Living Here Guide

Slow down, sip and socialize at one of these must-visit local wineries

Cougar Run Winery in Concord purchases wholesale juice from as far as Washington, Pennsylvania, Argentina and Italy to make wine.
Cougar Run Winery in Concord purchases wholesale juice from as far as Washington, Pennsylvania, Argentina and Italy to make wine.

This local brewery boom in Charlotte is all good and well. There are about 30 breweries in the Charlotte area, with plenty more on the way. But this growth has me wondering: Where is my local winery?

Sure, the city is well-stocked with independent wine shops — I’m looking at you, Vin Master, Foxcroft Wine Co. and Bond Street Wines. But I would love nothing more than to turn a corner in South End/Dilworth and see a little thicket of grape vines and a dusty path leading to the front door of a tasting room. I wouldn’t expect a view like the one I found at a Virginia winery, in sight of a blue stretch of mountains, but I wouldn’t hate it, either.

While Charlotte wineries aren’t a trend, they’re still closer than you might think, with some less than an hour’s drive from uptown Charlotte.

“We like being on the outskirts of the city because it’s a nice way for people to get away,” said Torie Manning, event coordinator and tasting-room manager for Treehouse Vineyards in Monroe in Union County.

Not surprisingly, the issue of space in the city limits is a bit of a setback for a winery, Manning said. This establishment (which is approximately 43 minutes from my front door in Dilworth without traffic) takes up 35 acres. That includes a vineyard, picnic and seating areas, a tasting room and treehouses you can rent to drink wine in.

It’s also a nice place to drink their most popular wine, the Sunset Hills red. It’s fruity and sangria-like, Manning said. At the start of 2016, the No. 1 seller for white wines was the Sweet Union. Also: Don’t expect to find beer here.

The people behind Rocky River Vineyards in Cabarrus County (approximately 36 minutes away from my front door without traffic) needed more land than a growing city could offer, too. Kim Palumbo of the Midland winery said, “To build a vineyard we need a large amount of land for the vines as well as an area suitable for irrigation.”

What you’ll find on this land: 12 wine varietals, several flavors of wine slushies and their two top-sellers: the White Gold (a sweet Carlos Muscadine) and the Scarlet (a three-red dry blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot). And zero beer.

Palumbo said, “We want everyone to feel welcome and to be able to escape from the daily stresses of life here.”

Yes please. Over in Concord, the owners of Cougar Run Winery, Tom and Deb Filkins, weren’t deterred by issues of property space, since they don’t grow grapes on site. They just like being out of the city, operating their winery in a historical building a mile from their home. (Approximately 33 minutes from my front door.) They purchase wholesale juice from as far as Washington, Pennsylvania, Argentina and Italy to make their wine in 27 steel tanks.

Tom said the most popular wines are of the fruity, sweet variety. Specifically the Skinny Dippin’ sweet wine with strawberry-rhubarb notes.

“We try to do a very relaxed, low-key tasting,” Tom said. They don’t serve beer but are dabbling in cider-making and mead, to possibly serve in the future.

I’m a fan of his philosophy: “Life’s too short to drink something you don’t like.”

Katie Toussaint is an editor and writer with CharlotteFive at the Observer.

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