Catawba Valley Wine Trail depicts a diverse range of wine styles
By Jennifer Primrose
**UPDATE: As of December 2018, Belle Nicho Winery is no longer in business.
Our love of wine and thirst for adventure has taken us to the Catawba Valley Wine Trail along the lovely foothills of Morganton, N.C. – halfway between Hickory and Marion. We first stumbled upon these four wineries a few years ago as we were making our way back to Raleigh from Asheville.
All four of the wineries are within a 15 mile stretch of Interstate I-40. Each one brings its own unique feel – from the French Bordeaux-style wines of Nebo’s South Creek to the organic hybrids of Belle Nicho. There is sure to be something that inspires you to take this journey.
Our recommended route that we suggest, if going west to east, is to start at South Creek Winery, followed by Belle Nicho, Silver Fork and ending at Lake James Cellars for an easy route back to I-40.
SOUTH CREEK WINERY, 2240 South Creek Road, Nebo, NC
If you like world-class Bordeaux-style wines, then you need to make a stop at South Creek Winery in Nebo. Proprietors Jim and Mary Rowley really know what they're doing with their French-themed wines such as the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and our personal favorite, the Maestro. Maestro is a blend of Cab Sauv and Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot – and is quite delicious. If you are a fan of white wines, you might enjoy the barrel-aged and stainless steel Chardonnay wines they produce. Tastings at South Creek, which include the glass, range from $6 to $10, depending on the wines you select.
After your tasting, feel free to indulge in a glass or bottle of wine as you take in the vineyards, chill out in the wine lounge or ask Jim for a tour of the winery.
BELLE NICHO WINERY, 525 Patton Valley Drive, Nebo, NC
Next on our list is the friendly confides of Belle Nicho Winery. Owners Janet and Bridget opened their winery back in 2012, and have been producing wines using native, French-American hybrid and vinifera grapes. Make your way towards the back of the lot and around the house to find the tasting room. Once inside you can sample on an assortment of wines such as Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, Traminette and the Sweet Dog Red, a blend of Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc.
One of our personal favorites is the Sweet Dog Red, not only for its taste and cute label, but that proceeds of the sales of this wine goes towards REASON (Reduce Euthanasia, and Spay or Neuter), a group who's mission is to stop the killing of healthy, unwanted cats and dogs. Helping the animals is always near and dear to our hearts.
SILVER FORK WINERY, 5000 Patton Rd., Morganton, NC
It's a three mile drive to your next destination, Silver Fork Winery in Morganton. The winery takes its name from the two creeks that intersect on the property – Silver Creek and White Fork Creek. Once you pull up to Silver Creek, there's a good chance you won't want to leave! Outside provides a breath taking view of the South Mountains and the vineyard itself.
The rustic tasting room is a perfect place to make your way to the tasting bar and see what Silver Creek has to offer. From the Chardonnay to its Four Dog Red, your taste buds will thank you for this stop. One thing that we felt sets Silver Fork apart from other wineries was its top-notch service. We never felt rushed, which has been the case at other wineries around the state, and there always seems to be someone to help out with the tastings if someone else is busy.
If you make your visit on the weekends, be sure to check out the great sandwiches created by Betty Sperry's Farm to Fork Eatery. Our favorite combo is a bottle of Four Dog Red and a Cubano Panini overlooking the mountains with the sunset upon us.
LAKE JAMES CELLARS WINERY, 204 E. Main Street, Glen Alpine, N.C.
Lake James Cellars Winery is a family-owned and run winery that lies just a few miles southeast of Lake James. The winery does not portray the typical winery setting we have grown used to, but rather, located inside a restored 1915 textile mill building in Glen Alpine.
The grapes come from local North Carolina grape growers and the wine is produced on-site in the basement.
The building not only provides you with wine tasting options, such as a variety of dry whites, dry reds and fruity, sweet wines, but allows you to stroll the aisles of the Old Mill Antiques. Not being an antique person per se, this adventure seemed like the perfect time for us to stroll the aisles following our tasting.
Tastings at Lake James are $7, which allows you to sample from a “dry” or “sweet” line up of six wines. We decided to share a tasting of the “dry” wines. We are somewhat fortunate in that we basically share the same taste in wine, so our opinions were basically aligned. We both agreed that the Chambourcin was our favorite while Turkey Tail Red was our least favorite of the bunch we sampled that afternoon.
Once we finished our tasting, we decided to peruse the aisles of the Old Mill Antiques. Walking around you can find some fun childhood relics such as old drinking glasses of Ronald McDonald and Friends, Looney Tunes or even The Smurfs. My lucky find, however, were some old Billy Joel LPs to add to our vinyl collection back home.
Related Story: The Best Wineries of North Carolina in 2016
Related Story: Rating some of our favorite North Carolina wineries of 2014