Mountaintop Wine Shoppe
By Alexa Dysch and Rachel Fishman (2014)
When Highlands’s locals and visitors alike finds themselves wondering, “Where’s my wine destination?” they need not look further than the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe.
Whether you plan to grab one of their many, and unique, bottles being sold at the front of the store, or prefer to sit in the back with friends and sample wine, you’re in luck! Mountaintop Wineshoppe in Highlands has everything to offer.
Inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, while also being a bit swanky and cool. The wooden floors add to the class of the establishment, but also to the inviting feeling. About forty people can comfortably sit in the back room, either at tables of two, four, or eight, or on one of their plush leather chairs. Although cozy and not necessarily very large, you do not feel like you’re sitting on top of others. The owners, Mike and Christine Murphy, are incredibly easy to strike up a conversation with. They manage to maintain this friendly persona without intruding on customers’ time to wind down and relax.
The first room in the store boasts not only bottles for sale, but also self-service tasting machines. You can buy a “Pour Card” and be able to freely sample the wines of your choosing. At all times, you can choose from 8 reds and 8 whites. If you like the taste, you can try a full glass or even buy the bottle. Mike and Christine make themselves available in case you need a little advice in this decision.
The pairing menu is pretty extensive, with about 20-30 different types of cheeses and meats, both local and global. The wine is listed under the categories of red, white, and reserves, and then further divided by grape variety.
For a change of scenery, customers can take a seat outside and be treated to gorgeous Appalachian views around a blazing fire, while having a glass from a selection of over 500 bottles of wine.
In their first year of business, Mike and Christine Murphy find themselves discovering what works and enjoying the fruits of their labor. They strike the ideal balance between having an upscale business without excluding anyone, including those who are new to wine. Their knowledge of wine is extensive, coupled with a friendly and warm atmosphere. While the Murphys had no previous wine involvement, their business partner brought his previous distribution experience alongside.
From Western North Carolina to Western Florida, visitors from major cities and small towns stop by for great wine and wonderful company. Their varied customer base is a true testament to the population of Highlands. A primary destination for weekend getaways in the fall due to all the “ooh’s-and-ahh’s” of the color-changing trees, Highlands pulls in a large seasonal tourist population. In fact, as we were trying to enjoy the last couple drops of wine in our glasses, Mike explained to us that Highlands has only 2,500 full time residents, yet enough occupancy space for 25,000. And on the 4th of July, Highlands is visited by up to 35,000 people.
The inns in the area cater to this touristy population, providing a prime destination for weddings as well. From outdoor weddings to cozy indoor ceremonies and receptions, the facilities are well-equipped to host a good number of weddings. The Old Edwards Inn hosts 7-12 weddings per weekend! But what about the nights before the wedding day? Mike wanted the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe to be a destination for the wedding goers who travel to the area.
It’s no surprise that since their March opening, they’ve gathered a good local following as well. After a previous wine shop closed down years ago, there was an open void that the Murphys felt they could fill. The reasonable prices and the relaxing atmosphere allow for Highlands’ residents to gather at the shop, without having to treat it only as a “special occasion” event.
The trek through the windy roads along Highway 64 is a worthy adventure to reach this charming town and its wonderful wine destination. The stunning views of Bridal Falls on your way hint at the beauty of what’s to come.
A bottle at Total Wine will cost you the same, but a visit to this local gem is an experience worth more than a bottle of Dom Pérignon.