Dining

A Syndicated Column By Bobby Fitzgerald

Wine Life Beyond California and New York

While wine from The United States is most well known when produced in New York or California, there are many other fine wine growing regions in the USA. This is the first of a four-part series on other wine growing states. Perhaps when traveling you can take one in. Having lived in Napa Valley myself as a young chef, one thing that really impressed me about visiting wineries in other states was the level of enthusiasm present. These wine growers are determined not to live in anyone's shadow.

The state of North Carolina is home to over 400 vineyards and more than 100 wineries and continues to grow. Since 2001, the number of wineries registered in the state has quadrupled. The main grapes grown in this region are the European-style vinifera grapes, which produces varieties such as Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the native muscadine grape. About 65 percent of North Carolina wines are grown as old-world European varieties. The most popular winery in North Carolina is located at the famed Biltmore Estates in Asheville.

It may be surprising but the grape vine was introduced to the New World in North Carolina not long after Sir Walter Raleigh landed own its beaches, making this state the original wine grower in America. The first cultivated grape in America, the scuppernong, was grown in North Carolina. In the early 20th century, North Carolina was actually the leading wine producer in the country. What hindered the North Carolina wine industry was prohibition. During this time period, the drinks being produced from illegal distilleries throughout the North Carolina Mountains was much more lucrative and grape growing lost its appeal. But by 2011, the industry has experienced a major rebirth. Just from 2005 to 2009, there has been an increase of 58 percent in wine sales of local wines and grapes.

North Carolina starts with sandy beaches and ends with a luscious mountain range. The land and climate is varied yet rich throughout the state, allowing for a variety of flavors to be found in its wines.

The most famous of the North Carolina wineries are found in the Yadkin Valley, which is North Carolina's first approved American Viticultural Area (AVA). This mountainous area is found in the northwestern part of the state and features a river valley and the unique blend of ancient soils and climate. This unique blend is showing that world-class wines can come out of North Carolina. In Swan Creek, which overlaps part of the Yadkin Valley, there are five wineries and in the Haw River Valley, there are another seven wineries. Tasting tours are popular in all three regions.

In the Yadkin Valley Region, there are thirty-five wineries and vineyards open to the public for tastings. Located in the heart of the region is the Brushy Mountain Winery in downtown Elkin. This winery has several award winning wines such as Appalachian Spring, which was a 2009 Silver Medal Winner at the Finger Lakes Wine Competition, the Red Bud Ridge Red, which was a Gold Medal Winner at the Mid-Atlantic SE Wine Competition and the Booger Swamp White Wine, which was featured on Jay Leno, by the Washington Post and won a Gold Medal at the Mid-Atlantic SE Wine Competition.

When in the Yadkin Valley or Swan Creek area, chain hotels are easily found and reserved. The Washington Post recommended the Fairfield Inn & Suites or the 1920s restored Home Coming Bed and Breakfast. If you are interested in staying on site at a vineyard, Grassy Creek Vineyard offers cabins for rent.