When most people visit the beach, they are looking to relax and enjoy themselves. Having a glass of wine on the beach or a nearby cantina is a popular way to make the beach experience a particularly pleasurable one. While sipping on chilled white at the beach might not be that uncommon, visiting a vineyard near a beach is. We typically don’t equate beach and wineries together, but this is slowly changing on the coast of North Carolina. Beach, winery, and North Carolina: Yes, drop all of your preconceived notions; you might be a little surprised at what you are about to see.
The Big White Grape
Muscadine grapes, also known as scuppernongs, are native to the Southeastern part of the United States and have been used for centuries to make wine, jellies, juice, and pies. They recently have experienced a resurgence in the Southeast due to their ability to thrive in warm, coastal environments. Appropriately, these big white grapes also make for a light, fruity, slightly sweet wine perfect for those summer evenings on the coast. Fortunately, if you are looking at a weekend trip or vacation to the Carolina coast, you can take a little pit stop at a winery, taste a few wines, and grab yourself a few bottles on your way to a nearby beach.
To the Beach!
There are a lot of great beach areas on the North Carolina coast. The Outer Banks region is especially popular and the most visited, but there are also some really good beaches on the more low-key, less-populated Crystal Coast in the central shorelines of North Carolina. You can’t go wrong with either Hammocks Beach State Park in Swansboro, NC or nearby North Topsail Beach. Neither beach is overpopulated, but there are plenty of good restaurants and shopping areas in those towns and surrounding areas. Also, both beach areas are less than 20 miles from the more metropolitan Jacksonville, NC, which has plenty of more traditional entertainment options. This region is especially great for paddlers, fishers, boaters, and wildlife viewing. If you are going to Hammocks Beach State Park, you will definitely want to check out the nature-rich Bear Island.
Back to Wine
If you are traveling to the Crystal Coast, depending on where you’re coming from, there is a good chance that you will pass through a quaint farming town called Richlands about 35 miles away from the coast. This is where Huffman Vineyards is located, which specializes in making wine from the aforementioned muscadine grapes. It’s a small winery, but they produce a good variety of wines, ranging from dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. Due to its proximity to the beach, it’s become a popular pit stop for visitors, as they do have a wine-tasting room that is open during normal business hours from Wednesday through Saturday.
While Huffman Vineyards has a larger selection than you would expect for a small winery, the Carlos variety is what you will want to get if you really want to experience the native muscadine grape in its glory. It’s certainly fits the typical characteristics of this particular type of wine with its clean, semi-sweet, fruity, light body.
Right now, there are well over 100 wineries in North Carolina, but just a handful of them are sprinkled towards the coastal regions. As the popularity of muscadine wines continues to grow and cultivation knowledge expands, this is certainly a prime location for a winery boom.
While the ability to do so is not common knowledge quite yet, picking up a unique, local wine on the way to the beach is certainly a great twist to any seaside getaway.
For more detailed information and things to do on the Crystal Coast, the Onslow County Tourism website is a great place to get the scoop.