Colorful Blends and Eclectic Vibes Abound at Silver Coast Winery
photograph by Andrew Sherman

A critic once said of Jane Bowles’s 1943 novel Two Serious Ladies that to try to summarize its plot was to risk one’s sanity. Likewise: any attempt to describe Ocean Isle Beach’s Silver Coast Winery.

Silver Coast’s backstory is deceptively simple: Southport resident Maryann Azzato, it seems, wanted a winery. So for Mother’s Day in 2002, her husband and three children gave her one, on a lovely eight-acre woodland setting. Over one weekend, the family built and planted the vineyard. The wines rapidly gained regional, national, and international acclaim, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Although accurate, this account omits the nuclear engineer, the bears, and the psychedelic dog paintings, not to mention the animal crackers served between tasting flights.

Colorful Blends and Eclectic Vibes Abound at Silver Coast Winery

Locally designed wine bottle labels and funky dog paintings add an artistic touch to Maryann Azzato’s eclectic winery. photograph by Andrew Sherman

It was the nuclear engineer, a friend of Maryann’s, who tipped her off about the defunct Sims Barbecue restaurant that she transformed into the production facility and tasting room. Bears were living under the old restaurant’s stage when renovations began, which may or may not have inspired the animal crackers. The stage apparently had featured clogging, not to be confused with the local line dancing club that meets monthly in Silver Coast’s Barrel Room, a festive, cavernous space featuring an indoor waterfall designed by Wilmington artist Doug Campbell. The entire winery is, in fact, so infused with artwork of every stripe — wooden folk-art figures, glazed ceramics, hand-crafted jewelry, oil paintings, Jackson-Pollock-style mixed-media abstracts, and Steven Schuman’s enormous psychedelic dog portraits — that you might forget you’re in a winery and feel like you’re in a curator’s eclectic home.

As for the wines, though the vineyard grows only muscadine grapes (sold on a self-pick basis and at farmers markets), Silver Coast produces a sophisticated array of European-style wines made from lesser-known, more complicated grapes — traminette, touriga, viognier — purchased from growers in-state, along the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in Georgia and Virginia. The tasting bar often offers a menu of cheese pairings — Asiago, Gouda, Irish Cheddar — but if this feels a bit too highfalutin for you, Milky Way bars and bags of Cheez Doodles are also on hand. If you’re the kind of person who’s offended by Cheez Doodles … well, just stay home. You can join Silver Coast’s wine club and get your cases delivered to your door.

But then you’d miss the profusion of mismatched art, natural beauty, and nostalgia, the atmosphere of happy, busy contradiction and inclusion that feels like simple acceptance. People are different, this place seems to say, and all are welcome.

Silver Coast Winery
6680 Barbeque Road Northwest
Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469
(910) 287-2800 or

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Wendy Brenner is the author of two books of short fiction, and a contributing editor for The Oxford American.