New N.C. Winery in Pilot Mountain impresses with wine, food and scenic views

The wine-making room at JOLO can also host private parties to enjoy food and drink.

The wine-making room at JOLO can also host private parties to enjoy food and drink.

By Dathan Kazsuk

Day trips take a lot out of me – especially when I'm consuming my first flight of wine before noon.

But I am celebrating. Celebrating six great years of marriage to my partner in crime, Jennifer. Last weekend Jen decided we should do a day trip to Mt. Airy to visit “Mayberry” and take in a few wineries along the way.

Of course I agreed. I needed a break from work. So on Nov. 8 we got in our car and headed west on I-40, the third-longest Interstate Highway in the U.S., into Winston-Salem and up U.S. 52 towards Pilot Mountain. From there we headed to our first winery of the afternoon, JOLO Winery & Vineyards. One of the newest wineries in North Carolina, JOLO has only been open to the public since April of this year.

Approaching the wineries entrance I thought to myself, this would be a wonderful place to hang out for the afternoon. The properties 80-acres showcases the beauty of the fall foliage all around, with it’s backdrop, the infamous structure that is Pilot Mountain propped up slightly to the estate’s port side. Down the hill resides Cox Lake, a public fishing hole, where finds such as channel catfish, bass and sunfish lie claim to someone with the patience to wait for a nibble.

Once inside JOLO, the first thought was this looked more like a restaurant than a winery.  To the left, inside the “tasting lodge” were wine bottles stacked from floor to ceiling, and waiting in front of us was a marble-slab bar lined with dozens of wine glasses, just waiting for someone to request a tasting.

Tasting room hours are Thursday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 5:00 p.m. The cost for the tasting is $7 per person for 5 samples.

Some of these wines include a Chardonnay, a Merlot based Rosé, Chambourcin and a medium-bodied dessert wine aptly titled “Happy Endings.”

Each wine we sipped was a good as the next. I have to admit, sometimes it’s difficult to find a great North Carolina winery that embodies the essence of tasting that fine California or French wine. Many N.C. wines are a lot lighter in body and lack the tannins I enjoy in robust reds such as a Cabernet, Malbec or Merlot. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just stating that my taste buds don’t accept these wines with the same enjoyment as those wines that coat my teeth purple by the end of the evening.

Named after owner’s JW and Kristen Ray’s two sons, Joey and Logan, JOLO offers guests a welcoming day of wine, food and scenic views. The winery offers lunch and dinner in its Napa-esque dining room – and it’s rather fitting, since JOLO’s chef hails from Napa. Besides the regular tasting, the winery also offers private tours, barrel tastings and events such as “All About Truffles” – a five course wine and truffle pairing which runs $125 per person.

This was definitely a new hidden gem we stumbled upon. During our lunch, we both decided this would be a perfect destination for a day trip with members of the Falls River Wine & Beer Club that we both spearhead. The atmosphere. The wines. The food.  We will be back for another visit.