On a sunny Friday afternoon in late September, I drove the backroads of Clemmons to take a trip to RayLen Vineyards & Winery, a secluded gem in rural Mocksville. While slowly driving down the one-lane road lined with grape vines to the winery, any work week stress I might have been experiencing slowly dissipated. To soak in the location’s serenity, I snagged a refreshing fruit punch wine slushie to unwind in the late afternoon sun.
Founded by Joe Neely in 1999, RayLen Vineyards & Winery is currently owned by Joe’s wife Joyce, alongside their daughters Rachel and Helen, who also served as inspiration for the winery’s iconic name. During my visit, I spoke with RayLen’s marketing manager, Micah Habershaw, to learn more about the winery’s background and amenities. Having worked at RayLen for almost five years, with years of previous experience working at a vineyard in Virginia, Micah is an omniscient, friendly face whom frequent visitors know and love.
The view overlooking RayLen’s farmlands and vineyards is nearly as impressive as the winery’s vast selection of blends. According to Micah, RayLen’s most beloved wine among customers is the Category 5, a robust red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. After taking a bottle home for myself, I understood why Category 5 was featured on the Today Show as one of the best finds outside of Napa Valley. It might be wise to stock up on bottles of Category 5, as this 2019 blend only improves with age.
As for Micah’s personal favorite, he prefers RayLen’s Petit Verdot, a red blend awarded a gold medal for the 2021 Great American International Wine Competition. For those with a sweeter palette, RayLen’s fruity Riesling won a double gold medal at the NC State Fair, and was named a top sweet wine in San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition. As a red wine novice with a preference for white wines, I was excited to learn about RayLen’s new Fizzy Rosé wine, a sparkling rosé blend and just one flavor in RayLen’s new selection of fizzy sparkling wines. Fizzy sparkling wines are packaged in cans as well as bottles, making them the perfect poolside beverage or tailgate treat.
RayLen has a really great connection to its community, a very strong family presence, and is known for its approachable atmosphere. In fact, RayLen has become a hot spot for retirees, couples in search of a romantic getaway, and book club members looking for the perfect spot to hold regular meetings. The team at RayLen has been able to grow with its regulars for over two decades, and is now able to serve wine to children who were in diapers when the winery was first founded. The location also attracts passersby driving along I-40, many of whom have never visited a winery before – although RayLen is truly a tough act to follow.
With a full-time team of five, the staff at RayLen keeps a busy schedule with daily wine tastings, weddings, and weekend events. Visitors flock to Friday Night Live at RayLen, with live music and food trucks every other Friday night. Visit the winery every other Saturday night for live music and food trucks in the vineyard, and keep your eyes peeled for Jazz Sundays this fall. Surprisingly, RayLen has hosted around 130 events over the last year, ranging from charcuterie and candle-making workshops to sip-and-paint sessions. As a dog-friendly winery, RayLen has also hosted adoption fairs and fundraisers for the Davie County Humane Society. Horticulture students from local community colleges learn a lot from RayLen’s farmers, who play a huge role in cultivating the winery’s high-quality products. Recently, RayLen added strawberry plants, and looks forward to incorporating honeybees to the property in the near future.
Since RayLen Vineyards & Winery is a community-minded facility, being climate conscious is also on its long list of priorities. Visitors notice the winery’s large solar panels upon arrival, and are excited for the property’s upcoming installation of electronic vehicle charging stations. In an effort to support local businesses, local artisans and craft makers will be lining the property at RayLen’s Fall Market this November, which will feature up to 100 vendors with food trucks and live music on the lawn. Visit www.raylenvineyards.com to learn more, and follow RayLen Vineyards on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on RayLen’s latest news and event schedules.
Triad locals are unlikely to find an environment as welcoming as RayLen elsewhere, which has always been the goal of the Neely family and RayLen team. Micah believes that customers frequent RayLen to be happy, which is exactly how I left that Friday afternoon – only three bottles of wine richer.