We have traveled to the NC wine country several times. There are several different ways to experience it coming from Durham. If you feel like sampling NC wine without leaving town. Don't worry, we've got you covered. There are several wineries actually in the Triangle! We have been to both Southpoint Vineyards and Chatham Hill in Morrisville, and they both make lovely wine, even though Chatham Hill is located in a warehouse-type building in the middle of RTP.
If you feel like heading a little further afield but still not being in the car all day, you can do that as well. While we've never been on it ourselves, there's actually a Haw River wine trail featuring several great wineries near the Pittsboro area. We can wait to take a day and check them out!
Most of our experience with the NC wine experience lies with the wineries that are a little further afield. We frequently make the drive along I-40 heading west whether we are headed to my grandmothers house in TN or to Asheville. I-40 conveniently passes directly through portions of NC wine country. So, you can actually plan out a winery tour only traveling several miles off of the freeway. My husband and I did that a few months ago on our way up to Asheville and visited 4 lovely wineries with great, award winning wines and still made it to Asheville in plenty of time for dinner.
If your really ready to check out all that NC wine has to offer, we suggest heading to Yadkin Valley and taking time to check out all the wineries there. That's truly where NC winemaking is at its most abundant with more wineries than you could ever want clustered in that general area. It is located north and a little west of Winston-Salem so you would probably want to find someplace to stay the night if you wanted to visit Yadkin Valley.
What we liked: We love how many great wines there are in NC! There are reds and whites to rival any in California. In addition, it's nice to have some nearby as well as conveniently located on near the freeway. You can cater your wine tasting trip to your needs, and the NC Wine website has great maps and even trail suggestions to make your planning easier. Visiting the wineries would be perfect for a moms' vacation weekend with the girls or a couples getaway from the kids.
What we would change: The heart of NC wine country is a bit of a drive away, so it takes a bit of a trip to reach some of the best wineries. However, there are some options that are close by. In addition, it can be a bit problematic to bring kids to wine tastings. (It's not particularly relaxing.) So you might want to wait until you have some time off from the kids to check them out.
Websites: http://www.visitncwine.com/ (official site), http://www.visitnc.com/itineraries/index/all/1/100029/ (wine trails)
(More of Raylen)
(Grapes and Lake James Cellars)
(Views from Lake James Cellars)