There was a time not long ago when the hardest part of taking a weekend field trip to a Carolinas winery was getting there: Those vineyards were few and sometimes far between.
Now there are more than 130 vineyards and/or wineries in operation; the trick is deciding where to go. And for these agri-businesses, garnering new or repeat visitors means moving beyond wine festivals: There are at least 23 of them scheduled for 2015.
This makes food a pull – and not necessarily what you might expect. Consider what’s going on this weekend alone.
RayLen Vineyards & Winery in Mocksville has been staging its 12th annual Gumbo Festival, pegged to Mardi Gras season; it started in February and wraps up Saturday. The winery teamed up with Foothills Brewery, which serves hot gumbo from noon to 4 p.m. Your ticket – $15/advance, $20 at the gate – includes entry, a bowl of gumbo, a glass of wine and a piece of king cake: a tiny figurine of a baby is hidden in each cake and finding it in your piece promises good luck. Dr. Bacon, an Americana band from Boone, will perform from 1 to 5 p.m. You must be 21 or older to attend.
Mocksville is an hour north of Charlotte, via I-77, I-40 East and U.S. 64 East.
On Sunday, Grove Winery and Vineyards in Gibsonville is holding an N.C. Food Truck Rodeo from noon to 4 p.m. The family-friendly event is held the second Sunday of each month at this Guilford County operation, and there’s no admission fee. Food trucks – usually five to 10 – from the Triangle, Triad and even Charlotte park there to sell their wares, which can be consumed in seated dining areas. Grove wines and area craft beers are sold; there are activities for kids.
Gibsonville is less than two hours northeast of Charlotte, just east of Greensboro, via I-85 and N.C. 61 North.
In the Yadkin Valley north of Charlotte – the state’s largest concentration of wine operations – the five operations in the Vineyards of Swan Creek Association are staging a wine and cheese celebration Saturday (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-5 p.m.) at their sites: Raffaldini Vineyards (in Ronda) and Dobbins Creek, Laurel Gray, Shadow Springs and Windsor Run (all in Hamptonville). Each will offer a complimentary sample – one of its wines paired with cheese from Ashe County Cheese of West Jefferson. You can easily visit all five participants: They’re only 5 miles apart. You must be 21 or older to attend.
The wineries are about 75 minutes north of Charlotte, via I-77, then west on U.S. 421 to Clingman Road. Get a map at www.swancreekvineyards.com/133-2.
Bordsen is the Observer’s travel editor.
If you go
RayLen Vineyards & Winery, 3577 U.S. 158, Mocksville. Details: 336-998-3100; www.raylenvineyards.com.
Grove Winery and Vineyards, 7360 Brooks Bridge Road, Gibsonville. Details: 336-584-4060; www.grovewinery.com.
Vineyards of Swan Creek, Hamptonville and Ronda area. Details: www.swancreekvineyards.com.