Attention curd nerds, cheese buffs, and foodies. It’s time to wake up and smell the gouda. As the glorious mountain sunrise emerges on the horizon to light up the beautiful mountain towns in North Carolina, it’s time to celebrate cheese season. Time to visit the friendly family of independent dairy farmers, creameries, and cheese makers in your favorite western NC mountain communities. And there’s no better path to cheesy goodness than the WNC Cheese Trail, one of the area’s tastiest attractions.
What’s the WNC Cheese Trail? It’s an innovative approach to connecting local cheese makers with enthusiastic cheese lovers. This one-of-a-kind tasty tour of cheese-tastic businesses blaze a delectable trail through the Blue Ridge mountains and across the beautiful countryside to create the perfect cheddar-lovin’ experience.
Introduced in 2012 by a group of dedicated cheese makers intent on raising awareness about the fabulous local cheeses being made right here in mountain towns in North Carolina, the WNC Cheese Trail has grown in both size and reputation over the years. Today, the trail spans across 33 counties, extending from I-77 to the western border of NC, and includes dozens of member organizations, including creameries, restaurants, breweries, inns, cheese shops, and farmers’ markets. The WNC Cheese Trail provides you with a treasure map that leads to each of these local businesses that support the industry. Just follow the map to find your favorite places for browsing, sampling, observing, tasting, and learning how cheeses are produced. And don’t be shy about buying a few favorites to bring back home.
The WNC Cheese Trail is open year-round, and since it’s virtually impossible to hit all the hot spots on the trail in one day, we recommend planning to stay a while and keep coming back for more. Some of the stops along the WNC Cheese Trail are located in or near Lenoir, which is also home to The Coves Mountain River Club. Why not combine your Cheese Trail experience with a closer look at our gated mountain community nestled in the foothills that combines rustic mountain living with some of the best outdoor amenities, including a neighborhood vineyard and garden. Just imagine sipping your own brand of wine – harvested, stomped, and aged right in your own backyard – with some crisp local fruit and a fresh creamery cheese you picked up while venturing along the WNC Cheese Trail.
The dairy closest to The Coves is the Ripshin Goat Dairy, located right along the Yadkin River in Happy Valley. Inspired by goat dairies in France as well as the historic Carl Sandburg Farm in Flat Rock, NC, this local family-owned operation once produced hand-made farmstead cheeses, including herbed chevre (using fresh herbs straight from their own gardens), goat milk feta, farmer’s cheese, and on special occasions, chocolate goat cheese truffles. Now retired, these cheese makers have turned their contemporary dairy building into a mixed-use facility, which is now used by bakers, pickle-makers, and jam and jelly makers. But they invite you to come for a tour, and say hello to their multi-generational herd of American Saanen dairy goats who enjoy grazing along 20 acres of woods and pasture on this beautiful NC dairy farm.
Plan to visit Ripshin Goat Dairy (1865 Hwy 268, Lenoir, NC) as part of your WNC Cheese Trail experience. But call ahead to schedule your tour, where you’ll meet the goats, learn about goat husbandry, and basic cheese making (828-758-0906). To purchase cheeses to take back to The Coves, be sure to stop at one of the active dairy farms, shops, and creameries along the WNC Cheese Trail, including:
Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery
327 Flat Creek Road, Fairview, NC
(Call ahead: 828-551-5739 )
English Farmstead Cheese
19456 US 221 North, Marion, NC
(Open Fri & Sat, 10am – 6pm)
Looking Glass Creamery
57 Noble Rd., Fairview, NC
(Open Year Round: Thu 3pm – 7pm, Fri & Sat 11am – 5pm)
3001 Halls Chapel Rd., Burnsville, NC
(Open Year Round: 1st Sat of the month 10am – 5pm)
Oakmoon Farm & Creamery
262 Baker Lane, Bakersville, NC
(Farm stand open Thu & Fri 2pm – 5:30pm, Sat 9am – 5pm)
Round Mountain Creamery
2203 Old Fort Rd., Black Mountain, NC
(Open Year Round. Call ahead: 828-669-0718)
Spinning Spider Creamery
4717 East Fork Rd, Marshall, NC 28753
(Open May-Dec, Fri-Sun 12noon – 4pm)
Yellow Branch Cheese and Pottery
1073 Old Yellow Branch Rd., Robbinsville, NC
(Open Apr-Dec, Tue-Sat 12noon – 5pm)
WNC Cheese Trail tours and visits are open on varying schedules throughout the year. But summertime offers special events you won’t want to miss. Last month, the Second Annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest took place on April 24th at Highland Brewing in Asheville. This lively festival celebrated the best of southern cheese and benefits the WNC Cheese Trail (a 501c6 organization). Attendees senses were indulged as they watched the process of cheese making, learn about pairings, taste the products, touch the animals, chat with the cheese makers, and the lucky were able to buy a few of their favorite flavors to take back to The Coves.
After enjoying the Cheese Trail and or a Cheese Fest experience, don’t be surprised if your friends and neighbors at The Coves Mountain River Club are wow’d by your cheese prowess and impressed by your choice to support these small independent cheese makers. And when you pair a few of their locally grown gourmet cheeses with the wines made from your home-grown grapes as you share a perfect Blue Ridge sunset with friends from your side-by-side handcrafted rocking chairs on the porch of Pisgah Mountain Lodge, you’ll wonder why you didn’t move here years ago.
This is living! This is the life! Of all the charming NC mountain communities, we know The Coves Mountain River Club is the perfect pairing of mountain and river living. Why not make The Coves your forever home. Visit our beautiful community found in the foothills of Lenoir. Invite your friends along to enjoy a unique mountain adventure on the WNC Cheese Trail, and you’re sure to melt their hearts like a creamy fondue.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 84 page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide which provides more information about living in the foothills.