While you might think of California or European countries for superior wine production, North Carolina is holding its own with a much sought-after wine industry. Here are five activities — from tastings and tours to festivals — to bring out the wine lover in you.
The Biltmore Estate Winery
The Biltmore Estate Winery in Asheville, N.C., has a claim to fame that surpasses even Napa Valley wineries. This winery (www.biltmore.com/our_wine/) is the most popular in the U.S. with more than a million visitors each year. Biltmore established its vineyards in 1971, and varieties include chardonnay, riesling, viognier, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The estate harvests approximately 250 tons of grapes every year, all picked by hand. Admission includes tours of the winery and complimentary tasting of Biltmore wines.
Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery
North Carolina’s first certified organic winery is located in Elkin, N.C., in the Yadkin Valley. Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery (www.carolinaheritagevineyards.com) welcomes guests for tours and tastings from 1-6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and other times by appointment. This is also one of the first solar-powered wineries in the state. Owners Clyde and Pat Colwell enjoyed successful careers in education and technology before realizing their dream of owning a farm and winery.
Salute! The North Carolina Wine Celebration
One of the premier wine events in North Carolina takes place June 2 in downtown Winston-Salem. The seventh annual Salute! wine festival (salutencwine.com) features tastings from more than 30 North Carolina wineries, along with bottles available for purchase. The Southeast Tourism Society recognizes this popular street festival as a “Top 20 Event in the Southeast.” It’s held rain or shine.
Carolina Vineyards Winery
Carolina Vineyards Winery (www.carolinavineyards.com) in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., pours samples of its wine almost every day of the year. This winery is only closed two days — Thanksgiving and Christmas. All of the wines are offered in the tastings. Choose seven and pay only $3. For a dollar more, you can take home a glass with the winery logo on it. The owners use fruits grown in the state to make a range of wines including dry, semi-dry, medium and sweet.
Victoria Valley Vineyards
Tours are offered on the hour until 5 p.m. at Victoria Valley Vineyards (www.victoriavalleyvineyards.com) in Cleveland, S.C. The owners originally selected the 47-acre site because of its elevation and unique soil, both of which are crucial elements in producing the European vinitera wines. Guests can taste up to six varieties of wine for only $5, with the exception of reserve wines. Add a dollar if you want to take the logo glass home with you.
Don’t just stick to the tried-and-true varieties when you go to a tasting. If you normally drink white wine, give the reds a chance, or vice versa.