North Carolina is proud to be “first in flight.” This slogan, relating to airplane inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright who famously flew the first airplane in the state, is displayed on car license plates across the state.
It’s much less famous for flights of wine. You might therefore be surprised to learn that the state is home to over 200 wineries, which collectively produce over 1.1 million cases of wine – or 13 million bottles – every year. This ranks the state as eleventh in US wine production.
The greatest number of wineries are located in the Yadkin Valley in the north, but visitors to the pretty city of Asheville have plenty of winery choices, too. Several of these offer dining options, making them a good option for an afternoon off of hiking.
The best-known winery in the region is at the Biltmore Estate, which says it hosts more guests than any other winery in the USA. (All visitors to the estate included in the count, regardless of their interest in the winery.) For those who don’t want to pay the $84 entrance fee to the estate, there are plenty of other options. Here, we discuss a number of wineries near Asheville that are well worth a visit.
Top Wineries Near Asheville, NC
When you arrive at Stone Ashe, the first thing you notice is the rows of vines climbing up the steep mountain slope. This is a sign of ambition at a winery – vineyards like this aren’t easy to manage and can only be worked by hand. The pay-off is high-quality fruit.
The focus at Stone Ashe is on French varieties, and the fruity Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, shouldn’t be missed. Tasting flights are available for $15 per person, which you can enjoy in the winery’s rustic tasting room. Inside, you can relax on sofas and armchairs. Deckchairs outside offer views over the vineyards and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Stone Ashe is a relative newcomer to the North Carolina winery scene. The tasting room opened in early 2020 but will surely be enjoyed by guests for years to come. It is open Thursday-Sunday, 12-6 pm.
Marked Tree is another newcomer in 2020. It is producing a diverse range of different wines, including Gruner Veltliner, Petit Verdot, and a full-bodied rosé blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger (aka Blaufränkisch). Its fragrant red Cabernet Franc, however, is a particular highlight.
You can taste all of these at Marked Tree’s modern (and very Instagram-friendly) tasting room. Cheese plates and other snacks are also available. It’s surrounded by vineyards, meaning the views from its spacious terrace are good, too.
The winery also offers yoga classes (Thursdays and Saturdays) and forest therapy walks (Sundays and Wednesdays by appointment).
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Saint Paul Vineyards
Saint Paul Vineyards successfully combines wine tasting with entertainment. It produces a range of red, white, and rosé wine, as well as cider and fruit wine, which you can enjoy at its relaxed farmyard tasting room. The Viognier is particularly fresh, aromatic, and weighty.
It has plenty of outside seating next to the vines, and regularly hosts live musicians and food trucks.
Plēb Urban Winery
Adventurous natural wine lovers, this one is for you. Plēb sources grapes from around North Carolina and turns them into wines with personality at its converted warehouse. It works with 26 different grape varieties, including several that you may not have heard of before. Catawba, Aromella, or Maréchal Foch, anyone? Production is also far from conventional. One Seyval Blanc, for example, spends 558 days on lees before bottling, giving it a nutty, wet wool character. This rebellious winery is close to Downtown Asheville. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 2-8 pm.
Other things to do around Asheville
Chimney Rock State Park is 45 minutes out of town, roughly in the same direction as Stone Ashe, Marked Tree and Saint Paul Wineries. The park offers a number of well-maintained trails with no shortage of impressive mountain views. It would be easy to combine a morning of hiking in the park with an afternoon tasting in the wineries.
There are plenty of Blue Ridge Mountain trails to choose from. The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is one short but rewarding walk with various viewpoints.
Zen Tubing offers lazy river-style tubing in Asheville. Pack drinks and snacks to enjoy on the way.
There are a handful of wineries dotted along the Blue Ridge mountains. If you decide to tackle the challenging Grandfather Mountain Trail, you might need a glass of wine afterward. Good news, Linville Falls Winery is just 20 minutes down the road. It offers several fruity wines in flights, or by the glass or bottle. Also nearby are the gentle Linville Falls trails with views over the waterfall.
On the other side of Grandfather Mountain is Banner Elk Winery, which offers tastings at its pretty lakeside winery. For another unique region and wine tasting experience, consider visiting some of the wineries located in the Tryon Foothills of North Carolina.
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