Last updated on February 3, 2024
Located just outside Hendersonville lies the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail. Seven wineries make up the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA and wine trail. I visited five of the seven. This area’s attraction lies not only with its wineries but within the entire Henderson County, the city of Henderson, its art, restaurants, and the area’s enchantment and outdoor activities.
The scenic beauty abounds as one glimpse at the apple orchards, vineyards, rolling mountains, and green forests, especially in the spring when everything is in bloom. The area personifies the four seasons of the year.
Not only does the area grow grapes, but it is also the largest apple-producing region in North Carolina, helping to make North Carolina the seventh-largest apple-producing state in the nation.
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Crest Of The Blue Ridge
What does the Crest of the Blue Ridge mean, and how does it relate to wine? The name refers to the Eastern Continental Divide, which divides the area into two sections: the Blue Ridge Escarpment on the southern and eastern portions and the Blue Ridge Plateau on the northern and western sides.
Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA
The Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA received its designation in 2019. The appellation is the sixth and newest AVA in North Carolina. The AVA straddles the Crest of the Blue Ridge, thus creating different soil profiles depending if you are on the Blue Ridge Escarpment or the Blue Ridge Plateau.
The area generally offers a moderate climate and elevations over 2100 feet and high-quality water for irrigation, while distinctive attributes define the soils.
The soils on the Blue Ridge Plateau side consist mainly of Hayesville Loam, which run deep and slope gently to the Mississippi River and are formed by igneous and high-grade metamorphic rock with organic matter. Soils on the Blue Ridge Escarpment side of the Eastern Continental Divide are sandy and rocky with fine granular structure and less organic material cascading to the Atlantic.
The vines on the plateau are lush and vigorous, while vines on the escarpment are reserved and struggle. Those vines on the escarpment bud and ripen earlier, while those on the plateau take their time maturing.
During rainfall, the humid air from the west moves up the mountains cooling it. As the air descends the lee side of the mountain into Henderson County, it warms, and the precipitation slows. This phenomenon with rain allows many vineyards not to need irrigation, a benefit when growers worry about climate change.
Wind plays a role in the Crest of Blue Ridge AVA. Constant breezes help by stirring up pockets of cold air in the spring, preventing frost. During the summer, the wind helps dry the vineyards.
Finally, Henderson County is located in a thermal belt, and allows for a longer growing season and a more moderate climate. This factor is also beneficial in many apple orchards.
Crest of the Blue Ridge Winemaking and Varieties
I was quite impressed with the quality of the wine from those wineries that are part of the Crest of the Blue Ridge wine trail. You will find a mix of old-world styles with a bent towards France and Italy, especially Alsace and Loire Valley in France.
Both vinifera and hybrids are grown. In whites, find grüner veltliner, riesling, and vidal blanc. In the reds, cabernet franc is very popular, as well as chambourcin.
Like most areas, the grapes let you know when to be harvested, but hurricanes also determine when grapes are picked in the Crest of the Blue Ridge. If the winemaker knows the threat of a hurricane is imminent, picking occurs earlier because both hurricanes and rain affect the taste of the grapes.
Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail Wineries
I visited five wineries on the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail, and each was unique in its own right.
Exploring the lush green vineyards and tasting the wines of the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail is a must for any wine enthusiast. The area is up-and-coming and well worth discovering. It is North Carolina’s best-kept wine secret.
Hendersonville, North Carolina
While visiting the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail, you must spend some time in Hendersonville. Its history dates back to 1841 when Judge Mitchell King donated a portion of his summer estate to establish Hendersonville. The donation had some stipulations, including the width of Main Street. The street must be 100 feet wide. At the time, the goal was to allow a carriage pulled by four horses to easily turn around without backing up.
This is an excerpt from an article on the Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Trail I wrote for Wander with Wander in August.