Sunday, February 8, 2015

Triangle Wine Experience celebrates 22 years of fundraising


By Jen | Feb 8, 2015
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

“Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.”  – Plautus

And so we did at the 22nd annual Triangle Wine Experience Gala, held on Feb. 7 to benefit The Frankie Lemmon School. The Grand Gala and auction were the finale to three days of wine events – from wine dinners, trade tastings and tastings with the wine makers at select merchants – which all ended with the Grand Gala. The Gala was held in Research Triangle Park, with proceeds of the weekend to benefit the Frankie Lemmon Foundation.

We were unable to attend any of the wine dinners this year, but hope to in years to come. Several restaurants opened their doors on Thursday, Feb. 5, as wineries and sponsors hosted the evening with the Triangle’s finest chefs for a delectable meal paired with the finest wines.

Niles Zacherle was having fun at the Triangle Wine Experience's Grand Gala.
Friday evening, some wine makers took their show on the road, along with some of their finest wines, to local wine merchants who hosted the ‘Sip, Shop & Sign’ events open to the general public and offering an opportunity to sample some outstanding wines from California. 

Triangle Around Town made it out to Raleigh Wine Shop on Glenwood Avenue for the wines of Nile Zacherle. Niles was a fantastic host as he talked about each wine he poured – including at $200 bottle of David Arthur 2012 Elevation 1147. Other shops who hosted were Apex Beverage Co., Chapel Hill Wine Company, Great Grapes, Taylor's Wine Shop, Total Wine & More and Triangle Wine Company. There just wasn't enough time in the evening to get to all of them!

Saturday evening, however, is when it all came together for the Grand Gala. The event was held inside an empty warehouse in Research Triangle Park. The room was lined with wine makers and chefs offering samplings of their food.  We even found the occasional brewery mixed in offering some beer samples. We perused the silent auction items, many of which were also wine related and so tempting to place that bid.

Steve Reynolds with Reynolds Family Vineyards is always a popular man at TWE events.
We began our trek around the room to decide on what wines we would try and we decided to stay mostly with red wines and tried to never indulge too much! One of the first people we ran into was, none other than, Niles from the night before. I have to say, we’ve attended this event a few times now, and all the wine makers we’ve met have been so friendly and talk so highly of this event and of the Triangle in general. Leave it up to good ole Southern hospitality! We ran into Scot Covington of Trione Winery out of California, and talked to him for awhile with his local distributor, Mike Miller of Big C WinesThis was Covington’s first Triangle Wine Experience and was just in awe of what a fantastic event this was.

As we made our way around the room we noticed some familiar faces, from Eliza Kraft Olander, who is the brains behind this event, to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper and restaurateur Ashley Christensen, who is also on the planning committee for this event.  It is so nice to see so many out to support and raise money for the Frankie Lemmon Foundation.

SONO chef Mike Lee, left, and his crew prepared a tasty appetizer for the TWE Gala.
We made our way to our table for the live auction, I was curious to see what items were up for bid this year. The paddles were flying and money was most definitely being raised this night with the highest bid being $40,000. That top bid was an evening with Jonathan Cain, keyboardist for the 80s band, Journey, which included a private concert and dinner at Eliza Kraft Olander’s home.

This event was a collaboration of roughly 49 wineries, with the majority from Napa Valley, 30 restaurants and around 40 sponsors.  I look forward to this event every year – as I will again in 2016.