BY MARILYN JONES
The WNC Cheese Trail offers travelers a beautiful—and delicious—way to explore western North Carolina, where rolling hills and glorious countryside reign. Since its inception in 2012, the trail has grown in popularity, with an increasing number of locals and tourists enjoying the artisan cheeses offered at participating creameries.
Conceptualized by Katie Moore of Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery and Barn Door Ciderworks, and Jennifer Perkins of Looking Glass Creamery, the trail connects creameries with unique stories to tell. Carol and Lon Coulter of Heritage Homestead Goat Dairy, for example, didn’t plan on milking goats when they purchased their farm.
“We got started with milk goats by accident,” Carol says. “We bought an old farm that had not been farmed in 20 years. The pastures were covered in multiflora rose, a very thorny, invasive species.”
A neighbor suggested they get goats to eat the multiflora rose. “I thought she was crazy,” Carol laughs. “She sent me to a friend who had goats, and being a city girl, I picked out three friendly, oozing goats and came home. She asked if I got bucks or does. It turns out I had two does and a buck.”
By February of that year, they had milk and kids. After years of using the milk for drinking and making kefir, cheese and yogurt for family and friends, Carol finally convinced Lon to build a milking parlor.
A WELL-CONNECTED MISSION
The WNC Cheese Trail promotes the production and sale of western North Carolina artisan cheese, facilitates consumer education and encourages tourism that benefits trail members. Since printing the first WNC Cheese Trail map and brochure, the organization has nearly doubled in size—adding more cheesemakers and attracting the support of local businesses.
The WNC Cheese Trail hosts Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest at Oak and Grist Distillery in Black Mountain, which features more than 20 cheesemakers and numerous artisans across the region. The festival also offers workshops, demonstrations and pairings to deepen cheese lovers’ appreciation of quality cheese. Other trail events include open houses and pairings with wineries, breweries and cideries.
While exploring the WNC Cheese Trail, visitors can connect directly with cheesemakers, see where their favorite cheeses are crafted and buy cheese straight from the producers. These include cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses; fresh and aged cheeses; pasteurized and raw cheeses; and other delicious products from partner members along the trail.
Cheese making can be a tedious but rewarding business. “It took a while to learn the nuances of the milk,” says Carol Coulter. “We had to tinker with culture and rennet as the milk changed through the seasons. I think we make pretty awesome cheese now.”
WNC CHEESE TRAIL MEMBERS
Ready to explore? Here are some of the stops along the WNC Cheese Trail.
1. Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery
327 Flat Creek Road, Fairview
Friday tasting tours are by appointment only.
2. English Farmstead Cheese
19456 US 221 North, Marion
Cheese shop hours are April through November, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; December through March, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
3. Heritage Homestead Goat Dairy
956 Roy Goodman Road, Crumpler
Tours by appointment only.
4. Looking Glass Creamery
115 Harmon Dairy Lane, Columbus
Open Thursday through Sunday starting April 6, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
5. Round Mountain Creamery
2203 Old Fort Road, Black Mountain
The cheese store is open Friday and Saturday, noon–4 p.m. Tours and tastings are by appointment only.
6. Spinning Spider Creamery
4717 East Fork Road, Marshall
Email to make a tour appointment.
7. Yellow Branch Cheese
136 Yellow Branch Circle, Robbinsville
Tours are on Friday and Saturday, noon–5 p.m., and by appointment.
8. Blue Goat Dairy
Located in Vale (address not provided)
Customers can place a preorder via the website by filling out a form and listing the farm location where they would like to pick up and pay for their order.
9. Addison Farms Vineyard
4005 New Leicester Highway, Leicester
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, noon–5 p.m.; Sunday, 1–5 p.m. To visit the farm on other days, please make an appointment.
10. French Broad Creamery at Mount Gilead Farm
588 Green Valley Road, Leicester
Call or visit the website for daily hours. Tours are by appointment only.
11. Hickory Nut Gap Farm
57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview
Open daily, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Check the website for seasonal hours.
12. Linville Falls Winery
9557 Linville Falls Highway, Newland
Open April through September, noon–6 p.m.; and October through March,Thursday through Sunday, noon–5 p.m.
13. Marked Tree Vineyard
623 Deep Gap Road, Flat Rock
The vineyard tasting room is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; and Sunday, noon–6 p.m. Reservations are preferred on weekends. Email to make a reservation (include date, time, and number of adults and children, if applicable).
14. FernCrest Winery
1060 Main Street, Andrews
Open Thursday and Friday, 12:30–6:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12:30–5:30 p.m. During March, open only on Thursdays, 3:30–6:30 p.m. Outdoor tastings are available.
15. Pleb Urban Winery
289 Lyman Street, Asheville
Call or check the website for current hours. For more information, email .
16. Ripshin Goat Dairy
1865 Highway 268, Lenoir
Tours by appointment only.
Explore more stories at midtownmag.com.
IF YOU GO
Bring a cooler for the journey home for safe storage of any cheeses you end up purchasing. Some retailers offer direct shipping.
WHERE TO STAY
Pinecrest Bed & Breakfast
249 Cumberland Avenue, Asheville
Built in 1905, this restored inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers five bedrooms with en suites and more than an acre of lovely gardens.
Princess Ann Hotel
301 East Chestnut Street, Asheville
Built in 1924 during Asheville’s economic boom, this hotel is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers guests the feel of an earlier time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
WNC Cheese Trail
Asheville Convention and Visitors
36 Montford Avenue, Asheville