10 May Our five favorite North Carolina wineries
Top wineries nearby me
My wife and I combine two of our favorite hobbies into one day: hiking and wine tasting. We trek in the morning and explore a new winery nearby in the afternoon. We haven’t sampled all 150 (or so, and counting) North Carolina wineries, but my wife and I have visited approximately 40 or so, that we remember.
First, let me share our wine credentials. We have none.
We’re not connoisseurs. We don’t study the art of wine making. We rarely read about grapes and fermentation. However, our noses and taste buds appreciate the right wine for our affinities. And we sample a lot of varieties, although our tastes don’t appreciate sweet wines. Our preferences tend toward the dry selections.
I selected our top five North Carolina wineries based on a fairly simple rating system: 55 percent based upon the quality of wine and 45 percent towards the ambience, which includes the tasting room, staff and outdoor setting. For us, it’s not all about the wine; it’s also about the experience.
For this top five NC wine listing, I have not considered any vineyards that restrict visitors from bringing along picnic lunches. Yes, that’s their business decision. And it’s my choice to not return or recommend.
Located in Lawndale, just north of Shelby, we love this North Carolina winery’s small and quaint farm-like setting. During all of our visits, the owners have conducted the tastings. They’re a “delightful” couple of retirement age, a word I don’t use very often. The tasting room is tiny, but there’s covered outdoor seating with close views of the small farm and vineyards. Buffalo Baker Creek bottles only a few wines, but they are excellent. Its perfect Riesling loves to slide over my palate.
Quirky and fun. This top North Carolina winery is located near East Bend, which is east of Elkin. And yes, they have llamas. Lots of them. You can walk the grounds and enjoy the animals up close, including the alpacas that protect the llamas from predators – I love learning tidbits like that from tasting room staff. We even enjoyed the farm’s outdoor chicken coop and overall rural setting. But this winery is far from a gimmick. The vineyard also features a nice tasting experience, good wines in a rustic building and a small gift shop, including items made from llama wool.
Located north of Winston-Salem and near Pilot Mountain, this top-rated North Carolina winery boasts a beautiful outdoor setting with views of the iconic state park and rock pinnacles. The chalet-like tasting room also includes a small restaurant, plus you can order and try several tapas while sampling wines. This vineyard is more upscale looking and the tasting staff offer a more formal experience, but we’re informal sippers and we still felt welcome and appreciated. And the wines are exceptional.
(Thank you to one of our readers who pointed out that JOLO does NOT let visitors bring in outside food, which we confirmed with JOLO.)
Located near Tryon west of Shelby, this North Carolina winery nestles in a gorgeous countryside. We arrived on a weekday with fewer visitors, so the tasting staff moved our experience outside to the patio in front of the scenic landscape. We always appreciate a winery that adds special touches without being asked. They also grow blueberries onsite so we added those and other snacks to our afternoon. Overall, we really enjoyed their wines, including a funky cider that we bought for a cider-junkie friend of ours.
This top-rated North Carolina winery, just outside of Hendersonville, serves an interesting variety of wines and ciders. They provide the best tasting experience, in my opinion, with plenty of sips and advice void of any snobbery. I’ve never liked ciders, until I tried their “Wallace” series, named after the winery dog, who may even make an appearance during your visit. Ask for a sample of Wallace #1 mixed with their Home Place blackberry wine – the combo produces an incredible thirst-quencher. Across from the winery, St. Paul Mountain is also opening a separate venue devoted to their popular ciders.