High Country wineries have come a long way in a relatively short period of time, especially during the last decade and a half. In the summer months, three wineries, Banner Elk Winery, Grandfather Vineyard and Winery and Linville Falls Winery, feature warm afternoons filled with live music and locals and tourists driving in from around the world.

In the winter months, the right bottle of wine can make for a warm evening of frivolity with friends, a night of romance, fun family gatherings or to enhance a fine dinner. So, these wineries stay open and feature a nice walk on the grounds, weather permitting, or a chance to sample their wines in their tasting rooms so you can choose the right style for the holiday get-togethers to come. During the last decade, wineries have sprung up in the North Carolina Mountains.

The wine-making business in the Tar Heel State is catching up with other states and regions, and our local vineyards are producing worthy, award-winning wines every year.

To add to the quality of the local wine industry, Appalachian State University in Boone created the Enology and Viticulture program a few years ago, which includes a Fermentation Science Degree as well as research and lab work geared specifically for the North Carolina winemaking industry.

The aim of the ASU Enology and Viticulture program is as follows; “The wine industry in North Carolina is a significant tourism-based economic driver, centered on profitable agricultural value-added products. Small businesses account for the majority of growth in the wine and brewing industries in the Southeast. The initiatives of the Enology and Viticulture program support rural development and agri-tourism by directly contributing to the sustainability of the wine industry in North Carolina.”

In the High Country, neighborhood wineries are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the beauty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, which provide beautiful spaces where tourists and locals can enjoy a tasty glass of fermented grapes.

Banner Elk Winery and Villa was the first commercial winery built in Avery County, in 2005. Like most High Country wineries, they combine their own grapes with other varieties brought in from high-quality growers in nearby areas.

Located at 60 Deer Run Lane on the mountainous outskirts of the resort town of Banner Elk, the winery stays open all winter for tastings and purchases. The attached villa with its various luxury suites and event rooms are available to rent all year for weddings, business meetings, Christmas parties and more.

The Banner Elk Winery Tasting Room is open every day of the year. Some of the premium wines made by the winery include their Cabernet Sauvignon, the Marechel Foch Reserve, Seyval Blanc, Banner Elk Red and Banner Elk White, Banner Elk blueberry, High Country Rose’ and more.

Banner Elk Winery wines have won multiple medals at the North Carolina State Fair and International Eastern Wine Competition in Sonoma County, California. More information can be found at www.bannerelkwinery.com and (828) 898-9090.

Grandfather Vineyard and Winery is also situated in a beautiful place amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains at 225 Vineyards Lane located between Banner Elk and Boone. The winery has the Watauga River running through the middle of the grounds, which provides for a wonderful space for folks to enjoy wine as the water flows by just a couple of miles from the Eastern Continental Divide, weather permitting.

At all times, a magnificent view of Grandfather Mountain is seen from the winery grounds. Grandfather Mountain, after which the winery is named, is one of the most famous and distinctive-looking mountains in the eastern half of the United States, rising up to just 45 feet shy of 6,000 feet. If you view Grandfather Mountains from the northeastern side, you can see the outline of the old man’s face as he lies on his back and looks up to the stars. It is this famous profile of Grandfather Mountain that you see every day from the winery grounds.

Owners Steve and Sally Tatum created this winery, which claims to be the first wine-producing winery in Watauga County. The couple met while working at one of the local ski resorts almost 40 years ago. They created Grandfather Vineyard and Winery and made it a family business. Their son, Dylan Tatum, is the chief winemaker having earned degrees in Enology and Viticulture from Surry Community College.

Some of the wines that are offered for tasting and sale include Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Italian Barbera, Provenance Chardonnay, Big Boulder Red, Harvest Moon Rose’ and many more vintages.

More information can be found at grandfathervineyards.com and (828) 963-2400.

At the heart of Linville Falls Winery is local entrepreneur Jack Wiseman.

Since he was a young man in the 1950s, Wiseman always had an interest and a talent for making wine and brandy. After traveling the world and country, and spending time in Napa Valley of California in the 1960s befriending people who made high-quality wines, Wiseman came home to Avery County with ideas of creating a vineyard.

Once back in the High Country, Wiseman’s first successful business venture was in the Christmas tree industry. He was the first to plant thousands of high altitude-growing Frasier fir trees here in this section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That business continues today, but winemaking was still in his blood and he created Linville Falls Winery about seven years ago.

Linville Falls Winery is located in a gorgeous valley a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The winery is also a couple of miles from the beautiful Linville Falls and the rest of the magnificent Linville Gorge, which is the steepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. The winery itself is located on 9557 Linville Falls Highway (Rte. 221).

Wiseman had a vision of growing grapes that would thrive in the unique conditions found in this area. Unlike the desert environment that is the Napa valley of California, these mountainsides are best suited for fruits such as the Riesling grape. Linville Falls Winery has three fields of Riesling grapes growing at just about 3,200 feet. According to Wiseman, growing the grapes just a hundred feet higher or lower on the mountains would change the flavor and characteristic of his grapes. This is something he has learned from what he calls the six-year process of planting the grapes, letting them grow to a certain age, making wine with the grapes and aging the wine. His latest creation is a wine called Elevation made from his grapes specifically grown at 3,200 feet on the misty, cool High Country Mountains.

Other wines made by Linville Falls Winery include a unique blend called Trillium, a Dry Riesling, a Late Harvest Riesling and a standard Riesling, Mountain White, Rose’, Cabernet Sauvignon, a special holiday wine called Cherry Bounce, which is a recipe featuring a blend of sour cherries, cinnamon and apple brandy concocted by George Washington’s wife, Martha, more than 200 years ago, and the signature Blueberry wine.

During the holiday months, Wiseman’s two loves come together as near the winery is the Red Barn where his locally grown Frasier fir Christmas trees can be bought along with the fine selection of wine offered on the same grounds. More information can be found at www.linvillefallswinery.com and (828) 765-1400.

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