Located in the Yadkin Valley American Viticultural Area, the vineyard shares a similar climate and growing season to that of some of the best wine growing regions in Europe. The vineyard is one of the largest on the East Coast.
On the estate, several varieties of vitis vinifera grapes are grown: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng. Interestingly, all varieties of vitis vinifera grown at Shelton Vineyards–and throughout the world for that matter–utilize bud wood of European origin grafted onto Native American rootstocks to create a more disease resistant vine.
Shelton Vineyards’ belief is that fine wine begins in the vineyard. The location, in the heart of North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley, provides the ideal climate and soil conditions. Shelton Vineyards’ commitment to sustainable farming practices and hands-on attention enables the vineyard to produce the highest possible quality of grapes. The Shelton Vineyards’ wines are reflective of the terroir of the Yadkin Valley. Along with expert winemaking techniques, enhancing what our land has given us, Shelton Vineyards has produced many award-winning wines.
The winery is a gravity flow facility. The gravity flow system eliminates the need to pump the product from one step to the next. The more times the product is pumped, the more chances that contaminants will find their way into the final product. Like all decisions made on the production of our wines at Shelton Vineyards, this choice was grounded in the desire to create the highest quality wines.
The Harvest Season
Harvest typically begins in late August, lasting approximately six to eight weeks. Deciding the exact moment the grapes should be picked takes into consideration many factors and measurements. The most obvious of these is the sugar level, or brix, of the grapes. Since it is this sugar that yeast will convert into alcohol, this measurement is very important. Deciding when to harvest is one of the most crucial steps, elevating wine making to an art form, not a mere industry.
Vineyard workers harvest the grapes by hand and crush them immediately after picking. The red grapes are first poured into an auger that transports them to the de-stemmer/ crusher for separation, creating a “must”. Then they transfer the “must” – with the skins that give the red wine its color – to the fermentation room for fermentation. In contrast, a white wine usually goes into the press for its final separation of juice from stems, seeds, skins and other green matter. Workers gather any parts of the grapes not continuing on to the next step of fermentation and make a compost that is later employed as fertilizer in the vineyard.
Shelton Vineyards uses a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Oak barrels give flavor and structure to the wine; that is, they enhance the wine as a spice enhances fine food. The winemaker’s skill and experience will determine the manner in which barrel aging is employed.
The winery has a total of three barrel rooms, which are at the same elevation as the fermentation room. The barrel rooms are temperature controlled and a large portion of each is built underground. Having separate rooms enables the operation to be more efficient and flexible: if necessary one room can be warm for malo-lactic fermentation, while the other can be cool.
The barrel cave evokes old-world charm and is the place where visitors can see their adopted barrel. Climate control is provided by its underground location, and a waterfall at the back of the room adds to its allure and humidity level. After aging in barrels, the wine is bottled.
The technologically advanced bottling equipment bottles 52 bottles per minute, or over 2000 cases per day. Wines are released for sale after a period of bottle aging appropriate to the wine.