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Tar Heel Wines 

Tobacco Road is now a wine trail

One popular vacation destination is a trip to the wine regions of the West. In addition to the tasting rooms and outstanding restaurants, an entire tourist industry has emerged complete with hot air balloons and wine trains. That was not the way it was three decades ago, when Robert Mondavi pleaded with passersby to try his wines. In fact, in 1975 there were only 20 operational wineries in Napa Valley. Today there are 200. North Carolina gained its first American Viticultural Area (AVA) (appellation) in 2003. The Yadkin Valley AVA includes 1.4 million acres of Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin counties, along with parts of Stokes, Forsyth, Davie and Davidson counties. Currently, North Carolina has 45 wineries, with more opening this fall. Many of these have tasting rooms, give winery tours, and are not far from Charlotte.

About an hour from the Queen City is Richard Childress' Childress Vineyards, which opened last fall. The estate has a summer concert series on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm until 4pm. The winery is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from noon to 6pm, and their Italian bistro is open for lunch from 11am to 3pm Saturday, noon to 3pm Sunday. Winemaker Mark Friszolowski's wines include Red Table Wine, White Table Wine, Blush, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Signature Reserve, Chardonnay, Signature Reserve Merlot and Signature Meritage. (Editor's Note: Tricia Childress is not related to Richard Childress.)

Childress Vineyards, 1000 Childress Vineyards Road, Lexington. 336-236-9463. www.childressvineyards.com.

Not far from Childress is RayLen Vineyards & Winery, which is open 11am-6pm Monday through Saturday. Their wines include Chardonnay, Yadkin Gold (Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Chardonnay), Viognier, Carolinius, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Category.

RayLen Vineyards & Winery, 3577 US Hwy 158, Mocksville. 336-998-3100. www.raylenvineyards.com.

Jack Kroustalis' Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville has 60 acres of vinifera vineyards. He planted the first in 1972 against the advice of agricultural authorities. In 1990, he had bottled his first vintages of chardonnay and chambourcin. This winery produces Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Yadkin Fume, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Carolina Blush, Carolina Cuvee and Port. The tasting room is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am until 6pm, Sunday 1pm until 6pm. Winery tours are also given.

Westbend Vineyards, 5394 Williams Road, Lewisville. 336-945-5032. www.westbendvineyards.com.

At RagApple Lassie Vineyards, the tasting room is open daily from noon until 6pm. Among the wines that winemaker Linda Kings makes are Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Evening Sunset (a dessert wine) and Rockford Red.

RagApple Lassie Vineyards, 3724 Rockford Road, Boonville. 1-866-RagApple. www.ragapplelassie.com.

One of the most magnificent vineyards is Shelton Vineyards, which is a straight shot up I-77 and then only 2.5 miles from exit 93. Saturday concerts include performances by The Tams, General Johnson and Chairmen of the Board, and The Embers. The tasting room is open Monday through Saturday from 10am until 6pm and Sunday from 1pm until 6pm; admission is $5 and includes a tour. Shelton has Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Madison Lee Red, Madison Lee White, Port, Salem Fork Blush, Salem Fork Zephyr Red and Sangiovese.

Shelton Vineyards, 286 Cabernet Lane, Dobson. 336-366-4724. Web: www.sheltonvineyards.com.

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