Deck the Halls Passport program provides tour of Surry County wineries

Lindsay CravenStaff Writer

December 16, 2012

The Deck the Halls 2012 passport program is now in its third year, and the Surry County event has brought together 13 wineries in Surry County for one cause.

“I’m from upstate New York and they hold this event at the wineries there,” said Clyde Colwell, founder of Carolina Heritage Vineyards in Elkin. “Surry County tourism gave us some of the funds to get it started here.”

Colwell and his wife Pat took it from there traveling to all 13 of the wineries in the county to get them on board for a boost in an otherwise slow time of year for the wine business.

“It brings people to the area during what would normally be a slow part of the year,” Colwell said. “Instead of having spotty groups of people coming in throughout the end of the year we had 200 participants that toured all 13 wineries last year.”

With the purchase of a passport, groups and individuals will receive a commemorative wine glass, free wine tastings at 13 participating wineries from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, 2013, a free unique ornament at each of the participating wineries, tasting of the special wine-food recipes and special offers at seven area businesses and local lodgings.

This will be the first year that a larger number of businesses got involved in the program and the first year that hotels and bed and breakfast locations are involved.

“We started the first year just to see if people would be interested and now it’s become more of a community thing,” said Pat Colwell, founder of Carolina Heritage Vineyards. “We’re always open to more businesses joining in the program.”

The ornaments provided at each winery have become a draw for repeat customers. Each winery uses local crafters to create a unique ornament each year.

“Most of the ornaments are pretty unique and they are crafted individually by each of the wineries so it’s a nice enticement for people to purchase a ticket because they get 13 ornaments,” Colwell said. “People are starting to collect the ornaments now.”

A recipe for the food provided at the various wineries will be listed in the passports handed out to customers. The passport will include a schedule of what events will be happening between the dates of Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, 2013 so that ticket holders can schedule their trip.

“We always ask people what they would do different so we can try to improve on the program each year,” Pat Colwell said. “We want people to feel pressured or rushed. We want it to be a fun experience for the customers so when people asked us to extend the dates of the passport and make the music and food an option on more weekends we listened.”

The passports are $94 for couples, $60 for individuals and there are group discount rates for purchases of 10 or more passports that cost $85 per couple and $55 per individual. The estimated value of the passport is $250.

“It’s really a bargain,” Clyde Colwell said. “They get to go to 13 wineries and taste wines. It’s great entertainment because the food is there and the music is there plus there are so many unique ornaments to collect.”

Anyone interested in purchasing a passport may call any of the participating wineries or visit their websites. Local residents can go by any of the participating wineries to purchase passports in person.

The winery tour can begin at any of the participating wineries.

Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at lcraven@heartlandpublications.com.