Wine and Tartan Combine for a Scottish Winery, Restaurant & Hotel
A visit to Country Squire Winery is like taking a trip to Scotland but without the jet lag.
Nestled in the quiet countryside of coastal North Carolina, just 40 miles north of Wilmington, is a unique winery that is owned and operated by a Scots lassie. Iris Lennon and her family came to America in the 1970s and after working at the Country Squire Restaurant for a couple of years, she decided to buy the place.
Iris soon began to infuse the popular eatery with her Scottish heritage and tartan became the dominant pattern in the décor. Fireplaces, gaslight fixtures, and antiques-filled the spaces, and rooms and corridors were added giving the place a rambling, old manor house kind of feeling.
Built with antique lumber and logs from other buildings, the structure appears much older than its 46 years. The various dining rooms add to the illusion with such romantic names as the Meade Hall & Court Yard, the Pantry, the Jester’s Court banquet room, the Baronial Hall, and the Tavern, which Iris calls “a wee party room.”
In the early 1990s, the Vintage Inn motel was built adjacent to the south side of the restaurant, and in 1999, the four-bedroom Country Squire Guesthouse was opened. Today, the Country Squire is one of North Carolina’s more than 70 wineries and it attracts visitors and guests from all over the world with its great food and quiet accommodations.
Like the restaurant and inn, the idea of a winery was also an evolution. For years, the restaurant sold wine under its own label until the distributor changed his minimum order policy, requiring Iris to order far more wine than she could use or store at the time. After shopping around for a new distributor, she had an idea.
“I thought, why don’t I make my own wine, then I can put my own label on it!” So she did.
Iris’s daughter Lorraine and her husband were anxious to help, and soon Lorraine learned enough about winemaking to begin producing the restaurant’s house wines, which they introduced in September 2006. Soon afterward they opened the tasting room and gift shop.
Country Squire Winery produces six house wines and four premium wines with names like Highlander, Court Yard Maiden, Squire’s Best, and Black Knight. Some of the wines are named for rooms at the Squire and Iris says naming them has been fun.
Currently, Country Squire wines are sold in the restaurant, in the winery gift shop, and on their website. The wines are also sold in a few local shops and restaurants as well as at annual festivals such as the Muscadine Festival in Kenansville and the Kiwanis Sun Fest in Surf City, where they are sold by the glass.
Iris says they have been buying their grapes from growers around the state, but recently they planted a few acres of Muscadine grapes so they can produce an estate wine.
Wine production takes place in a separate building on the property, but the Tartan Tasting Room is located in the restaurant in a 200-year-old house that was moved onto the property and renovated. Part dining room, part wine shop, the 18th Century structure offers visitors more than just a glass of wine and wine-related merchandise. Iris says with a twinkle in her eye, that it just might be haunted.
“The Squire’s ghost came with the building,” she says as she points to a photograph of the outside of the old house that appears to have a face looking out of a window.
Employees have heard voices and singing at times when no one was in that part of the restaurant, but then, that’s the way it should be. What’s an old Scottish inn without a ghost?
Country Squire Winery, 748 NC Highways 24/50, Warsaw, NC 1-877-830-1602