In 1989, Jim Kirkpatrick received a winemaking kit from his wife, Carole. At the time, neither Jim nor Carole knew it, but that kit churned out more than just wine—it also produced a dream. When Jim's homemade concoctions were a hit, the couple decided to try their hand at growing their own grapes, and soon moved to a home in Wrightsville surrounded by 3 acres of land.
Just 100 yards from Kreutz Creek, the Kirkpatrick's new location presented the ideal location to expand on Jim's newfound dream. Today, Kreutz Creek Vineyards generates an assortment of red, white, and seasonal varietals. Jim and Carole also use their tranquil grounds to host community events throughout the year, including bonfires and movie nights.
When record amounts of water from Tropical Storm Henri ravaged Red Clay Valley, it left six historic bridges destroyed and reduced the 10-mile Wilmington & Western Railroad to a mere two miles. The railroad is no stranger to change—since officially opening for passenger and freight service in 1872, the approximately 20-mile track was gradually shortened before beginning to escort tourists on steam-powered jaunts in 1966. Through all its transformations, the rail has persevered, and its encounter with Tropical Storm Henri was no exception. By June 30, 2007, the track was restored and Royal Blue coaches followed a locomotive 98 for the first 10-mile journey on the track in nearly four years.
These days, Wilmington & Western Railroad's locomotives continue to follow Red Clay Creek on leisurely round-trip jaunts, romantic rides, and themed excursions. After their ride, youngsters can learn about railroading heritage with a series of online games, and individuals or groups can charter a train for subsequent travels to any destination along the line.
Guided by wine connoisseurs-turned-creators, Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery bottles a passionate appreciation for fine wine into every vintage made on its secluded countryside property. Tours gather at The Enoteca, the vineyard's wine bar, before venturing out into the fields to see the green and purple bunches that start the oenophilic life cycle. Journeys continue to the barrel room, where rows of sealed oak casks rest and gradually transform their liquid stores into wine and corks into monarch butterflies. Tour-goers rest their feet and test their palates during the wine tasting back at The Enoteca as they comb the depths of varietals, such as the merlot reserve 2008, with velvety flavors of toasted vanilla and cherry, or the White Bottle chardonnay, a green-apple- and oak-infused drink named after the Beatles' White Album.
Built in 1750, the old bank barn on the Sweetwater Farm bed-and-breakfast property boasted a diverse resumé before it fell into disrepair more than two centuries later; it held malting barley for distilled spirits, sheltered herds of livestock, and even hosted a party or two. After a two-year renovation completed in 2010, the barn came out of retirement to fulfill its new purpose: hosting french-oak barrels and stainless-steel fermentation tanks—custom-made in South Africa—that quietly ferment and age small-batch wines from the property's 5-acre vineyard.
Grace Winery's European-origin varietals, grown on California vines that were transplanted by hand and carrier pigeon, include merlot, pinot gris, and petit verdot. Winemaker Sean Kramer combines new technology with tried-and-true tradition to create wines such as the bright 2010 rosé, which was served at the brunch the day after Prince Albert of Monaco’s wedding. His other wines include the 2010 chardonnay reserve, aged for 14 months in french oak that imbues it with dark caramel and butterscotch flavors, and the crisp 2011 pinot gris, whose light honeysuckle aromas lead to delicate hints of citrus and melon.