THE EAST'S LOFTIEST VINEYARDS WILL ELEVATE YOUR APPRECIATION OF FINE WINE-AND GREAT SCENERY.
One High Country winery is already winning awards and attracting fine wine aficionados. Add the High Country's two new wineries, and you have a Boone Area Wine Trail with three sophisticated viticultural experiences.
Meet the vintners, tour the wineries, sample the wines-and take home a souvenir glass and a few bottles or more for later. There's nothing like great wine and memories of the mountains to make a special meal even more so.
Better yet, make Boone Area wineries the focus of a multi-day viticultural visit. Indulge in the Boone Area's world-class cool summer climate and spend a few nights (explore Boone Area lodging). Sample great dining from the Boone Area's long list of gourmet eateries-it's the envy of urban areas far below the Blue Ridge. Along the way, take in some of the High Country's nationally-known attractions or outdoor adventures.
(Uncork our interactive map at the bottom of the page.)
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.
The wine processing building and tastefully decorated tasting room sit beside the rushing river, a pristine trout stream that dances down from the towering dark peaks and famous profile face of Grandfather Mountain. That front porch view adorns the labels of the vineyard's seven wines-Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Rose, a wine called "Big Boulder Red," and a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris named "Terraced Gold." Sip a logo-etched glass of Profile Red (named after the "face" looking down on you) while Grandfather Mountain dodges clouds above.
Steve and Sally Tatum own the winery, and son Dylan is a viticultural graduate of nearby Surry Community College, one of the East's most highly-regarded winemaking programs. The winery serves as Appalachian State University's Enological Laboratory.
Unlike many vineyards where vines grow in gentle meadows, these grapes grow clinging to a ledge-laced hillside of rocky terraces above the winery. It's a dramatic setting that 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."
Open-Thursday through Saturday noon to 6 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm. A flight of tastings costs $5 and comes with a souvenir glass. Tel: 828-963-2400
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 Linvlle Falls (see our Waterfalls tour). One mile past the side road to the falls, exit onto US 221 and turn right to Linville Falls Winery, also on the right. (A left turn takes you into the tiny town of Linville Falls.)
The High Country's newest winery is the longtime dream of Jack Wiseman, one of the pioneers of the High Country's bullish Christmas tree industry. The forty-acre rolling vineyard mixes row-after-row of grapes with scenic surroundings fringed in Christmas trees. A Tuscan-style winery building features ample outdoor seating at the vineyards' elevation of 3,200 feet. 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 various wine contests, including many at the North Carolina State Fair. Chardonnay, Merlot, Rose, Syrah and other wines are fine accompaniments with food, but there's more to this 100-year old farm than grapes and Christmas trees. 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. The winery also makes Cherry Bounce, a version of a drink Martha Washington made for George (also an award-winner at the International Eastern Wine Competition). The winery often features live music to serenade sippers.
Open-Seven Days, 12 to 6. Tel: 828-765-1400.
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 & Inn, 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. The winery's loftiest vineyards-the highest in Watauga County, the High Country, and the Eastern United States-are also high above on Beech.
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."
The winery's expansive tasting room flanks the Inn. 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.
Open-Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 6 pm. Tel: 828-260-1790. Tastings cost $6 and feature six wines. A souvenir glass costs an additional $10.
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.
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus/minus signs and directional arrows at upper left), or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols. You can literally dive down to see the parking lots and landmarks for the Boone Area Wine Trail. Click any map symbol and information balloons pop up. In the parking are map balloons, click "Directions," add your address or location, and step-by-step directions will guide you to the winery or other location from wherever you are! This satellite map permits "Map view" or "Terrain view" should you wish.