A Complete AVA Tour

Western North Carolina currently has a unique opportunity for a wine tour and the Van in Black can deliver on it.  With the introduction of the latest American Viticultural Area (AVA) in North Carolina, which occurred in the Summer of 2019, the “Crest of the Blue Ridge” AVA currently has six wineries around Hendersonville, NC that can technically be visited on a single wine tour.  We fully acknowledge that visiting six wineries in a single day is a lofty goal, but with the hours that the wineries are open during the busier months, it is entirely possible for the responsible drinker.  How you say?  We are glad you asked!

What is an AVA?

Since we are plugging this whole concept of visiting an AVA region, we figured it would be good to explain what an AVA actually is.  An AVA is, very simply, a specific vine growing region that is based on the unique geography and climate of that region.  It is somewhat similar to the French appellation system although it is much less regulated.  While the French AOC system (or the newer European AOS system) regulates just about everything for a specific region, the American AVA does not.  American vineyards seeking an AVA do, however, have to make a convincing argument as to why their area is unique and the process can take several years to complete.  Currently in the USA there are about 250 AVA’s, many of which are in some of the countries most well known wine regions like the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, or New York’s Finger Lakes region.  North Carolina’s oldest and probably most well known AVA would be the Yadkin Valley.

North Carolina vineyard in the Summer.

Crest of the Blue Ridge

This AVA in Hendersonville, NC is the newest in the state and, as stated above, currently has six wineries insides its boundaries:

 Burntshirt Vineyards
Marked Tree Vineyard
Point Lookout Vineyards
Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards
Sawyer Springs Vineyard
Stone Ashe Vineyards
Crest of the Blue Ridge
The Crest of the Blue Ridge!

One of the challenges someone may run into with a wine tour is the limited hours of operation of the wineries.  In a lot of regions the wineries close at 5pm or 6pm after opening at noon.  Historically, this has never been a problem in the Hendersonville, NC area as vineyards will start to open at 11am and stay open until 9pm during peak season.  This is where the opportunity to tour an entire AVA is created.  If you average 90 minutes at each winery you would easily be able to visit all of the wineries and have time available to commute between the wineries.  This would truly be an epic wine tour that would be worthy of some type of a merit badge (perhaps the Cheers! Trail Passport?).

Some Suggested Guidelines

As we eluded to above, visiting all six wineries in the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA would involve sampling a good amount of wine (assuming you are doing a tasting at each winery).  A tour with the Van in Black ensures you have a designated driver and someone who can help you maintain your overall desired schedule for the day. With tastings and schedule in mind, we offer up the following guidelines:

  1. Spit-All of the Cool Kids are Doing it! While this may sound strange to some people, spitting out wine is actually an acceptable practice when tasting wines.  In some sense, it is almost required as you really can’t taste and analyze the wine if you consume too much. All wine professionals, like Sommeliers, will spit when they are faced with tasting a large number of wines.   You could also take a hybrid approach and maybe drink the first sip to get the full experience but then spit out everything after that.  Whatever method you choose you just want to maintain your wits.  Things can quickly go downhill if you (or someone in your group) drinks too much and it could result, rightfully so, in a winery refusing service to an individual or group.  So remember…Spitting is cool!
  2. Stay Focused!  If you are doing a complete AVA tour, the tour will be about the wine.  It isn’t about the views, charcuterie, or the food truck.  While you will definitely need food for such an epic tour, you want to be mindful of the time so plan out which wineries you intend to enjoy a meal at vs. snacks in order to stick to your schedule.
  3. Keep notes! Since you are going to be tasting many wines over the tour (the actual number will depend on what each of the wineries have available at a given time), do yourself a favor and keep some notes so that you can remember what you liked at each stop.  There are some great wine tasting notebooks you can purchase that are very reasonably priced.  It also might be a good idea before you head out to learn or at least familiarize yourself with a structured tasting method.  You can search for these online or try visiting your local wine shop to see if they have a recommendation.  Sometimes your local wine shop, if you are in a wine region or big city, may have a Sommelier on staff that would love to help better understand tasting notes.
  4. Have fun! This is the most important step.  Wine is not just a beverage, it is an experience.  Have fun with it and use something like this to expand your wine knowledge, enjoy time with family/friends, and have fun!

Our Final Suggestion…

While this type of a tour isn’t for everyone, there are some out there that might find something like this educational, interesting, fun and exciting.  That being said, our final suggestion is the obvious one.  Don’t do this on your own…Hire a transportation company!  We would like to be your first choice for this or any other wine tour.  Van in Black is the highest rated provider of wine tours in the area and specializes in providing unforgettable experiences of this AVA and many other wine regions in North Carolina.  But, if you don’t book with us, please book transportation with another provider.  Don’t try to do this tour on your own. Drink responsibly and always have a designated driver. Reliable transportation makes the experience fun for everyone….Cheers!

Avatar for Ryan Watts

I am the founder and owner of Van in Black. I also started HD Carolina (the first Carolina themed channel on Roku and Amazon Fire TV) and several other service based companies located in North Carolina. I am also a musician, photographer, wine geek (WSET Level 3 in Wines Certified with merit and Level 1 with the Court of Master Sommeliers), computer nerd, and lover of all things cool. Most importantly, however, I am a husband, father, and very proud (newly minted) grandfather.

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