of the Parkway are picnic areas, old mills, parks, overlooks and the this and that knickknack shops that beg you to pull off and have a look. One such place is a recently opened Candy store just across the NC border into Virginia. We heeded the call of the sirens and pulled off to satisfy our sweet tooth with a bit of fudge.
One of the more iconic symbols of the Parkway is Mabry Mill. Normally bustling with activity (similar to Cade's Cove in the previous post) the mill is closed in the winter so we had the place to ourselves. We have been here a number of times over the years and never grow tired of it's quaint charm.
Just past Mabry Mill sits Chateau Morrisette. The vineyard has a nice alpine feel to it with an all wood lodge and a roaring fire crackling away. A portion of their Sales of of a couple of wines go to support the Service Dogs of Virginia, which Metro appreciated (dad's service dog).
We had time for one last vineyard and opted for McRitchie Ciderworks. McRitchie used to be the head vintner at Shelton's before deciding to strike out on his own. His claim to fame are his use of Apples and if you happen to be in the neighborhood for the fall harvest, they have a Festival complete with fresh apple cider.
With such a sophisticated day of sipping on wine there was only one way to end it...Bowling. None us had bowled in years, and the rust was mighty thick. Despite our poor scores, we still had a good time.
In the urbanizing of America, the classic going out to the woods to find the 'perfect' tree for Christmas has been lost. Most people today drive all the way to the Supercenter or have traded in for the plastic variety (guilty as charged), but there is something satisfying about driving out of the way, going out in amongst a field of pine trees and finding the perfect tree.
In what has become somewhat of a annual meeting, we caught up with Aunt Lois's family for one last Mexican meal in NC. Thanks guys for taking the time out and congratulations to Daniel and Jeanine on their engagement!
After crashing at my sister's house in Raleigh, we headed out to visit some friends for a weekend in our nations capital, Washington DC.
To see more photos from North Carolina click here!