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A WHISPERING WILLOW
BRUSHES ACROSS YOUR FOREARM
as you sway in a tattered wooden rocking chair. The deeply
purple pinot noir splashes gently against the sides of the
glass—releasing scents of blackberries and dark chocolate.
The vineyards of the North Carolinian winery stretch before
you, dust lazily wafting through the rays of dusky sunlight.
“What a visage!” you conclude as you calmly sip the last of
the local noir —a blanket of cicadas chirp across the vines.
It’s a weekend of wine tucked away on a quaint trail in North Carolina. From
the city of Charlotte to the shores of Lake Norman, this is some of the best
wine you’ll find during your vintage vacation.
Although North Carolina is a smaller state, there are quite a few airports in the area. This gives you a variety of travel options for your trip.
• Charlotte Douglas International Airport: This is the most centrally located airport and is smack dab in the big city of Charlotte. In 2010, CDI received an award for “best airport” in the U.S. (not to mention it has excellent prices).
• Piedmont Triad International Airport: In the northern part of the state, the next largest airport is Piedmont Triad. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it’s just as reasonable as the Charlotte Douglas and really just depends on where you are flying in from.
• Wilmington International Airport: A smaller airport, Wilmington is still international. It is highly unusual that a smaller state has more than 1 international airport, so you really have your pick of locations
If you are driving into the state for your wine tour, the following are some easy routes to remember:
• I-85 South from Richmond, VA
• I-77 North from Columbia, SC
• I-40 East from Knoxville, TN
North Carolina is alive with whimsical vineyards and themed wineries, and the first stop on your tour is a prime example.
Named after the three treehouses that sit on the property, the vineyards also rent them out. In 2004, springing from that idea, the family-owned farm planted 8 different varieties of Muscadines. They officially opened to the public in 2010 and have been going strong ever since.
Scattered across the property are wooden rocking chairs, picnic tables, and lazy swings. Wine tastings are done 7 days a week at the top of the hour and are $6 per person. If you want to take a bottle or two home, try the Crystal Creek, a semi-dry white, or their Tack Shack Red, a sweet noble.
Right down the street lies the quaint Hilton Vineyard Wine Bar where all wines are hand poured, hand crafted, and double waxed with two different colors. 100% of all their wines are grown, fermented, and bottled in Union County (except for the mangoes).
After making wine for over 20 years for family and friends, the Hiltons decided to open to the public in 2010. Their retail store is open 7 days a week with tastings happening all day long. For good take-home ideas, try the Apple Riesling or their best-selling Mango Wine.
Before downing more vino, why not catch a break by checking out some local scenery? North Carolina is known for it’s old gold mines, and the Reed Gold Mine is a historic site down the street from Hilton’s. At Reed’s, can explore restored mine tunnels and even pan for your own gold.
Lure Oyster Bar
At this point you are probably famished. If you crave oysters with your vintage, Lure Oyster Bar is a happening spot with fantastic fare. Try the Oysters Rockefeller if you want to melt into your seat.
Oysters aren’t for everyone, however, and you might just want something a little easier to stomach. Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse serves delectable American food at a fair price. The Mongolian Beef Flatbread will fill you up for sure.
Aloft Charlotte Ballantyne
After a full day and a big meal, you may just need someone to roll you over to the Aloft hotel. With a thriving bar scene, bed might not be an option just yet. Or you can settle for swim in their indoor heated pool.
Wakeup, Buttercup, your journey’s just begun. It’s day two of your tour so you may need some strong coffee. For a quick breakfast a block away from the first vineyard, hit up the Sunrise Grill. It’s your typical coffee, eggs, and pancakes joint but it will solidify your stomach for the rest of the morning.
Rocky River Vineyards
Planting the first vines in 2003, the Rocky River Vineyards opened to the public in August of 2007, and has been going strong ever since. Holding annual spring and fall festivals, the family-owned winery grows Carlos and Noble Muscadine grapes and ferments all wines on site in stainless steel tanks.
The winery has a gift shop and a tasting room nestled in a wooded glen with stone masonry and a bubbling brook. Tastings are $8 per person for 8 types of wines. You can also take a self-guided walking tour of the property should you feel inclined. The tasting room hours vary so it’s best to call ahead of your visit. Some of their finest vintages include Chambourcin Dry, a full-bodied red with aromas of mocha, and the Niagara, which is sweet with a nose of jasmine.
Offering hand-crafted wine made in small batches, Cougar Run Winery was named after the owner’s run-in with a wild cougar—and he’ll tell you the story himself at your tasting. What is also unique to this winery is that they are genuinely interested in teaching others about the craft of wine-making itself, and sell an assortment of items for doing so.
The winery is closed on Mondays and the hours vary the rest of the week, so it’s best to call ahead. Tastings are $5 per person, which buys you a sample of 6 wines. Flights start at $12. When you are ready to jam, grab a bottle of their Gentle Spirit to go. It’s a Bergamais red. Or if you enjoy a sweeter wine, their Summer Sunlight is a tangerine flavored Pinot Grigio.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway
For a break in the tour, why not explore some of what North Carolina is known for, like fast racing cars? The Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts year-round events that will get your blood pumping and your adrenaline rushing. It’s the perfect intermission between a relaxing and tasty day of vino.
