JOLO Winery and Vineyard scored big at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, winning a double gold medal.
The medals were awarded on July 21, however the festival isn’t until the second week in August.
The coveted double gold medal was awarded to JOLO’s 2015 Golden Hallows wine, which pays homage to the town of Pilot Mountain.
The wine’s name comes from the original name for the town, having originally received the name Hallow in 1763 according to owner J.W. Ray.
“It’s validation for the love and passion. It’s nice to see what can happen when you apply yourself at the vineyard and do a really thorough job of taking care of the vineyard,” Ray said of what the medal means to him.
Golden Hallows wasn’t the only wine in the JOLO repertoire to win big, with the winery winning a gold medal for its 2015 Pilot Fog, silver medals for the 2014 JOLOTAGE, 2015 JOLO Pink, and 2015 JOLO Happy Endings.
“We’re pretty well awarded,” Ray said. “We’re the only winery in North Carolina that won gold medals at this year’s International Winemakers Challenge in San Diego, California, we won three gold medals.”
According to Ray, winning a double gold medal is a huge honor considering the fact that the winery is fairly new on the scene, only opening its doors in April 2014.
“Most of our reds have won over a dozen gold medals in various contests throughout the years,” Ray added.
Ray added that the first vines were planted in 2010 and the first vintage wine was produced in 2013, with fewer than 1,000 bottles having been produced.
The Pilot Fog wine received its name for the section of the vineyard that the grapes come from, Ray explained that the fog from the mountain settles in the field in the mornings.
One of the special attributes of the vineyard, Ray noted, is the fact that everything is done by hand, from harvesting to bottling. Ray added that the majority of vineyards use automated systems, but that he likes to give everything a personal touch.
“There’s probably very few of us that are proprietors and winemakers, especially at this high level of acclaim,” Ray said.
In addition to the actual work on the vines, Ray said that one of the most important aspects of achieving a high quality in his wines is the cellar process.
“You can take really great grapes that you worked really hard for and mess it up in the cellar,” Ray said. “You have to be very vigilant, a lot can go wrong in the cellar.”
Ray said that he tastes the wines early every morning to prevent anything from going wrong and to know precisely when to start bottling.
Ray explained that he didn’t have an in-depth background in vineyards before starting JOLO, but added that the local wine community has been welcoming to him.
“While my vines were planted and I had nothing to do really so I worked with some wineries here locally,” Ray said. “There’s a pretty tight community with the winemakers here.”
Ray and his family are originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but relocated to Pilot Mountain.
Ray noted that one of the key factors that lead to his family’s move to Pilot Mountain is its close proximity to Winston-Salem, mountain views, and the county public school system.
JOLO Winery and Vineyard is named after Ray’s two sons, Joey and Logan.
“Our kids love it here,” Ray said.