October 28, 2014
When it comes to fine wines, travellers tend to head west to California’s coast or the hills of Washington State. But the Southeast U.S. has a growing grape scene with a variety of vineyards dotting the rural areas around Charlotte. At these five Charlotte wineries you’ll find award-winning varietals and gorgeous vineyard views, all paired with the region’s signature Southern charm.
At the north end of the Yadkin Valley, this 400-acre former dairy farm was converted into a winery in 1999. The stunning setting and sweeter wines have made Shelton Vineyards a successful venture with the property now featuring an upscale on-site restaurant, a nearby hotel, and an impressively large tasting room and shop. Take the tour and tasting to pick your favourite bottle, before stopping in the vineyard’s Harvest Grill for perfect pairings like artisan cheese plates and homemade pasta from its seasonal menu. Or, on a warm day, opt to linger on the vineyard’s grounds, where a small creek meanders through the shade of lush trees and a walking path leads around a peaceful lake.
Round the turn to this Tuscan-style villa, set on a hilltop with picturesque views of vine-covered acres, and you’ll feel as if you’ve teleported to the Italian countryside. Owned by the Raffaldini family, who’ve been creating Italian wines since 1348, Raffaldini Vineyards is one of the prettiest Charlotte wineries. Whether you’re craving the Chianti or in the mood to sip a Sangiovese, the garden patio outside the tasting room is the perfect spot for views of the valley alongside your wine.
“Grape farm” feels like a better description for this cosy and casual vineyard tucked away in the Swan Creek area of Yadkin Valley. Laurel Gray Vineyards been in operation for more than a decade, but there are still plenty of touches from when this was a family farm. The tasting room is the former milking parlour, where you’ll want to settle in on the porch, surrounded by a fragrant rose garden. In addition to award-winning wines from its crisp and citrusy pinot gris to its bold and spicy Cabernet Sauvignon, Laurel Gray also offers an array of popular wine-inspired sauces in rich flavours like chocolate cabernet and caramel chardonnay.
An hour west of Charlotte, just outside the charming small town of Shelby, this 13-acre winery features views of neat rows of grapevines with a dramatic backdrop of the South Mountains from its rustic, high-ceilinged tasting room and patio. For $7 visitors can sample all of the Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery vintages””and the tasting is free if you opt to buy two or more bottles. Plan on purchasing at least one to sip and savour on the patio with one of the tasting room’s artisan cheese and fresh fruit plates.
This isn’t your average vineyard. In addition to wine, the family-owned Treehouse Vineyards just south of Charlotte also offers tasty ciders and slushies made from its scuppernong and muscadine berries, which are used to make sweeter, fruitier wines. And, if that wasn’t enough to set it apart, this former farm also features two treehouses for rent. At one guests can stay overnight in its elevated space, while in the other up to six guests can watch the sun set from its 30-foot high perch””with wine in hand, of course.
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Written by Sarah Crosland