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Asheville's Art and Wine Boom

WHERE TO SIP Believe it or not, western North Carolina is the East Coast's newest wine region (the state ranks 10th nationally in grape production), and it's tearing through the roster of cold-climate vinifera, producing self-possessed Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, and Viogniers that are good enough to drink right now. Founded by a textile executive and his wife, Rockhouse Vineyards (1525 Turner Rd., Tryon; 828/863-2784), a half-hour's drive south from Asheville, is bottling some of the most promising Cabernets and Chardonnays in a corner of the state that once produced only lowly table grapes. Rockhouse wines are vinified on the premises and stored in the stone basement; upstairs, there's a Stickley-esque tasting room with a copper-topped bar. • Biltmore Estate Winery (1 Approach Rd.; 800/543-2961 or 828/225-1333) is attracting crowds to its beautifully restored dairy barn turned tasting room. Not all of Biltmore's bottles are worthy of their lush setting, but some are head-turners, including the sparkling wines and the Chateau Reserve wines (at about $20 a bottle), made exclusively from grapes grown on the Vanderbilt estate. • The blend is the thing at Shelton Vineyards (286 Cabernet Lane, Dobson; 336/366-4724), in the Yadkin Valley, 2 1/2 hours from Asheville—an ideal destination for a day trip. The well-financed venture aims to give Bordeaux a run for its money. Sample the winery's luxurious Family Reserve claret ($50) and the award-winning Madison Lee blend (a great value at $10) in a cathedral-ceilinged tasting sanctuary. • Back in town, the Asheville Wine Market (65 Biltmore Ave.; 800/825-7175 or 828/253-0060) carries all the best North Carolina vintages and has an exceptionally knowledgeable sales staff.

WHERE TO SHOP Asheville is home to one of the first malls in the country, the Grove Arcade; erected in 1929 right in the center of town, it was recently restored to its full Art Deco grandeur. Even so, Versace probably won't be setting up an outpost here any time soon. Instead, you'll find the South's best selection of arts—from fine to crafty, from 19th-century portraits to hand-carved maple rolling pins. Whether you're equipping yourself for a summerlong hike on the Appalachian Trail or just looking for a good book to read in an afternoon on your hotel's front porch, you'll find it here. Bookworms and browsers throng Malaprop's Bookstore & Café (55 Haywood St.; 800/441-9829; www.malaprops.com) on the main shopping drag. Malaprop's has fed the intellectual cravings of Buncombe County since 1982 and it's also a great place to pick up entertainment weeklies like Mountain Xpress. • Along the Blue Ridge Parkway—one of the nation's most scenic routes—the Southern Highland Craft Guild (Folk Art Center, Mile 382, Blue Ridge Pkwy.; 828/298-7928; www.southernhighlandguild.org) offers the area's best collection of indigenous crafts, including quilts and ceramics, in styles from rustic to lace-light. • Preppies and gorp-munching backpackers alike flock to Mast General Store (15 Biltmore Ave.; 828/232-1883), a clothier and outfitter that's been supplying togs for every occasion—from cocktails to camping—since 1883. • Longstreet Maps & Prints (8 Biltmore Ave.; 828/254-0081; www.thesciencebookstore.com), on the town square, holds one of the Southeast's finest collections of antiquarian maps, photos, and prints, with a specialty in panoramic photographs. • Sign up for a two-week residency in pottery, glassblowing, metalwork, or weaving at the esteemed Penland School of Crafts (816 Penland School Rd., Penland; 828/765-2359; www.penland.org), a beautiful hour's drive out of town, or just visit the school's gallery, which sells the instructors' handiwork and a wide selection of books. • If you forget sensible shoes, visit Tops for Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave.; 828/254-6721), a vast footwear emporium with two floors of everything from Taryn Rose and Cole Haan to Birkenstock and a twice-yearly buy-a-pair-get-a-second-pair-for-half-price sale.

WHERE TO GALLERY-HOP A party atmosphere descends on the streets the first Friday of every other month, from April through October, when Asheville's many art spaces stay open until 8 p.m. for Art Walk. Log on to www.ashevilledowntowngalleries.org, or stop in at Malaprop's bookstore to pick up a guide. • The top gallery in town is the spacious three-story Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave.; 828/251-0202), which specializes in Southeastern painters and sculptors. It has a deep collection of pastels by Will Henry Stevens (1881–1949), who managed to marry his Cubist tendencies to the moody Southern landscape. • For the optimum craft perspective (with an emphasis on artisan-made fountains, furniture, and lamps), New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way; 828/274-2831; www.newmorninggallerync.com) in Biltmore Village, opposite the gates to Biltmore Estate, offers a bridal registry and enough on display (delicate pottery, handblown stemware, and wrought-iron bed frames) to give you objet overload. • Local work is shown in a more intimate setting at Ariel Craft Gallery (46 Haywood St.; 828/236-2660; www.arielcraftgallery.com), a cooperative gallery where the person explaining a piece to you is often the artist herself. • The funkiest, crunchiest arts vibe can be found at Sky People Gallery (51 N. Lexington Ave.; 828/232-0076). The work of the 28 artists who exhibit here offers great browsing and quirky gifts.

MATT LEE and TED LEE are T+L contributing editors.


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