JOLO Winery and Vineyards
As many of you know Charles and I started our journey to visit every winery in North Carolina when we became empty nesters and then Kelly and I decided to promote that mission through a website we created, themorebalancedlife.com. We had heard a lot about JOLO Winery and Vineyards, located in Pilot Mountain. We made our first trip last month. We enjoyed a tasting and met my brother and sister in law for lunch, but first let’s start at the beginning.
JW Ray is the man and winemaker behind JOLO Winery and Vineyards, named after his 2 sons, Joey and Logan. You will find him working the room, serving wine or working in the kitchen. He has years of experience working around the food and beverage industry. You will also find the entire family helping out around the winery. Both he and his wife, Kristen, are from Massachusetts and decided to relocate to North Carolina and the Yadkin Valley in particular to settle and create what is now JOLO. After purchasing the property next door to the tasting room they planted their first vines in 2010. Once they moved here permanently in 2011 they planted more vines. Next they purchased the land that houses the tasting room in 2012. The entire property is a U-shape, including the lake. They grow10 varietals on the property. They include vidal blanc, sauvignon blanc, chambourcin, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot petit verdot, cynthiana and marquette. Rather than struggle with vines that don’t prosper the native soil, they stick to vines that “grow like weeds”. They have 80 acres planted in total, divided into 3 areas: JOLO Winery in Dobson, JOLO’s main location and JW’s estate making them the largest grower in North Carolina. In the beginning JW relied on Sean McRitchie of McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks. JW’s goal from the start has been to produce award winning wines that compete and beat more celebrated California wines.
Walking into the tasting room you are greeted with elegance and professional service. It was bustling with activity, but still the staff treated each visitor with personal attention. It is a big operation with a small intimate feel. I think this is difficult to pull off, but JOLO does. Reservations are required for tastings and dining in the restaurant. Our tasting room host, Miranda, turned out to be the daughter of a high school classmate. She was extremely knowledgeable of the wines and pairing wine with food. She didn’t memorize a script. She shared information with us and answered all our questions. It was more like having a conversation than reciting information. As we have done at most of our winery visits we learned a thing or two. We learned that rose bushes are planted at the end of vine rows to indicate if/when a disease is present and you can no longer call dessert wines port wines. Only wine from Portugal can be called port, hence the name dessert wines. Knowing we were eating lunch after our tasting she took out a menu and made suggestions on wine pairings with the entrees. Levi, JOLO brand ambassador, heard me tell Miranda about our website and he introduced himself and we made plans to stay in touch. As with every level of employment there he was busy pouring mimos for brunch.
JOLO’s tastings include a sample of 7 wines; 1 white, 1 sparkling, 1 rosé, 3 reds, and a dessert wine. Tastings are $20 or $25 if you choose to keep the Reidel glass. I encourage you to purchase a few Reidel glasses. Tastings are an affordable way to start a collection of fine glassware. The glass does make a difference. They also offer a $40 reserve tasting of their finest reds. We purchased one of each tasting. We also received a bonus tasting of JW’s, in house made, sweet vermouth. JOLO is the only winery in North Carolina that makes vermouth. I enjoyed the Golden Hallows, a wine blend of traminette, vidal blanc and sauvignon. Not typically a red wine drinker I lovedthe JOLOTAGE, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and chambourcin. Along with tasting notes on each wine you also get to read how well they compete with California wines. Charles enjoyed the Carolus XII and the Cuvee Selection, which is their proprietary blend and the best they have to offer. I encourage white wine drinkers to try their reds.
We had a special treat on our Sunday afternoon trip. My brother, Stan and his wife, Sheila met us for lunch. Our table enjoyed the Outer Banks scallops and risotto, fried goat cheese salad, chilled grilled salmon salad and the Europa flatbread. We ordered a bottle of the Cuvee Selection to split over lunch. The dishes were amazing. Being from the area it wasn’t surprising Stan and Sheila knew our waiter, Shawn. He was attentive and helpful with our questions.
JOLO offers 3 levels of wine club membership. They include Club JOLO, JOLO Cuvee Club and the JOLO Premier Club. Each level requires a year commitment and offers many perks, including a wonderful meal at each pick up party. We attended our first pick up party last Sunday after joining their wine club. The entire affair was amazing. Wine club members are treated to an amazing meal and a complimentary glass of wine. JW works the room speaking to regular members and introducing himself to new members. As we finished the meal JW took the floor and explained the 3 of the wines that were in our collection. He discussed their sought after Pilot Fog that hasn’t been produced since 2019. It is made from the cynthiana grape and is barrel aged in 100% new American Oak. The cynthiana grape is fragile and has been hit by destructive weather conditions. The harvest from 2021 was small and with it he created the Pilot Shadow. It was one of the wines we chose for our collection. The nice thing about this particular wine is it will only get better with age if stored correctly. We bought a bottle to split over lunch. Pilot Shadow was awarded Best Red and Best of Show at the Mid Atlantic Wine Competition. Just recently, Our State magazine has informed JOLO that Pilot Shadow is a contender for Best Beverage in North Carolina. The winner will be announced in an upcoming issue.
When planning your visit to JOLO if you are fortunate enough and can make a weekend of it, they have a Newlywed Chateau that is available to rent Thursday-Sunday. That being said, it is very popular and can only be reserved 2 months in advance. Please check their website to reserve your tasting, meal and cabin stay at https://www.jolovineyards.com
We visit some wineries that make getting to all of North Carolina’s wineries difficult because we keep going back to the same ones. JOLO is one of those wineries. Enjoy!