THE EAST'S LOFTIEST VINEYARDS WILL ELEVATE YOUR APPRECIATION OF FINE WINE AND GREAT SCENERY.
Take this spectacular scenic loop of the High Country to visit the Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Foscoe, the Linville Falls Winery in Linville Falls, and Banner Elk Winery in Banner Elk. Meet the vintners, tour the wineries, sample the wines, and take home a souvenir glass or a few bottles for later. There's nothing like great wine and memories of the mountains to make a special meal even more so.
Feeling a little more adventurous? Check out our Wineries and Waterfalls itinerary for the perfect warm-weather pairing.
Start in Boone and follow NC 105 South. When awesome Grandfather Mountain towers above, turn left on Vineyard Lane into Grandfather Vineyard & Winery. Cross the Watauga River on a bridge draped in flourishing grapevines.
As the first wine-producing vineyard in the High Country, the rich history of this winery began in 2003 with a family passion for viticulture. The wine production building and quaint tasting room sit beside the rushing Watauga River, a pristine trout stream that dances down from the towering dark peaks and famous profile face of Grandfather Mountain.
Unlike many vineyards where vines grow in gentle meadows, these grapes cling to a ledge-laced hillside of rocky terraces above the winery. It's a dramatic setting that owner Steve Tatum says the grapes really like. "Grapes don't like ‘wet feet,'" he says. "Our vineyard's rocky, steeper soil is the perfect way to give them ample water and permit them to quickly dry out."
Leave the Grandfather Vineyard and go south on NC 105. Turn left in Linville on US 221 and drive past the entrance to Grandfather Mountain (or take a detour to the top!) and get on the Blue Ridge Parkway heading south. At Milepost 316.4, it's easy to make the left turn and drive just 1.5 miles to walk the easy trails to Linville Falls (see our Wineries and Waterfalls itinerary). One mile past the side road to the falls, exit onto US 221 and turn right to Linville Falls Winery, also on the right.
This forty-acre rolling vineyard mixes row after row of grapes with scenic surroundings fringed with Christmas trees. A Tuscan-style winery building features ample outdoor seating at the vineyards' elevation of 3,200 feet. Jack Wiseman's inspiration for his winery is a deep understanding of the diversity of mountain microclimates, "where warm days and cool nights provide perfect growing conditions," he says.
Linville Falls Winery has been earning raves and medals at international wine competitions in Sonoma County, California, and regionally in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Wiseman family also features blueberries, raspberries, and apples, with the blueberries used in the winery's blueberry wine, a Gold Medal Winner in the International Eastern Wine Competition.
Turn right on US 221 from Linville Falls Winery and drive the scenic road to Linville. Turn left on NC 105 under Grandfather Mountain's peaks, then turn left on NC 184 at the Eastern Continental Divide.
Soon Sugar Mountain ski area rises on the left, and a few miles farther, turn right in "downtown" Banner Elk at the only light on NC 194. A mile and a half later, turn left on Gualtney Road to Banner Elk Winery.
At Banner Elk Winery, relax on the expansive tasting room porch overlooking the boulder-bordered pond and raise your eyes–and wine glasses–to the ski lift-studded peak of Beech Mountain, the East's highest ski area.
Dr. Richard Wolfe, co-owner of the winery and former enological researcher at Appalachian State University, has studied high-elevation viticulture elsewhere in the world and maintains that the climate of the Boone Area is "the equal of the great viticultural locations in Europe."
Vineyards surround the tasting room, and so does a longtime blueberry farm - a High Country favorite when the Northern fruit ripens in late July and early August.
Back at NC 194, turn left and meander the winding road to scenic Valle Crucis. At the stop sign, the Mast Store is to the left. Turn right and you continue past B&B's and restaurants to NC 105, where a left takes you back to Boone.
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