The temperate climate and rich soil of North Carolina make the state ideal for winemakers to produce a variety of stellar blends sold around the country. Whether exploring the state’s coastal region or in the mountains, visitors are sure to discover the best wineries in North Carolina.
Although the wine industry in North Carolina dates back to the 1830s, the state’s once-dominant production all but disappeared during the 1920s prohibition-era. However, several wineries survived and others have come on the scene in the past three decades, thus solidifying the prominence of North Carolina wineries. The state ranks 10th nationally for wine production and is consistently in the Top 5 for wine tourism.
Wine tasting in North Carolina includes sampling a glass of vintage Chardonnay, or a blend from native muscadine grapes to a rose` just to name a few. If you want to toast a special occasion or attend a wine tasting on your bucket list, there is a lot to discover about the award-winning wines of North Carolina.
The North Carolina Wine Guide for 2020-2021 lists almost 200 wineries in the state with the largest concentration – 77 wineries — located in what is referred to as Piedmont West. The sector includes Charlotte in the south, High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem in the north-central and is home to the Yadkin Valley AVA established in 2002 with 43 wineries and the Swan Creek AVA designated in 2008 and is home to 8 wineries.
North Carolina is home to five regions designated as an American Viticultural Area. The state is one of 34 in the U.S. to carry this designation based on geographic, geologic, and climatic features, and the boundaries set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury.
The Mountain sector includes the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA which encompasses the southwestern tip of North Carolina and the Appalachian High Country AVA along the northern border. The entire region hosts 41 wineries with Asheville and the surrounding area known as a popular destination for wine connoisseurs.
Many well-known wineries and vineyards call the area home in the Piedmont East wine region near Raleigh and Durham. The sector is home to the Haw River AVA, designated in 2009, features six wineries and approximately 40 vineyards.
While North Carolina’s coastal region on the east coast is home to the smallest number of wineries at 18, the group includes the state’s oldest wine producer. The muscadine grape, native to North Carolina, is a popular blend from the area.
The Yadkin Valley AVA, the oldest in the state, is home to Shelton Vineyards located in Dobson, which is listed as the state’s largest winery. This award-winning winery on both the domestic and international stage produces a long list of signature blends to include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Harvest Grill is an onsite restaurant at Shelton Vineyards for diners to sample wine pairings with the menu,
Shelton Vineyards, in operation since 1999, is the brainchild of brothers Charlie and Ed Shelton who developed the winery to include approximately 200 acres of vineyard. Taking cues from some of the best wineries of Europe, Shelton Vineyards benefits from a similar climate and growing season.
The sprawling property features a state-of-the-art production facility offering wine tours, tastings and other events to the public throughout the year. During peak production, the winery can fill 2,000 cases per day.
A good bottle of vino begins with the grapes used to extract the juice which is the foundation of the wine. In North Carolina, various grape varietals make up the bulk of wine production in the state. However, Vitis vinifera grapes, the fancy name for what is notably known as European wine grapes or common grapes top the list.
Wine yields from common varietals in North Carolina include:
In addition to the common varietals, North Carolina is known for the hardy Muscadine grapes which are native to the state. In fact, the Muscadine was the first grape cultivated in the U.S. dating back to the 16th Century. Typically, a dry but sweet wine, Muscadine wine is described by some to be an acquired taste.
Popular wines made from Muscadine grapes include:
Most Muscadine grapes grow in the eastern region of North Carolina especially in vineyards located near the coast.
North Carolina’s rich grape harvest yields many of other wine varieties including:
Grapes hold the top rank when it comes to venting wine. However, other fruits such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, strawberries, and cherries are finding space on the state’s wine scene as well.
North Carolina’s thriving wine industry is home to many award-winning labels thus toasting the state’s vino harvest. Depending on whom you ask, the list of the top wineries in North Carolina will vary based on various reasons.
A few wineries in Western North Carolina are consistently mentioned above others. Often they make the cut for producing a quality wine, scoring top industry awards and showcasing the state’s continuing prominence in the field.
Western North Carolina is home to a few of the best including:
Perhaps the best known of the group is the Biltmore Winery located on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Although the collection of wine on the Biltmore Estate by George Vanderbilt can be traced back to the early 1900s, the first grapevines intended for wine production were not planted until the 1970s. The wine company was started in 1983 and the first bottle was produced in 1984. Opening to the public in 1985, it would be another 20 years, in 2005, until retail distribution expanded to 10 states. The Biltmore Winery now distributes to over 40 states and produces approximately 150,000 cases per year.
Grandfather Vineyard got its start in 2000 and has thrived in the shadow of nearby Grandfather Mountain in Elk. Take a trip to the Tryon Foothills, known for the Tryon grapes, and discover this gem.
