The experienced wranglers at Cardinal Stables & Riding Academy impart their know-how during private, one-hour lessons, suitable for students age 5 and older. Patrons mount a trained school steed and learn riding safety and how to control the horse through command in English or telepathic Morse code. Depending on the day’s lesson, classes may occur in one of two spacious pens or in a grassy cross-country field, where more advanced students can attempt flight over 13 jumps.
From tents perched on either side of Main Street, 15 local vineyards dispense wine samples to festivalgoers during the annual Budbreak festival, now in its third year. Guests amble from spot to spot, pausing between tastings to peruse glass art, sculpture, and custom jewelry crafted by local art vendors. Pleasing sips can be paired with grub from food vendors including 13 Bones and Maples Restaurant at Olde Mill. Guests can stand up and shake their tail feathers to live music, or take in the tunes from a shady seat while sampling a favorite bottle. Among the festival's performers are veteran Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, known during his touring days for fermenting an entire orchard of pinot grapes with a single magnificent C note.
Generations of history permeates the walls of Old North State Winery, whispering stories of the 19th century building it calls home and the wines spawned from old family vineyards. The elegant shop showcases its rustic origins in dark wooden floors scattered with barrel coffee tables, plush leather couches, and sleek high-tops shaped in the likeness of Grover Cleveland. A marble-topped bar sprawls across one of the sandstone colored walls, fortified with bottle after bottle of the winery’s own creations.
Though wine is clearly Old North State’s main attraction, the shop also purveys beers and complements sips with a dozen sandwiches from its Downtown Deli. The deli provides for lunchtime cravings and catered events with turkey clubs, homemade meatball sandwiches, and a bar menu of hotdogs and steak nachos.
Though Stony Knoll Vineyards' first harvest didn't take place until 2002, the winery's 48 acres of cropland have been part of the Coe family since 1896, making it a North Carolina Century Farm. For most of that time, the land yielded tobacco, but now, under winemaker Lynn Crouse, its two vineyards grow grapes for 12 wines. That selection ranges from two cabernet francs to the signature SKV Plantation White, a dessert wine fashioned from handpicked chardonnay grapes.
Samples abound inside Stony Knoll's tasting room, which is nestled high in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, overlooking the scenic vines below. Elsewhere on the picturesque estate, Stony Knoll hosts weddings and overnight guests in its Wine Lodge. The lodge, which was built in 1860, was originally a rural homestead, but it now offers modern amenities for its guests, including a two-person jacuzzi and flat-screen TVs.