Cape Fear Distillery: A Little Bit of Everything

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Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Distillery

From an art and memorabilia collection to a winery, a mini spa and a petting zoo—to, yes, a distillery—Cape Fear Distillery offers visitors an eclectic, multifaceted experience.


An affinity for collecting autographs, unique art and Hollywood memorabilia began innocently for Alex Munroe with a challenge from his older brothers.

Six years old at the time, the young Munroe was on a flight to New York with his father and two siblings when University of North Carolina Hall of Fame basketball coach Dean Smith boarded and took his seat.

“I didn’t know who he was, but my brothers were oohing and aahing over him,” Munroe recalls. “And they dared me to go up and get his autograph. I didn’t know any better, and he was really nice to me. I went back and showed the autograph to my brothers and they thought I was the coolest guy in the world. If you could impress your older brothers like that, it was great.

“So then I just went on autograph hunts. Whoever’s autograph I could get, I’d bring it and show it to my brothers. That is kind of what started my collection,” Munroe adds. Over the years Munroe built up his fair share of collectibles, but he didn’t stop with just autographs. Munroe’s vast collection of more than 300 pieces, which is on display at Cape Fear Distillery in Elizabethtown, includes fine pieces from the likes of Picasso and Salvador Dali, along with a stunning collection of Dr. Seuss art in what is called the Gallery Ballroom. When the 57-year-old Munroe opened his Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery in 2015, and then Cape Fear Distillery a few years later, he thought it would be an opportunity to dust off his iconic collection and display for all to enjoy.

“I didn’t know how well it would be received,” Munroe says of his art and memorabilia collection.

“I loved it, of course, but now it has kind of become a signature of the property, almost museum-like, for the guests. You’d have to go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville to see some of the pieces, or a collection like this.”

In addition to autographs and rare art from such stars as Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Janice Joplin, John Lennon and Burt Reynolds, Munroe also has Hollywood clothing from Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and others on display.

“There are some really cool pieces that are one of ones,” he says. “I’ve managed to accumulate one of the larger collections in the southeastern United States. It’s pretty unique. We have a Picasso that’s sitting beside a David Lee Roth that is sitting beside a Frank Sinatra. Where else can you go and see that type of artwork in one place? So it’s really an eclectic thing, and a collection that appeals to a lot of people.”

Some of Munroe’s favorite pieces are rare photographs of James Taylor, the Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and The Doors.

Munroe’s art is scattered throughout the property, which includes his award-winning restaurant, gift shop and distillery. Most people take an hour or more to view the pieces. A few pieces are for sale, but most items Munroe would be hard‑pressed to part with.

“Get a glass of wine or two, or a mixed drink and just stroll around,” Munroe says of the unguided tour of the art and memorabilia. “It has been proven lately that when you look at art, it releases endorphins in your brain. Those same endorphins have been proven to elicit warmth and security in people, and some kind of compare it to a little baby looking up at their mother. Think about it—after 9/11 in New York, the next day the whole city was shut down, but where did people go? The art galleries were filled. That’s the power of art, to me.”

ABOVE: Alex Munroe in front of two works of art by Salvador Dali. Alex Munroe in front of works by Andy Cobb, Salvador Dali, and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Photos courtesy of Dave Droschak. 

But art isn’t the only attraction at Cape Fear Distillery, which is less than a two-hour drive from most Triangle locations. Munroe’s vineyard operation now produces nine different wines, and his distillery also has nine award-winning craft spirits, thanks to his recent launch of two cream rums and two tequila products within the last 18 months.

“Cape Fear Distillery is our brand, so all of our products kind of pay tribute to the North Carolina coast and the Cape Fear region,” says Munroe, pointing to such names as Frying Pan Shoals Bourbon and Maritime Gin.

Samplings of the wines and spirits are available for a nominal fee, as well as tours of the distillery. You can also enjoy wine or a mixed drink in the Cork Room restaurant, along with its featured bourbon-braised ribeye steak.

Most of Munroe’s spirits are also sold at Wake County ABC stores, each with its own unique charm attached to the neck of the bottle.

No other distillery in North Carolina has such a wide-ranging wine and spirits portfolio. “I’ve been driven by the market,” Munroe says of his different alcohol offerings. “I’ve been in manufacturing and product development since my 20s, and I always loved creating new products, developing them … patenting and trademarks, and stuff like that. So it has been something that has always gotten my juices going.”

Munroe even opened a mini spa less than two years ago, equipped with a float tank that some people call a “sensory reduction chamber.” “It’s filled with 1,000 pounds of salt water,” he says. “We can cut the lights off, and it’s the closest thing to floating on a cloud that I know of.” The cost is just $50 for 55 minutes.

Visitors can also stay on the Cape Fear Distillery grounds. Brand-new boutique cottages with 19 different room options available border a 10-acre lake, with an additional seven cottages now under construction that should be open by June. Price ranges from $150–$200 per night.

“We get a lot of people going on their way to the beach,” says Munroe, noting that the property is about one hour from Wilmington and 90 minutes from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “People are starting their vacation a day early by coming here the night before they go, and then just get up from here and go check in at the beach. So it is convenient.”

Walkers can enjoy a 1.3-mile trail around the lake, and kids can partake in the property’s petting zoo, which features miniature llamas, donkeys, horses and a kangaroo, along with swans and peacocks.

And while visiting, don’t miss out on sampling Munroe’s two White Dog BBQ sauces that include a dash of moonshine (Eastern N.C.) or bourbon (Western N.C.). “A lot of people say it’s like being on a cruise ship out here,” Munroe said. “You go and have some drinks and dinner, and it’s time to go back to your cottage and relax.”

For more information or to make reservations, go to

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