Each winery is a family-owned, unique destination on its own among the Mountain Wineries of Western North Carolina. Be sure to sample the wine from the best in the area while enjoying the picturesque mountain towns.
As Asheville is home to the Biltmore Estate, the city has the second-highest concentration of wineries in North Carolina. There are four wineries in Asheville, with another five within a short radius. Asheville serves as a hub to visit other wineries in the surrounding region.
Over 20 wineries are located near Asheville producing a variety of blends from six varietals. In fact, the area has six award-winning wineries within about a 10-mile radius so wine lovers don’t have to travel far to sample a glass.
So if planning a trip to Asheville, a must will be to visit the array of wineries in the region to taste a sought-after vintage bottle or learn about the process of winemaking.
The best time of year to visit a winery is during the fall months when the grapes are harvested. There is a lot of activity during that time and visitors can get a close-up look at what it takes to bottle their favorite Merlot or Chardonnay.
The month of May is set aside as Wine Month in North Carolina. Wineries open their doors, welcome the public in for tours, tastings and other activities celebrating all things wine. This is a great time for wine connoisseurs to plan a trip to the state. If May is not good on your calendar, consider September, which is designated as Grape Month in the state. Yes, that’s right, during the peak of harvest, the grape is celebrated as winemakers process the annual yield.
Consider a tasting session with a sommelier at a local winery to learn more about the intricacies of a blend. Or spend time sampling wines from vintage bottles to see which one you like best. How about a tour of the aging room to see wine barrels up close? There are a variety of wine tours to accommodate an intimate pair or a large group.
The state has a network of what’s called Wine Trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy a wine trail based on their interest and immerse in the culture. Consider attending The Lost Colony Wine, Beer & Culinary Festival/Grand Tasting in April featuring Coastal wineries.
The credit of the oldest winery in North Carolina points to the Mothervine circa 1584 in wine production from Muscadine grapes. This one vine has roots in over 20 red and white wine varieties produced in North Carolina. Duplin Winery, located in Rose Hill in the Coastal Winery region, began wine production in 1976. Owners Dan and Dave Fussell focused on Muscadine grapes to blend their new wine. Duplin Winery was noted noted in 2008 for the initial Mothervine Muscadine Wine from grapes from the Mothervine.
Also noted, Medoc Vineyard located in Brinkleyville was the state’s oldest commercial winery circa 1835. Taking its name from the Medoc` Wine Region in France known for producing Bordeaux wine.
Spend the day touring the many vineyards and wineries in Asheville, N.C. As a gateway to the mountain region, Asheville features some of the most notable blends found in the state. The Biltmore Winery tour is a definite must, along with others in the area that provide unique experiences. Reserve a spot on the Biltmore’s Behind the Scene Winery Tour for a chance to see the process of making champagne.
There are several related Biltmore wine-related tours for visitors to enjoy.
Biltmore wines are:
Since Asheville is a hub in this part of North Carolina, venture out to Hendersonville or the Tryon Foothills to tour a cluster of nearby wineries.
The Yadkin Valley AVA and the Swan Creek AVA with towns like Yadkinville, Mount Airy, Dobson, Wilkesboro, Love Valley and Booneville in the Piedmont West region have the largest concentration of wineries in North Carolina. The area around Winston-Salem, historically known for tobacco farming, has transformed into an important wine region.
Visitors to the area have nearly 80 wineries to discover and more coming online each year newcomers like Seven Springs Farm and Vineyards and Melanated Wine & Spirits both in the Piedmont East region. More established labels include Childress Vineyards, in Yadkin Valley AVA run by Richard Childress along with Raffaldini Vineyards in the Swan Creek AVA. Each winery offers a unique experience for visitors like tasting rooms.
The two regions are home labels that have consistently won top awards from national and international industries. North Carolina’s wine holds its own with other well-known sectors of the country such as Sonoma and Napa Valley in California often referred to as the wine capital of the U.S.
The North Carolina wine country awaits visitors searching for a new favorite wine and learning more about the bouquet, aroma and so much more. When planning a trip to discover the best wineries in North Carolina, secure a vacation rental home within close range of active vineyards and bottling operations.
Guests also have access to a number of amenities including state-of-the-art kitchens, cozy cabins and everything you can think of to enjoy from Landmark Vacation Rentals. We’re here to help make the most of your visit to North Carolina. Browse the portfolio of beautiful North Carolina vacation properties and check the availability to secure your reservation. Contact Landmark Vacation Rentals at (877) 926-1780 and enjoy a glass of wine from a local winery.