WHEN YOU’RE IN ASHEVILLE, it’s hard not to get caught up in the beer scene. The city boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the nation.
But the mountains are home to more than great beer. It’s also home to great wine. Dozens of local wineries are making high-quality wines that hold their own when compared to wines from more-recognized wine growing states like California or New York.
One of the best ways to experience North Carolina wines is by visiting local wineries. Each location offers a different experience for you to enjoy. At Biltmore Winery, the most-visited winery in America, you can soak in the panoramic views of the Vanderbilt’s majestic estate. Meanwhile, a trip to Calaboose Cellars in Andrews will find you standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow wine lovers in the world’s smallest winery at just 300 square feet.
In between these extremes, there are wineries as unique as the people who visit them. And, according to a recent study from the NC Wine and Grape Council, the number of people visiting NC wineries is on the rise.
“We’ve seen a 65 percent increase in wine-related tourism expenditure in recent years,” said Whit Winslow, executive director for the NC Wine and Grape Council. “The number of tourists visiting North Carolina wineries increased by nearly a half-million people from 2009 to 2013 alone.”
The number of wineries also has increased across the state. North Carolina is now home to more than 180 wineries and is the 10th-largest wine producing state in the nation. North Carolina’s growth as a wine state has been exponential in recent years, but the state’s history of making wine is centuries old.
Wine making can be traced back to 1584 with the discovery of the Mother Vine, the longest continually cultivated grape vine in North America. The vine was discovered by sailors from Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to the New World. During the 17th and 18th centuries, wine production thrived in the state; and before prohibition, North Carolina led the nation in wine production.
A revival of winemaking began in the 1970s, and the industry has grown dramatically since. Now, it’s easy to find a range of flavor profiles from sweet muscadines to dry viniferas, and a wide assortment of European varietals.
“When people think of North Carolina wines, our sweet muscadines may be the first thing that comes to mind,” Winslow said. “But, the state is one of the most diverse growing regions in the world. There truly is a North Carolina wine for everyone.”
In September, wine lovers can raise a glass and toast the industry during NC Wine Month. Wineries will hold special events to celebrate the harvest season throughout the month. Grape stomps, exclusive wine tastings and wine festivals are planned across the state. You can find a full listing of wine-related events at www.ncwine.org/calendar.
In addition, the NC Wine and Grape Council has partnered with area grocery stores to offer in-store promotions on North Carolina wines. The council also is working with UNC-TV to produce a new 10-part series showcasing the NC wine industry. Each episode of “Vine to Wine” will feature behind-the-scenes tours of local wineries, along with tips from wine experts. The first episode is set to air later this fall.