The Our State Wine Guide: In this series, we’ll help you plan a fun wine tour getaway and tell you where to go, what to do, and, most importantly, what to sip in beautiful wine regions across the state. This month, we’re heading to the Charlotte area.
Charlotte may be a buzzing metropolis, but less than an hour’s drive in any direction from our state’s largest city, you’ll find picturesque wineries offering tastings, tours, and proximity to small-town retreats. It’s easy to plan a weekend escape without straying too far.
The soil in this area of the state is perfect for growing muscadine grapes — well known for making sweet, slow-sipping wines. But dry-wine lovers, don’t despair! Muscadine wine range from dry to sweet, and it can be quite refreshing, especially on a warm day. Here, the wineries have something for everyone to sip and savor — no matter your preference.
Tucked away in a pocket of woods 10 minutes from downtown Salisbury and just 45 minutes from Charlotte, Cauble Creek is the perfect spot to kick off a relaxing weekend away. Take a walking tour and cast for fish in the property’s pond. Then, pop into the tasting room to try a number of award-winning muscadine wines. Don’t miss the Sweet Anita, which lets the fruit shine, and keep your eye out for an array of interesting blends, too, including blush wines that combine three muscadine varietals, and the semi-dry Phyllis Ann, which blends two white muscadines with a Pinot Gris. Make sure to pick up some muscadine jellies or bath salts from the gift shop on your way out.
Take a walk down tree-lined Fulton Street and catch a glimpse of the town’s beautifully preserved Colonial and Victorian homes, some of which are nearly 200 years old. Then, explore art galleries, old-timey drugstores, and shops filled with antiques along Main Street. Treat yourself to dinner at La Cava, an upscale Italian restaurant in a former church, where stained-glass windows provide ambience, and a wine alcove takes the place of the onetime altar. For a more casual vibe, try Sweet Meadow, a homey café with great dinner specials, or Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery and Eatery, an expansion of nearby Morgan Ridge Vineyards. Yes, it’s a brewery, but make sure to try the Sangiovese Brute IPA, made with grapes traditionally found in wine. This is a wine weekend, after all.
Built in 1919, the Colonial Revival-style Stokes-Snider House is now a charming bed and breakfast. The three guest rooms are lovely and modern, while the house itself has most of its original features, carefully restored. A cozy library and living room will make you feel right at home, and a full English breakfast is served in the sunroom.
After a day of winery-hopping, pick up a book or simply make yourself cozy in Across the Pond’s library. You’ll feel a world away. photograph by Across the Pond Bed & Breakfast
Start your morning in the Uwharrie Mountains, thought to be the oldest range in North America. Once towering at more than 20,000 feet, the mountains are now only about 1,000 feet high due to erosion — but Morrow Mountain is still a peak worthy of summiting. Hike the two-and-a-half-mile Morrow Mountain Trail to the top for panoramic views of the countryside and Lake Tillery. And if hiking isn’t your style, a paved road lets you drive to the lookout at the top of the mountain.
Take a 15-minute drive over to Stony Mountain, a small boutique winery, where you can observe stunning views of Badin Lake and the lower Yadkin Valley from the deck while sipping a smooth, dry Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah with a peppery finish. If you prefer something sweeter, Stony Mountain also offers a variety of fruit and muscadine wines. Oh, and keep an eye out for Bear and Jake, the resident “vineyard security” dogs — you’ll want to meet the inspiration behind the Very “Beary” Red, a fruit wine named after Bear, which is a blend of sweet blackberry and dry red wines.
For lunch, head to Off the Square in Albemarle’s quaint historic area. Under an original tin ceiling, start with the baked brie doused in honey or the crab cakes with honey mustard fig sauce. Then move on to dishes like pasta margherita with pesto cream sauce or the daily quiche with a side of pasta salad. For dessert, pick up pastries at the 100-year-old Albemarle Sweet Shop right around the corner. You can’t miss it — just follow your nose.
Just 10 minutes from downtown, you’ll find Dennis Vineyards. In the 1980s, Pritchard Dennis began making wine as a hobby, donating it to his local church for Communion. He knew he was on to something when churchgoers lined up at his front door, asking for more. Today, his vineyard has been in the family for three generations, grows 12 muscadine varietals, and is known for its specialty sweet wines — but there are also a few dry options, as well as fruit wines made from local berries and apples. Try Spring, a blend of 10 different muscadines; the semi-dry Carlos in the Buff; and PD’s Passion, an apple wine. Then, grab a wine slushy or a scoop of wine ice cream made with strawberry, muscadine, or cherry wine — and containing 5.5 percent alcohol — and while away the afternoon on the patio overlooking the vines.
After a day of exploration, venture into the city and check into the quaint, ivy-covered Morehead Inn, an elegant estate built in 1917 that’s filled with period furnishings and antiques. Settle in and cozy up by the fireplace, or pop over to the nearby 7th Street Public Market, an airy food hall in Uptown. Inside, grab dinner at Pure Pizza, a farm-to-fork pizzeria, and then order a glass of wine at the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe, which offers a huge selection of vino from around the world — including North Carolina. Before you call it a night, stop by Romare Bearden Park for a beautiful view of Charlotte’s twinkling skyline.
After breakfast at the Morehead Inn, leave Charlotte behind and head to WoodMill, a sprawling winery with a charming wraparound porch. Owner Larry Cagle was inspired to start making wine when his father was dealing with a heart condition and arthritis. Red wine has long been thought to have cardiovascular benefits, but Cagle discovered that muscadines are significantly higher in antioxidants than other wines. Touting the health benefits of muscadine wine — and having seen the positive effect it had on his father, who started drinking a glass a day — Cagle opened WoodMill. Taste a range of dry to sweet muscadine offerings, take a production tour, hang out on the porch, and check out the well-stocked gift shop.
Owner Larry Cagle (right) raises a glass of Woodmill Winery’s award-winning wine with his father. photograph by WoodMill Winery
The next winery is just 20 minutes away, but you’ll want to stop halfway to grab a treat at RedBone Willy’s: part women’s clothing boutique, part outdoor outfitter, and part general store with old-fashioned sodas. The real draw is the handmade ice cream: thick, custardy, and chock-full of pieces of fruit and baked goods. Try Monkey Madness (banana pudding with vanilla wafer pieces) or Southern Comfort (vanilla with pecan pie and brownie chunks). Looking for lunch? Order a tasty sandwich and a fried apple pie, and eat them on the porch.
Located on 40 acres, Baker Buffalo Creek is a bucolic spot to wind down your weekend. The property has been in owner Ann Edwards’s family since the 1800s, first as a grain farm and moonshine-making operation, then a dairy farm, and now a winery. The history of the farm is woven through its current iteration: The old milk house is now a tasting room, an old mule barn has been repurposed as an event space, and everything has a story. Take a bottle of oaky Chardonnay or a bourbon-barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon out on the patio and enjoy the scenery — a big red barn (so picturesque featured in a national Hillshire Farm commercial), lights strung across the lawn, and a firepit — until the cows come home.
We’ve highlighted just a few of the wineries near Charlotte, but there are more to explore. Be sure to come back for another weekend or feel free to make this itinerary your own. Consider including: