One of our favorite things about living in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the artisanal, entrepreneurial spirit that is paving the way for industry everyone can enjoy. First, it was the beer scene, then the farm-to-table restaurants made their mark, outdoor activities such as zip-lining and tubing, and now — it’s the era of vineyards.
Traditional, old-world winemaking here in the mountains is WOW-ing both locals and visitors in and around Asheville. A lot has changed for the once not-so-known vineyards. Fast-forward to today, not only is the soil being tested and studied for improved, quality grape varietals, but the winemakers are pushing the limits and adjusting their process to produce top-quality, award-winning North Carolina wines.
There’s something about the seriousness winemakers are introducing in our region. Over the past decade, the transformation of the mountain vineyards here in North Carolina has reached another level. And so has our ability to visit as many vineyards as we can, in one day. That’s where Van in Black and Asheville Wine Tours steps in.
Van in Black
Meet Van in Black. Van in Black is Western North Carolina’s premier transportation service that combines luxurious travel with touring our region. Their company slogan says it all… “Let Us Do the Driving!” They not only provide the Asheville area with wine tours but, they will curate any day trip you desire whether it’s to breweries, wineries, or if you just need group transportation for wedding parties or family adventures. Basically, they curate excursions of all kinds! Including Asheville Wine Tours.
The Vans! They are gorgeous, sleek, black Mercedes vans decked out to cater to a special feeling while mingling and chatting with your group. Their goal is 100% to accommodate safety and service so everyone can fully enjoy sipping and learning about our locally crafted wines while removing the pressure of driving home afterward. And, what’s the best part? You get to visit more than one winery in one day! Perfect for bachelorette parties, large or small groups, families, friends or any mix of humans you can corral together.
We recently enjoyed the winery tour ourselves to see what all the ‘buzz’ was about and we are here to tell you that the ride was impressive, cool and comfortable.
VAN IN BLACK proudly serves:
- Upstate South Carolina (Greenville/Spartanburg)
- The High Appalachian Area
- Yadkin Valley
The Pickup Station: North Carolina Wine Academy
Ready to kick off your luxury tour on a high note? One of the best things about Van in Black Transportation is they come to you wherever you are for pickup! Whether you are in the Upstate area or up in the high country of Banner Elk and Boone, and anywhere in between, Van in Black will scoop you up and get your daycation tour started. Our group’s pickup location was central downtown Asheville at the newly opened North Carolina Wine Academy, located at 58 Wall Street in downtown Asheville. What’s this? A wine school in Asheville? Yes, you got that right!
Located in downtown Asheville on Wall Street, this recently opened academy is purely a wine certification school first but, wine enthusiasts are also welcome to come relax and taste their sipping selection during specific hours. These wine masters are highly educated and offer classes, intense wine programs for sommeliers and multi-leveled wine clubs. A new addition worth exploring here in the Asheville wine arena.
To visit the North Carolina Wine Academy, contact them via email or phone for their tasting hours.
Asheville Picnic Company + Local Treats
A full day visiting vineyards absolutely requires delicious sustenance and although most of the locations you will visit will serve various options, so we recommend choosing the ‘Add-on’ lunch option because it is provided by Asheville Picnic Company. When you select to add lunch to your tour, all you have to do is board the van, then expect to find a lunch bag with your name on it including a sandwich of your choice by Ivory Road Café along with Poppy popcorn + Asheville Gourmet Chips and, of course, be sure to save your French Broad Chocolate treat to pair with your favorite red.
Thirsty for something other than wine? The Van has you covered there as well. If you’ve opted into having lunch by Asheville Picnic Company, then you will also find their onboard refrigerator stocked with water and drinks by Devil’s Foot provided by APC.
The most notable thing about Van in Black is how unique the vineyard tours are. At each of the wineries, we met owners + winemakers who shared beyond the label about how each bottle came to be.
Marked Tree Vineyard
On the Eastern Continental Divide between Mt. Pisgah and Tryon Peak in Flat Rock, you will find a one-of-a-kind property, Marked Tree Vineyard. Birthed in 2015, this vineyard is about finding your own path. The name is inspired by early American settlers who noticed oddly shaped, bent trees in the landscape. These odd-shaped trees were formed and created by Native Americans to be guideposts through the wilderness, a guide to water, a guide to food, a guide to hunting – a navigation system.
