Vineyards and Blueberry Farm in Blue Ridge Mountains
Though located half a world away from Italy, the setting of Banner Elk Winery & Villa calls to mind the lush farmland of Tuscany. Acres of neatly rowed vineyards stretch across verdant hillsides as in some Florentine fresco. The only difference is that here, in North Carolina's High Country, the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains surround the scene. Banner Elk's trout pond and longstanding blueberry orchard supply additional American-flavored accents as well as farm-to-table fare for the B & B's kitchen in specially-prepared meals available with a reservation made ten days in advance. Indoors, crystal chandeliers and ornate Victorian décor exude an Old-World elegance.
Each of the inn's suites are inspired by different types of wine. Rich burgundy tones warm the Bordeaux suite, whose windows showcase sweeping mountain vistas. In the Blueberry suite, hand-carved wooden elephant heads top the four-poster bed, and the walls radiate with deep purplish hues. In all suites, travertine marble skirts a jacuzzi tub, where guests can soothe sore muscles or reenact the grape-stomping scene in I Love Lucy.
The villa's orchards and kitchen garden supply fresh fruits and herbs for gourmet breakfast fare ranging from natural-herb omelets to Italian dandelion greens. Natural ingredients also infuse in-room spa treatments such as the grape-seed body replenisher. For a closer look at the workings of the winery, private tours include visits to the barrel room and vineyards and culminate in a tasting.
Banner Elk, North Carolina: Mountain Adventure and High Country Charm
Tucked in North Carolina's northwest corner near the Tennessee border, Banner Elk boasts a diverse topography. Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain flank the town, drawing skiers, mountain bikers, and hikers throughout the year. Elk River surges through the hilly landscape, its powerful current thrilling whitewater rafters in warmer months.
Banner Elk's fertile hillsides allow crops to thrive, as reflected in the homemade jams and artisan cheeses lining the shelves of local stores. Nearby Linville's Old Hampton Store & Grist Mill still stone-grinds grain for pancake mixes and flour. Built in 1920, the building houses a general store and art gallery, and on weekends hosts shows by bluegrass bands and champion air whittlers.