In 40 years, Hinnant Family Vineyards has had time to grow 87 acres of muscadine grapes that have been turned into succulent wines, some as old as the vineyard itself. While the wines are the specialty, the team also opens its gate to visitors seeking to learn about winemaking, picnic on the wraparound porch, celebrate their weddings, or attend a summer music festival.
Spread across Lu Mil Vineyard's 58 acres are an antique museum, a handful of cabins for overnight stays, a tasting room, and of course grapevines. Rows upon rows of sweet muscadine grapes are cultivated at the farm, named for its late owners, Lucille and Miller Taylor. In addition to producing a suite of wines, Lu Mil sells a selection of house-made jellies, jams, and NASA-engineered spittoons.
Since 2005, the award-winning Cypress Bend Vineyards has harnessed the rich flavors and antioxidants found in the muscadine grape. The wonder fruit has resulted in the creation of wine varietals including 13 Muscadine, one Cabernet Franc, and one Malbec. Cypress Bend's winemaker leads tours through the vineyards to detail each step of this process, from grape plucking and fermentation to monitoring each grape's 401K as it ages. The flourishing soil also plays home to live events throughout the year, such as Friday-night jazz or beach music concerts.
Railhouse Brewery founders Mike Ratkowski and Brian Evitts both did stints in the armed forces before they met while working the same job. The two shared an interest in the effervescent qualities of a good beer, and in 2009, they turned that passion into a business. Brian, a homebrewer for 20 years, oversees the production of the company's five main beers?oatmeal stout, brown ale, pale ale, honey wheat, and barley wine?and Mike handles operations, sales, and the number of bottles of beer on the wall. Together, they help bring Railhouse brews to 14 restaurants and bars in the Sandhills.
The Railhouse Brewery also frequently hosts concerts and festivals, and holds cornhole tournaments every Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, check out the event page or send a pack of investigative hops to visit the brewery.
One of the best times of day at Horizon Cellars is dusk. That's when guests out on the covered deck can relax with a glass of wine and watch the setting sun turn the clouds over the Mount Vernon Springs ridge line a soft pink. On weekends, guests can bring a picnic basket and blanket to the winery and sip everything from sweet plum wines to mellow white wines while playing fetch or Monopoly with the dog.
Inside the tasting room, which is located atop a rolling ridge, guests sample Horizon's wines and meads. Its meads are similar to its wines, but are made with honey from Horizon's bee farm instead of grapes. The winery's tasting menus change depending on season and availability, so Horizon recommends that visitors call ahead for a listing of that day's wines.
Highlighting juried art from potters, metal workers, glasswork artists, and musicians, the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival encourages guests to enjoy fine wines while browsing the many booths of hand-crafted work. The indoor and outdoor market spans two days, during which more than a dozen wineries and breweries pour libations, food vendors sling snacks, and more than 80 artists showcase their work.