North Carolina’s Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail features beautiful wineries making memorable wines. Read on for five wineries along the trail.
Located just outside Hendersonville, NC, lies the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail. Seven wineries make up the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA and wine trail. I visited five of the seven. This area’s attraction lies not only with its wineries but within the entire Henderson County, the city of Hendersonville, its art, restaurants, and the area’s enchantment and outdoor activities.
The scenic beauty abounds as you glimpse the apple orchards, vineyards, rolling mountains, and green forests, especially in the spring when everything is in bloom. The area personifies the four seasons of the year.
Not only does the area grow grapes, but it is also the largest apple-producing region in North Carolina, helping to make the state the seventh-largest apple-producing state in the nation.
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Crest of the Blue Ridge
What does the Crest of the Blue Ridge mean, and how does it relate to wine? The name refers to the Eastern Continental Divide, which divides the area into two sections, the Blue Ridge Escarpment on the southern and eastern portions and the Blue Ridge Plateau on the northern and western sides.
Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA
The Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA received its designation in 2019. The appellation is the sixth and newest AVA in North Carolina. The AVA straddles the Crest of the Blue Ridge, thus creating different soil profiles depending if you are on the Blue Ridge Escarpment or the Blue Ridge Plateau.
The area generally offers a moderate climate with elevations over 2100 feet and high-quality water for irrigation, while distinctive attributes define the soils.
Soils of the Blue Ridge AVA
The soils on the Blue Ridge Plateau side consist mainly of Hayesville Loam, which runs deep and slopes gently to the Mississippi River. The loam is formed by igneous and high-grade metamorphic rock with organic matter.
Soils on the Blue Ridge Escarpment side of the Eastern Continental Divide are sandy and rocky with fine granular structure and less organic material cascading to the Atlantic.
The vines on the plateau are lush and vigorous, while vines on the escarpment are reserved and struggle. Vines on the escarpment bud and ripen earlier, while those on the plateau take their time maturing.
The Impact of Weather on the Fruit of the Blue Ridge AVA
During rainfall, the humid air from the west moves up the mountains cooling it. As the air descends the lee side of the mountain into Henderson County, it warms, and the precipitation slows. This phenomenon with rain allows many vineyards not to need irrigation, a benefit when growers worry about climate change.
Wind plays a role in the Crest of Blue Ridge AVA. Constant breezes help by stirring up pockets of cold air in the spring, preventing frost. During the summer, the wind helps dry the vineyards.
Finally, Henderson County is located in a thermal belt, and allows for a longer growing season and a more moderate climate. This factor is also beneficial in many apple orchards.
Crest of the Blue Ridge Winemaking and Varieties
I was quite impressed with the quality of the wine from those wineries that are part of the Crest of the Blue Ridge wine trail. You will find a mix of old-world styles with a bent towards France and Italy, especially Alsace and Loire Valley in France.
Both vinifera and hybrids are grown. In whites, find grüner veltliner, riesling, and vidal blanc. In the reds, cabernet franc is very popular, as well as chambourcin.
Like most areas, the grapes let you know when to be harvested, but hurricanes also determine when grapes are picked in the Crest of the Blue Ridge. If the winemaker knows the threat of a hurricane is imminent, picking occurs earlier because both hurricanes and rain affect the taste of the grapes.
Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail Wineries
I visited five wineries on the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail, each offering a unique experience.
Marked Tree Vineyard
In Indian lore, the marked tree led the way. Typically, it was a bent tree representing a guidepost through the wilderness and bringing Native Americans to locations where they found water or food. It is a path and a marker of life. For Tim Parks and Lance Hiatt, it symbolized the new direction they wanted to take with their lives. “Tim and Lance wanted a place where all our family’s different paths could cross and converge.” A place where their passion for farming, meeting people, and creating beautiful experiences all united together. Wine has all those ingredients, hence the name Marked Tree Vineyard, symbolizing their new life paths.
Before their wine adventure, Tim worked in the clothing and jewelry industry as a district manager at many well-known brands. Lance was an architect. You can see his architectural influence in the modern, clean lines of the winery buildings, which also enhance the views. They purchased the winery in 2015 and planted the vines in 2016. Grapes include cabernet franc, petit verdot, grüner veltliner, chardonel and vidal blanc. Today Lance is the winemaker.
The winery sits at the top of a knoll with exquisite vineyard views. The winery and vineyard are at 2300 feet with southern and western exposures. The gentle slopes allow water to drain away from the vineyard. The rocky and sandy loam soil gives the vines an element of struggle.
Everything about this winery alludes to a wonderfully exceptional experience. Marked Tree Vineyard truly speaks to what the North Carolina wine experience is all about.
My favorite wines were the grüner veltliner with its notes of apple and stone fruit, Chloe, a Rosé of cabernet franc and lemberger, cabernet franc, and Watershed, their flagship wine combining cabernet franc and lemberger, which displays lovely baking spices.
Souther Williams Vineyard
The history of Souther Williams Vineyards dates back to the 1800s when the Souther Williams family owned 10,000 acres in Hoopers Creek Valley. The family raised cattle and tobacco and grew apples. Today Ken Parker and Angela Adams own 35 acres of this family land. They named the winery after Ken’s grandparents, Carrie Souther, and JK Williams.
Eight of the 35 acres of mineral-based mountain soils are planted with vines. In the future, Ken and Angela hope to plant more acreage. They grow cooler-climate grapes from Austria, Eastern Europe, Germany, and Russia. These include grüner veltliner, riesling, and vidal blanc in whites and cynthiana (norton), blaufrankish (lemberger), regent, saperavi, and cabernet franc in the reds. They also source grapes from the Finger Lakes and produce wine from those grapes. The vineyards consist of three soil types—loamy, Edneyville, and Haines Loam.
