WELL-HEELED WINES IN THE TAR HEEL STATE
What's the most-visited winery in the world? The Biltmore Estate Winery in Asheville, North Carolina. More than 500,000 people visit Biltmore each year. Of course, most of them are there to see the rest of the estate, but more and more are coming specifically for the world-class winery experience.
The 90,000-square-foot winery, open to the public since 1985, is housed in a converted dairy barn. A visit to the unique facility can include viewing the fermentation and bottling rooms, strolling through the cellars, lots of special food and wine events, and tastings of many of their wines which are sold under three labels and numerous varietals.
Once the nation's leading wine producer with more than 25 wineries, North Carolina is gradually regaining the status it lost during the Civil War, as evidenced by the wine trails that lead away from Biltmore Estate in several directions. The famed Blue Ridge Parkway is perhaps the most interesting wine route, featuring several wineries that offer tours and tastings. The possibilities include the award-winning wines and artisan cheeses at Shelton Vineyards and the nearby "Blue Ridge Wine Trail" members Westbend, Rag Apple Lassie, RayLen, and Black Wolf.
North Carolina Grape Council: 919/733-7136; www.ncwine.org
Biltmore Estate Winery: 800/543-2961 or 704/255-1776; www.biltmore.com
Shelton Vineyards: 336/366-4724; www.sheltonvineyards.com
Westbend: 336/945-5032; www.westbendvineyards.com
Rag Apple Lassie: 866/RAGAPPLE or 336/367-6000; www.ragapplelassie.com
RayLen: 336/998-3100 or www.raylenvineyards.com
Black Wolf: 336/374-2532 or www.blackwolfvineyards.com