Creeping across a 5-acre swath of the Haw River Valley, 16 varieties of grapevines sprout from fertile, sandy soil, twisting their leafy arms around trellises and soaking in the lush, grape-growing climate. Benjamin's artisan enophiles hand pluck each of the muscadine, french, and hybrid grapes that blanket this vineyard. The grapes are escorted into the afterlife inside fermenting barrels where they live on as red and white wines for every taste—from dry dinner varietals and sweet country classics to seasonal bouquets. The whole creative process is observed by spectating visitors who wind through the idyllic facilities on self-guided tours—often including picnics on the winery’s covered porch, or perusals of of local art at the gift shop.
As an ecofriendly facility, Benjamin Vineyards & Winery employs sustainable practices, such as composting agricultural products, recycling bottles and other reusables, and growing plants with nightly bedtime reading instead of pesticides.
While in Sonoma on business in 1992, tech entrepreneur Max Lloyd fell in love with the fermented grape. Though his father and grandfather had been in the business of winemaking, it wasn't until his encounter with California-grown, European-style varietals that he resolved to dabble in the family trade himself. Launched as a part-time project in Virginia and transplanted to its current location in 2001, Grove Winery and Vineyards culls its grapes from two estate vineyards that span more than 70 acres in addition to a handful of local vineyards. The staff meticulously handpicks the grapes and gently presses them with a basket press to yield their fresh milk.
After earning more than 50 national awards for its beer since the 1990s, Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery turned its attention from microbrewing to microdistilling. At Top of the Hill Distillery, each batch begins with 100% organic soft red winter wheat from Scotland Neck, which distillers handcraft into a line of award-winning liquors. Those include one of the country's five wheat-based whiskeys, a sweet-tasting vodka, and a gin that packs subtle hints of vanilla, black pepper, and hazelnut. When they're not making libations, the Top of the Hill team lead tours through its USDA-certified organic distillery, which culminate in tastings of each spirit.
With the fountain chortling pleasantly in the background and the sun soaking into the fertile ground, it's easy to lose track of time at Vineyards at Southpoint. The glasses of handcrafted wines probably don't help much, either. In addition to shipping varietals to wine-club members, the vineyards offer weekly and special-event tastings, so guests can sip award-winning vintages while taking in the beautiful scenery.
Frog Hollow Outdoors's trained and enthusiastic team rekindles relationships with Mother Nature through canoe and kayak instruction, guided lake and river tours, and gear rentals. During instructional classes, the staffers teach the fundamentals of canoeing and kayaking, which include paddling basics, capsize recovery, and wet exits. They also lead adventure camps for pintsize explorers and overnight expeditions for outdoorsy vampires.
Travels In Wine Tours' co-founders, Kimberlee Young and Derek Schuler, share their love of wine, food, and travel with curious tourists through tours designed and led by certified sommeliers. Epicurean scenic tours of boutique wineries, personalized luxury Napa vacations, and custom weekend getaways marry viticultural education with flavorful indulgence as guests take in picturesque panoramas of vineyards that stretch to the horizon before curving upward and forming bridges to the moon.