The Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and the hillsides of Europe are separated by thousands of miles. But spend an afternoon in Hendersonville — visiting wineries, sipping bold, dry reds and crisp whites, and admiring rolling vineyards — and you might just think you’re on the other side of the Atlantic.
Hendersonville’s Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA received federal designation in summer 2019. It’s North Carolina’s newest wine country with six wineries, adding to the state’s growing total that now tops 200. The area has long been known for its abundant agriculture. Rolling fields, orchards and vineyards add interest to back-road drives. Apples are a dominant crop in Hendersonville, and the area consistently ranks as one of the top apple producers in the United States. The same conditions that make Hendersonville a prime location for apples — warm days and cool nights paired with the right soil composition and humidity — also work well for growing grapes.
Vineyards produce high-quality classic wines from European vinifera and French-American hybrid grapes, including cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, petit verdot, riesling and vidal blanc.
Burntshirt Vineyards grows classic varietals on 30 acres of vineyards, which are split into two locations, one on each side of the Eastern Continental Divide. One vineyard plot extends from the tasting room, creating a beautiful backdrop for sipping wine on the patio. The winery’s French-style dry rosé has been a standout in recent years. Burntshirt also pays homage to Hendersonville apple country with its pleasantly sweet apple wine.
Two miles away, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards grows grapes on land that’s been farmed by the same family for nine generations. The first winery in Henderson County, Saint Paul makes wine from 14 grape varieties, including a popular cabernet franc blend. Two different styles of chardonnay, one buttery and oaky and the other a clean, crisp version aged in stainless-steel, satisfy diverse palates. The winery’s sister property, Appalachian Ridge Artisan Cider, lies across the road; the cidery makes European-style hard ciders with apples from trees imported from Normandy, France.
Stone Ashe Vineyard opened in July 2020. The owners wanted to replicate the vineyard experience of Bordeaux, France, with steep slopes, a moderate climate and comparable soil conditions. They found their perfect terroir on a 2,700-foot mountain. Stone Ashe serves five wines — three whites, one red and one rosé — in its tasting room with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of Bearwallow, Sugarloaf and Bald Top mountains.
Point Lookout Vineyards also pairs its wines with stunning views. The mountaintop vineyard has a 4,000-square-foot open-air tasting room made from hand-hewn cedar logs. On colder days, a fireplace and clear drop-down curtains allow visitors to stay cozy while admiring a 270-degree panoramic view. Nearly a dozen wines are made from grapes grown on-site, and the winery also serves a variety of meads.
Small and purposeful is the mission of Sawyer Springs Vineyard. This winery is a family-run operation on land that has been farmed by the same family for six generations. Sawyer Springs produces small-batch vintages and serves them in a rustic tasting barn. Grape varietals include cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, riesling and muscadine.
Marked Tree Vineyard, located at an elevation of 2,300 feet, is the first winery in Flat Rock, just outside of Hendersonville. It offers 10 wine varieties in a picturesque setting, surrounded by vineyard views with mountains in the distance. Red wine drinkers delight in the signature Watershed blend, while chardonel, an American hybrid grape, provides an interesting twist on chardonnay.
To learn more about these Crest of the Blue Ridge wineries and all Hendersonville has to offer: www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org or (800) 828-4244.