The speedway is located within a few miles of Lake Norman, the largest body of water in the state. It also happens to be a breathtakingly beautiful shoreline.
The Lake Norman Winery
Creating special blends from barreled wine combinations, the Lake Norman Winery is setting itself apart from everyone else. Additionally, they will create custom labels for any bottles that you purchase. All tastings and sales must be scheduled ahead of time, but with a little planning, it’s well worth it. For wine by-the-bottle, try their 2014 Lakeside Chardonnay, with flowers and notes of grapefruit, or the 2013 Catamaran Pinot Noir, with red cherry and raspberry flavors.
For a hearty dinner to top off the day, roll up to the Smoke Modern Barbecue. After all, you cannot leave North Carolina without a good old fashioned BBQ. For a true southern meal, start with the Fried Pickles before you dig into the Baby Back Ribs.
Instead of a hotel for the evening, why not opt for a cute cottage on the water? The Condos at Harborside are surprisingly affordable for being an entire living space, and they will rent to parties for just one night (almost unheard of with vacation condos).
When you wake up on a lake, you should at least consider jumping in a boat for a bit. At Westport Marina, you can rent a boat for the morning for under $200. Add on a tube if you’re feeling adventurous, or bring a picnic and lounge on the boat.
The last stop on the trip is an incredibly beautiful vineyard aptly named Vesuvius. Located at one of the oldest standing homes this side of the country, the estate was built in the 1700’s. They generally only host events, but if you give them a call, they’re open to tours. You simply don’t want to miss these grounds before you go. It’s photo-op central.
North Carolina is a state rich in history with a fairly new wine country. As it continues to grow and more people discover the wine secrets that it holds, the wine trails will become more like beaten paths. Take your indomitable spirit and book your next weekend in North Carolina today. The wine adventure of a lifetime awaits and it still has secrets to be discovered.
Sneaky Meade Winery: 3040 Ed Reid St, Charlotte, NC 28216 | (704) 299-7468.
The Vineyards on Lake Wylie: 5102 Casper Dr, Charlotte, NC 28214 | (704) 394-9780
Dennis Vineyards Winery: 24043 Endy Rd, Albemarle, NC 28001 | (704) 982-6090
UwHarrie Vineyards & Winery: 28030 Austin Rd, Albemarle, NC 28001 | (704) 982-9463
Douglas Vineyards: 7696 Freeze Rd, Kannapolis, NC 28081 | (704) 939-6260
Morgan Ridge Vineyards: 486 John Morgan Rd, Gold Hill, NC 28071 | (704) 639-0911
Treehouse Vineyards: 301 Bay St, Monroe, NC 28122, 704-283-4208
Hilton Vineyard: 104 S Main St, Monroe, NC 28122, 704-776-9656
Rocky River Vineyards: 11685 Reed Mine Rd, Midland, NC 28107, 704-781-5035
Cougar Run Winery: 363 Church St N, Concord, NC 28025, 704-788-2746
Lake Norman Winery: 10508 Bailey Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031, 704-840-2116
Vesuvius Vineyards: 6173 Vesuvius Furnace Rd, Iron Station, NC 28080, 704-996-1566
Places to Eat
The Melting Pot: Providence Place, 199 Providence Pl, Providence, RI 02903 | (401) 865-6670
Safari Mile: 390 N Highway 16, Denver, NC 28037 | (704) 489-2366
Kindred: 131 N Main St, Davidson, NC 28036 | (980) 231-5000
Heirloom Restaurant: 8470 Bellhaven Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28216 | 704.595.7710
131 Main Cornelius: 17830 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031 | (704) 896-0131
Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse: 560 River Hwy, Mooresville, NC 28117 | (704) 799-2881
Flying Biscuit Café: 4241 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209 | (704) 714-3400
Place to Stay
Charleston Grand Hotel: 3640 Dorchester Rd, North Charleston, SC 29405 | (843) 554-4140
Hilton Charlotte University Place: 8629 J M Keynes Dr, Charlotte, NC 28262 | (704) 547-7444
The Westin Charlotte: 601 S College St, Charlotte, NC 28202 | (704) 375-2600
Renaissance Charlotte South Park Hotel: 5501 Carnegie Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209 | (704) 501-2510
Candlewood Suites Mooresville Lake Norman: 3247 Charlotte Hwy, Mooresville, NC 28117 | (704) 360-4899
Omni Charlotte Hotel: 132 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202 | (704) 377-0400
Sleep inn Northlake: 6300 Banner Elk Dr, Charlotte, NC 28216 | (704) 399-7778
The Golf Club at Ballantyne Resort: 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28277 | (704) 248-4383
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden: 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012 | (704) 825-4490
U.S. National Whitewater Center: 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28214 | (704) 391-3900
Charlotte Motor Speedway: 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC 28027 | (704) 455-3200
Historic Latta Plantation: 5225 Sample Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078 | (704) 875-2312
Carowinds Amusement Park: 14523 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273 | (704) 588-2600