The property is located in an idyllic glen. Its beauty abounds all around you. Sitting in the indoor/outdoor tasting pavilion, you can enjoy the views and the serene setting.
Ken and Angela want to respect the family heritage, so their motto is “Guardian de la Terre.”
Although Ken’s career was in banking and Angela’s in tech, both are passionate about their winery.
I was very impressed with the grüner veltliner’s citrusy, especially lemon flavors, and the cabernet franc, which exhibited an intense dark character. I also tasted the vidal blanc, which delivers flavors of honeysuckle and sweet florals. Another fun wine is More Shenanigans, a blend of cynthiana, blaufrankish, regent, and cabernet franc. This wine offered aromas of tobacco and tart flavors of blackberry and bramble.
Stone Ashe Vineyards
Like its name, the soils consist primarily of rich Stony Ashe, which provides drainage for the steeply sloped vineyards that make up Stone Ashe Vineyards. The Alpine-styled winery features Bordeaux-styled wines. Craig and Tina Little’s vision evolved over the years, but at the forefront, their passion for French wine imparted the yearning to own a winery in North Carolina. From dentistry to winemaking, the project is a family affair through and through.
The 17-acre vineyard is planted with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, and semillon in the whites. Red varieties include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot. Biodynamic and organic practices are used in the vineyards.
The winery welcomes you with magnificent views of the valleys below. My favorite was the Rosé of cabernet franc. I love when I smell the aromas of Provence in a Rosé, and this one did just that with its flavors of strawberries and raspberries. Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for cabernet franc, so you can guess my other favorite wine at Stone Ashe.
Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards
Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards is about North Carolina agriculture. Farming has been at the forefront for nine generations. Owner Alan Ward’s background in finance and agriculture enabled him to take his apple orchards and growing grapes to a new level paving the way for Saint Paul Mountain to become the first commercial winery in Henderson County. Some call Alan the pioneer of Henderson County grape growing and wine industry.
Kelly Rivera Meyers came on board as the winemaker in 2022. Like Alan, her background was in finance, but she changed her career, returning to UC Davis to study enology. She brings vitality to Saint Paul Mountain. I got to barrel sample two styles of her Petit Verdot.
Tasting Saint Paul Mountain wines, I preferred the Roseraie, a rosé of cabernet franc and vidal blanc made in the Provence style, and the Nouveau Jour, a red blend.
In addition to tasting wine, visit Saint Paul Mountain’s Appalachian Ridge Cider Tasting Room. Kelly is also the cidermaker. Converting an old barn into the tasting room adds to the ambiance of tasting cider. All Saint Paul Mountain cider utilizes estate-grown apples. My favorite is Bald Top Mountain, a dry, clean, and crisp cider. Besides cider Saint Paul Mountain serves Spirits. I sampled Peter Arly, a distilled cider blended with hard cider, and Anita Irene, a fortified blackberry wine with hints of apple. Both are worth sampling.
To make the most of Burntshirt Vineyards, consider this visit a Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail food and wine experience. My visit included a lunch at the Vintner’s Table prepared by Chef Clint Betts. Sitting out on the patio, taking in the beauty of this Crest of the Blue Ridge winery, set the stage for a wonderful meal. We began with pork belly paired with dry riesling.
Next course, seared scallops paired with a rosé of merlot, chambourcin, and cabernet sauvignon. This course was followed by a sesame tuna and my favorite wine, the Altitude 3400, a vibrant wine made from cabernet franc, merlot, and hambourcin. I found black cherry flavors accented by a pepper finish. Finally, we ended our meal with a cabernet franc reserve paired with a filet.
It was a yummy lunch as we embarked on our day of wine tasting.
Touring the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail Wineries
I cannot speak highly enough about The Regal Ride service. Ann Young, a native of Hendersonville, is a delight to be with and knows the wineries of the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail inside out. Not only does she offer winery tours in Henderson County, but Ann’s tours include breweries, distilleries, and vineyard tours to Tryon/Polk County. You will be safe in Ann’s hands.
Hendersonville, North Carolina
While visiting the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail, you must spend some time in Hendersonville. Its history dates back to 1841 when Judge Mitchell King donated a portion of his summer estate to establish Hendersonville. The donation had some stipulations, including the width of Main Street. The street had to be 100 feet wide. At the time, the goal was to allow a carriage pulled by four horses to easily turn around without backing up.
Stroll down Main Street and take in the Henderson County Court House and the McClintock Clock that dates back to 1927 when the O.B. McClintock Company made large clocks for banks and other financial institutions. The Hendersonville clock went into operation by Citizens National Bank. The bronze clock features copper hoods and art glass dials. It originally ran by a mechanical-electrical clock inside the building. The components began failing, and in 1993 the clock was updated with an electric timer system and modernized again in 2013.
Along Main Street is an eclectic array of stores—my favorite, Silver Fox Gallery, where you can find American furniture, art, and gifts. If you are a pinball enthusiast, visit the Appalachian Pinball Museum.
Each year Hendersonville goes to the bears. In 2003, the city launched the program to raise funding for the downtown district and other causes. Now known as the Bearfootin’ Art Walk, this public art program is sponsored by downtown businesses. Local artists transform the bears into creative displays that adorn the downtown area from May to September when they are auctioned off. Each bear is unique and intriguing, from clowns to jewelry bears. You might call these bears the town mascot.
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Experiencing the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail
Exploring the lush green vineyards and tasting the wines of the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail is a must for any wine enthusiast. The area is up-and-coming and well worth discovering. It is North Carolina’s best-kept wine secret.