North Carolina

North Carolina Wine Overview

North Carolina is now home to more than 110 wineries and is one of the most respected wine producing states in the eastern and southern United States. One area in the west-central part of the state, west and slightly southwest of Winston-Salem, is the Yadkin Valley area which is known by wine lovers practically worldwide. This area has received tremendous press attention over the last ten years praising the wines turned out by North Carolina vintners. And yet, this is just one of three wine-producing areas in the state of note. Two other prominent wine destinations are the Haw River Valley and Swan Creek, and it’s notable each of the three areas have been designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

In addition to the 110+ wineries, there are more than 400 vineyards here. Muscadine grapes tend to grow in the coastal areas, while traditional wine grapes are staples in central and western portions of the state. Renowned Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Syrahs and Chardonnays are top offerings from North Carolina vintners. Yadkin Valley, in fact, has been dubbed by the wine press as “America’s Next Napa,” and North Carolina ranks in the top 10 U.S. states for wine production.

Two wineries in the state are particularly noteworthy. The Biltmore Estate Winery at the Biltmore resort in Asheville is America’s most visited winery, underscoring North Carolina’s rising profile as a wine tourist destination. On the eastern side of the state, Duplin Winery is the world’s largest producer of Muscadine wines, so there’s truly something for every wine lover here.

One area in the west central part of the state, west and slightly southwest of Winston-Salem, is the Yadkin Valley area which is known by wine lovers practically worldwide.

North Carolina Wine Trail

One of the questions we frequently receive on our Contact page is “How many wine trails are there in a state?” Usually the answer is, it depends on how you define an official wine trail. When we say “official wine trail,” it’s defined as a wine trail that is its own identity with an online presence, i.e. a website. We include combination agri-tourism trails in this definition, such as wine and cheese trails, fruit and wine trails, and so on. Another key factor for us is making sure the wine trail designation was spearheaded by the wineries themselves, the state or both.

North Carolina has six wine trails by this definition, which we’ll discuss below. In addition, the Visit North Carolina site lists a series of what they call wine trails. While quite useful to a visitor and/or wine traveler, they’re really more of a series of wine travel itineraries vs. an official wine trail. We wanted to alert you to the page, which lists 12 of these wine travel itineraries, because it’s very useful information. North Carolina has so many wineries that even with these travel itineraries and the “wine trails” there are still numerous North Carolina wineries not represented in either category. We’ll continue to watch developments in North Carolina to see if more trails become official, because there’s certainly the potential to do so.

With that said, here are the six official North Carolina wine trails, as defined by our criteria.

First is the Yadkin River Wine Trail, a group of five wineries in the center of the Yadkin River Valley in the towns of Boonville and East Bend. The area is known as the Yadkin Valley Wine Country, which is probably the best overview site for the almost three dozen wineries in the area. The entire area is also sometimes known as the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail, and a website exists claiming to be as such, but it’s really just a list of wineries in the area. So to make things clear, the Yadkin River Wine Trail wineries are located in Yadkin Valley Wine Country, and are listed on that website as well.

Yadkin Valley has been dubbed by the wine press as “America’s Next Napa,” and North Carolina ranks in the top 10 U.S. states for wine production.

Next is the Haw River Wine Trail, which includes four wineries near the North Carolina towns of Burlington and Alamance. As noted above, the Haw River Valley has their own AVA designation, which includes all of Alamance County and portions of five other counties.

Another wine trail, the Blue Ridge Wine Trail is split between Virginia and northern North Carolina. Since Virginia has literally dozens of wine trails in their state, we’ll include this trail here. There are 14 wineries on this trail, six of which are in North Carolina.

The Southern Gateway Wine Trail, which is in Davidson County not far south from Winston-Salem. The trail includes four wineries which are also included in Yadkin Valley Wine Country. As you can see, there’s a lot of overlapping wine trails in the state.

Another that overlaps with Yadkin Valley is the Shallowford Wine Trail, which includes five wineries near the town of Yadkinville. Also in this area is the Swan Creek Wine Trail, consisting of the wineries within this AVA.

The Biltmore Estate Winery at the Biltmore resort in Asheville is America’s most visited winery.

North Carolina’s newest wine trail is the Boone Area Wine Trail, a group of three wineries near the town of Boone in the far western part of the state, near the Tennessee border. Two of the wineries just opened in 2011, so this wine trail is literally hot off the press.

So to summarize, let’s consider there to be six North Carolina wine trails, plus a seventh which is partially in North Carolina and partially in Virginia. Again, definitions of what exactly comprises a wine trail will differ, but for our purposes this is what we think makes sense.

Travelogue: North Carolina Wine: Wilmington and Southeast Coast

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