Tim and Lance were searching for their own path, which led them to gift us with Marked Tree, a place where all our family’s different paths could cross and converge. When you arrive at Marked Tree, you are instantly greeted by their friendly staff along with the vineyard mascot, a sweet and beautiful Australian Shepard named Ellie Mae. Not surprisingly, she stole our hearts.
Marked Tree’s main attraction is all about the carefully selected grapes that are now producing award-winning wines. Tim and Lance studied the soil and selected grapes that would grow well in their rocky, mountainous climate.
The varietals growing at Marked Tree are mostly French hybrids and Vinifera native to the Mediterranean region. The sugars, color, and tannins ripen nicely in this vineyard achieving flavors that will knock your hiking boots off!
Leaving Henderson County, we headed for the up-and-coming town of Mill Spring in the Tryon area where the Tryon International Equestrian Center is located. Prior to the expanding equine industry happening in Polk County, sits not 1, not 2, BUT 3 not-so-little vineyards who surprised the hell out of our taste buds and wined our hearts.
First up? Parker-Binns Vineyard (PBV) in Mill Spring, NC.
Visiting the Parker-Binns Winery is vastly different yet was equally enjoyable. You will trade modern architecture for country vibes and a multi-generational family experience. The sweet owners and their adorable pup, LuLu, greeted us with smiles eager to enlighten us about their wines. They could not wait to educate us about their history, the grapes, and their unique winemaking strategies.
They allowed us to tour behind the scenes with winemaker Justin Taylor, who walked us through his innovative wine-making ideas and process. Any wine enthusiast would be greatly impressed with Justin’s knowledge for fermentation, drying of the grapes and barreling.
Overmountain Vineyards (OMV) is a family-run, woman-owned winery situated on a 70-acre family-owned farm in the Tryon Foothills. With a father-daughter wine-making duo creating wines and all with the help of volunteers during the harvest season. The tasting patio was shared with two adoring Great Danes and was completely encapsulated with Spanish influence, eclectic artwork, incredible plants, including vibrant aloe and captivating fiddle leaf fig trees. Oh, and their vines are 20 years old.
Sophia will welcome you while going above + beyond to make sure your group is situated and attended to with the utmost quality service. She too cannot wait to speak about her family’s farm, how deeply rooted it is, how their approach to wine-making is special, as well as, their muscadine grapes, blueberries and figs.
Overmountain prides itself on its small-batch wine crafting and is structured to integrate education with your tasting. They refer to themselves as the ‘Boutique Winery’ because they only invite adults and are reservation only providing an immersive tasting experience only Overmountain can do.
Mountain Brook Vineyards
Also nestled in the Tryon Foothills of North Carolina, just minutes from the Tryon International Equestrian Center, Mountain Brook Vineyards (MBV) offers not only incredible wines but breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains and their 7-acre vineyard. Mountain Brook Vineyards was first planted in 2002 and gained new owners in 2018.
The new owners are committed to planting varietals that grow extremely well in our mountain climate resulting in top-quality flavors. Currently, you can visit Mountain Brook Winery and sip wines that are made and bottled under the Mountain Brook Vineyards label from grapes that are sourced from around the finest growing regions in the U.S. You may be asking why? Under the new ownership, it was recommended by the Napa Valley expert soil scientists they hired to start over with strategically, redesigning their planted rows so they are more suitable for growing excellent grapes.
Fast forward a few years… Mountain Brook’s grapes are producing wines from the finest of North Carolina vines and soil. Beyond the wine experience at Mountain Brook Vineyards, let us speak to you about the colorful views and landscape. Everything from the patio seating, to the designing and layout of the vineyard itself, so much thought and curating went into building this experience for their guests.
This winery takes you to another place. One that is fairy-tale and vibrant all in the same visit. Take it from us, no matter what, you need to visit this winery no matter the season, even in the winter, their enormous fire pit will keep you toasty while the wines warm your tummy.
Now that you know more about Van in Black and Asheville Wine Tours, who’s ready to spoil themselves with a luxurious tour? Get ready to fast-track visiting your favorite wineries with Van in Black. They have closely partnered with all of the North Carolina and South Carolina wineries who will be expecting you. Cheers! And happy travels to you and your circle of wine enthusiasts.