The Blue Ridge Mountain town of Hendersonville is the latest North Carolina region to receive federal recognition of its vineyards and wineries. This past July, Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County became an American Viticultural Area, or AVA.
Only regions that have distinctive soil, climate and elevation earn this designation. Warm days and cool mountain nights during the growing season, along with the right soil and water quality, provide favorable conditions for grape production. The county’s rolling vineyards produce high-quality classic wines from European vinifera and French-American hybrid grapes, as well as sweeter wines crafted from grapes native to North Carolina.
“For visitors, the AVA designation lets them know that we are serious about growing grapes in this region, and they can expect a higher-quality wine and a better product,” says Sandra Oates, owner of Burntshirt Vineyards.
Burntshirt is one of three wineries located in the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA. The estate-grown winery operates 30 acres of vineyards at two different sites located on both sides of the Eastern Continental Divide. The winery and tasting room overlook 19 acres of grapes off of Sugarloaf Road just east of downtown Hendersonville. Burntshirt produces more than 20 wines, varying from bold reds, such as cabernet sauvignon, to a refreshing vidal blanc and dry rosé. The apple wine, made from local Henderson County apples, is a nod to the area’s apple-growing tradition.
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 opened in 2012. Wines are made from 14 grape varieties, including the popular cabernet franc blend called Queen and a buttery oaked chardonnay, as well as a crisp stainless-steel chardonnay option.
Newcomer Point Lookout Vineyards opened its mountaintop tasting room in June 2018. The 4,000-square-foot open-air pavilion is constructed of hand-hewn cedar logs and offers visitors 270-degree panoramic views to enjoy while tasting. Ten wines, six reds and four whites, are made from grapes grown on-site, and the winery also serves a variety of meads.
All three wineries in the Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA are located along Hendersonville’s Cheers! Trail, which highlights locally made wine, mead, beer and cider. To plan your Cheers! Trail journey, go to www.CheersTail.org or call (800) 828-4244 to request a map.