Medaloni Cellars $$-$$$
9125 Shallowford Road, Lewisville
There’s a fresh layer of gravel on the front parking lot of Medaloni Cellars in Lewisville, laid down by Joey Medaloni himself. The one-time nightlife impresario of downtown Greensboro swapped the bright lights of Elm Street for this 22-acre winery and event facility in 2011, after he sold off the nightclubs and moved out to the country. It opened to the public in 2012.
“I took a pay cut,” says the former proprietor of the N Club, the Red Room, Sky Bar, Heaven and Much, which in the early years of the 2000s lit up the evening hours in downtown Greensboro to the point that city ordinances had to be changed.
“I cut my hair, obviously,” he says. “And I traded my Escalade for a Ford F250.
It wasn’t quite as simple as that.
It was in 2008 that Medaloni became serious about wine — always a part of his clubs, but never the focus. He studied with a North Carolina winemaker for a few years, learning the classic French vintner technique — no chemicals, just grapes — and then he found this patch of land in the Yadkin Valley.
“It was all trees,” he says now, surveying his land from the top of a hill. After clearing them, the first thing he built was a small wooden deck by the side of the creek that runs through the property. It was where he would take potential investors to watch the sunset and describe his plan.
Development was difficult. There was no plumbing, no power, all those trees. By Medaloni’s standards, it was in the middle of nowhere. But in typical fashion, he methodically worked the land until his vision materialized.
It must be seen to be believed: 22 acres cut into the forest, studded with buildings that combine rustic materials with modern conveniences. It’s designed for mingling, for celebrating, for romancing.
His vision, it turns out, wasn’t so different from the culture he created on downtown Greensboro’s busiest thoroughfare. And it’s grown to encompass Tasting Rooms in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
But Medaloni Cellars is at the heart of it all.
Now in addition to the barrel room and wine lab, where his award-winning varietals accrue their gravitas, Medaloni Cellars has an outdoor deck with views of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the distance and, on a clear day, Boone. There’s a seasonal bar, open in the spring, summer and fall, laden with custom Adirondack chairs that have backrests carved to looks like wine bottles and glasses. It’s become quite the spot for Winston-Salem residents looking for a place to relax and sip wine, though the hours are different from Medaloni’s previous enterprises.
“We’re bringing nightlife into the twilight,” he says.
Three cabins on the property cater to overnight guests, with two Airstream trailers up on a high hill for overflow.
All the cabins are built for couples; the nicest one, Chateau Bergeron, he calls the Honeymoon Suite. It’s got a queen-sized bed, a shower built for two and a wood-burning fireplace.
It’s a very romantic spot.
Medaloni Cellars was designed with weddings in mind — there’s room for up 200 guests, with overnight accommodations for up to six guests. But it’s perfect for parties small and large, family reunions and other events, or just a weekend mountain getaway for a couple seeking privacy and quiet.
And then there’s the wine.
Medaloni spent years studying the vintner’s art, always refusing shortcuts, striving to use as few ingredients as possible and never relying on chemicals. He’s even witnessed a few innovations in the Yadkin Valley, which became a recognized American Viticultural Area in 2003.
He credits Markus Niggli of Markus Wine Co. in Lodi, Calif. for imparting trade secrets that he’s applied to this very distinctive region.
“They said you couldn’t do natural yeast wines in the Yadkin Valley,” Medaloni says, “but we’ve done it.”
Yadkin Valley wines have moved far beyond the muscadine and scuppernong native to the region. An entire slate of whites — a couple blends, a couple chardonnays, a pinot grigio, an award-winning viognier, a vermentino, a gewürztraminer and even the more exotic French colombard and traminette — bear the Medaloni Cellars label. Reds include the Entourage Red Blend, the Artist Series Red Blend, a cabernet sauvignon, a merlot and the Sweetheart Red.
The 2016 viognier scored an 88 in Wine Enthusiast, as did the Artist Series Petit Verdot, while the Artist Series Red scored an 86.
It’s like everything he built on Elm Street grew up and moved to the country. Which is sort of what happened to Joey.
He stands on the shaded deck of the tasting room, the mountains lining the horizon, and takes it all in.
“This is my own downtown now,” he says, “and I’m my own mayor.”