North Carolina has quietly become an important wine-making area in the U.S. Since 2001, wineries have quadrupled from a couple of dozen to more than 100. The two main grapes in North Carolina are native Muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay.
The six main growing wine regions in North Carolina are Yadkin Valley, Mountain, Haw River Valley, Swan Creek, Piedmont, and Sandhill/Coastal.
In the Yadkin Valley, Shelton Vineyards, founded in 1999, is the largest family-owned estate winery in the state. Two of its award-winning vintages are the 2007 Shelton Estate Cabernet France, which won a gold designation at the 2011 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, and the 2009 Shelton Riesling, Yadkin Valley, which won a silver designation at Finger Lakes.
Another winery in the Yadkin Valley, Westbend Vineyards, was first planted in 1972. Wine Spectator has given their wines the highest scores of any other North Carolina wines. Some of its more decorated wines include Westbend Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Westbend Vineyards Chardonnay, and Westbend Vineyards Viognier.
The state’s most visible and celebrated winery is Biltmore in Asheville in the Mountain region, which is situated in a valley near the French Broad River on the west side of the sprawling Biltmore Estate. Established in 1971, the winery harvests more than 250 tons of grapes annually. Varieties grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Among the Biltmore wines that score high in wine competitions are Biltmore Chardonnay Sur Lies, Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay, Biltmore Estate Sparkling Pas de Deux, Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Biltmore Reserve Pinot Noir—Russian River Valley, and Biltmore Century White.
In the Haw River Valley, the Winery at Iron Gate Farm features a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon that recently was awarded the North Carolina Winegrowers Cup and Best of Show honors at the annual North Carolina State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Other notable wineries in the region include Benjamin Vineyards & Winery, Glen Marie Vineyards and Winery, and Grove Winery.
The Swan Creek region in the northwest part of the state has five wineries. If you enjoy Italian wines, try a Pinot Grigio or Bella Misto (a red blend) from the Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery, which was the first winery in North Carolina to produce wine only from Italian grape varietals. Other notable wineries in the region include Buck Shoals Vineyard and Laurel Gray Vineyard