Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review: Top 15


LOCAL FEATURE

By Dathan Kazsuk and Jennifer Primrose | Dec 31, 2015
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

Looking back at 2015 it was hard to believe all that we accomplished and celebrated with our local community as Triangle Around Town. We celebrated grand openings of Compass Rose and Neuse River breweries and the 2-year anniversary of Deep River brewery and the 3-year anniversary of White Street brewery. We also celebrated our local bottle shops accomplishments with Hop Yard and Glass Jug celebrating 1-year while BottleMixx celebrated 3-years.

We toured the NC wineries and discovered some real gems. We even attended our first Grape Stomp at Gregory Vineyards and experienced using a barrel thief at Adagio Winery in Elkin, N.C. to sample a soon to be released Chardonnay. In October, the wineries of Swan Creek welcomed a new winery, Piccione Vineyards, and we attended their grand opening. Lastly of note, we did a behind-the-scenes with The Morton Group at Ragapple Lassie Winery as they recorded another episode of Wine and Real Estate TV (blog soon to be released).


Back home in the Triangle, we attended several local events including Competition Dining, the Triangle Wine Experience, For the Love of Art, Brewgaloo, the Science of Beer, Veg Fest, Tour de Brew, the Balloon Fest, the Bluegrass Festival and Hoppy Holidays at Neuse River Brewing, to name a few. We also sadly bid farewell to 518 West and Tir Na Nog.


We checked out the local music scene with just a couple of concerts this year. We saw The Stranger, a Billy Joel/Elton John cover band, perform at the Ritz and at Midtown at North Hills. Summer in Raleigh is not complete without at least one concert at the Red Hat Amphitheatre where we saw the Violent Femmes with the Barenaked Ladies. And finally, we saw KMFDM at the Lincoln Theatre.


We certainly cannot continue all these beer, wine, foodie and music events without burning off some calories. We participated in the SPCA Santa Paws 5K and the Gobbler's Run 5K in Wake Forest to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. Hopefully 2016 will see us participating in more 5K run/walk as we strive for a healthier new year.


This is just a fraction of what we've done this year which even overwhelms us! So, we thought as a 2015 Year in Review we would choose our Triangle Around Town Top 15 Events of 2015!






Name: SPCA of Wake County's 10th Anniversary Bark & Wine with your Valentine


Date: Feb. 13, 2015


Description: This annual wine and beer tasting event is held at the SPCA's pet adoption center and benefits the homeless pets of Wake County awaiting forever homes at the SPCA.


The facts: Guests were invited to taste various wine and beer selections donated exclusively by Mims Distribution Company, while visiting with the dogs, cats, bunnies and other animals at the SPCA. This sold out event had food donated by 18 Restaurant Group, Mitchell's Catering and Trader Joe's. All proceeds from the event directly benefited the SPCA of Wake County.


Why we picked this event: We chose this event as one of our top 15 of 2015 for our love of pets and all the great work the SPCA of Wake County does in advocating for those who can't speak for themselves. We've attended this event several times and plan to attend again in 2016. For more information, check out our blog "Finding Love at SPCA's Bark & Wine with your Valentine."



Crank Arm's co-founder and brewer, Michael Morris, pours a sample of Rickshaw Rye.

Date: March 19, 2015


Description: Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen is located in the Marriott downtown City Center and as the name implies, offers traditional southern cuisine. Rye Bar officially opened its doors in March of 2015.


The facts: We attended the official grand opening, featuring signature dishes and local craft breweries, including Fullsteam, Crank Arm, Mystery Brewing and Honor Brewing.


Why we picked this event: We chose this event as one of our top for the year for its southern cuisine with the likes of Caviar of the South "Deviled Eggs," Cheerwine spareribs and chicken & waffle BLT, not to mention the signature drinks. Check out our blog "Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen Hosts Official Grand Opening."



A group of beer drinkers enjoying the afternoon at Steel String Brewery's Cardinal Direction Beer Festival.

Date: March 29, 2015


Description: North Carolina breweries celebrating Spring Saisons and delicious N.C. beer at Carrboro's Steel String Brewery.


The facts: Twelve N.C. breweries pouring some great Saison beers, including Pisgah, Burial, Twin Leaf, Fonta Flora, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, Crank Arm, Ponysaurus, Double Barley, Top of the Hill, Star Point, Mystery, Raleigh Brewing Company.  Proceeds of tickets sales went to the local Farmer Foodshare.


Why we picked this event: We love our saisons and this event had some great local breweries. It was the inaugural event, and we met several friends, including our friends Rufus Hoffman and Annette Henson from Wine and Beer 101. Check our our blog "Inaugural Cardinal Directions Beerfest in Carrboro."



Deep River's Paul Auclair holds up a banner to celebrate 2-years of great beer.

Name: Deep River Brewing's 2-year Anniversary Bash


Date: April 4, 2015


Description: Deep River Brewing Co. in Clayton celebrates its 2-year anniversary with a Pinapalooza.


The facts: Around 15 employees of the brewery made specialty made cask beers for the celebration. For $15 per person, one could sample up to 15 cask beers. The event also had CJ's Street Foods and MacURoni food trucks, as well as live music.


Why we picked this event: This is one of our favorite Triangle breweries, and had a great time trying all the unique style casks using Deep River beers as the base. We also arrived early enough to receive our commemorative sampler glasses.






Name: SAFE Haven for Cats celebrates 21-years at the Tuxedo Cat Ball at North Ridge Country Club


Date: April 24, 2015


Description: SAFE Haven for Cats is Raleigh's premier no-kill cat shelter. Since 1994, SAFE Haven has adopted more than 7,000 cats and kittens into forever homes as well as provides spay/neuter services through SAFE Care Feline Spay/Neuter clinic.


The facts: The Tuxedo Cat Ball is SAFE Haven's largest fundraising event featuring food, drinks, silent and live auctions, all to help raise money for the homeless cats and kittens in our community. Benjamin Farrell of Custom Benefit Auctions led the live auction while Furry Friends Pet Sitting handed out complimentary glasses of champagne.


Why we picked this event: We chose this event for a couple reasons. Two of our kitties are SAFE Haven alumni and without the work of this organization, the fate of our two and countless others would be bleak. We always strive to support our local animal rescue organizations in the tireless and rewarding work they do to save lives.




Wine 101's Jeffrey Fieldman, Rufus Hoffman and Joe O'Keefe.
Name: Wine 101's Beardageddon: A St. Baldrick's Event

Date: May 1, 2015


Description: Everyone's favorite beer manager at Wine & Beer 101-Wake Forest shaved off his beard to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.


The facts: With support of family, friends and guests of Wine 101, Rufus Hoffman raised over $10,000 for the foundation. The night was a who's who of Wine 101 regulars, and many that we at Triangle Around Town call friends. Wine 101 tapped special rare kegs from Wicked Weed, Goose Island (Bourbon County), Haw River Farmhouse Ales and Olde Hickory. There was also a silent and live auction with many great beers up for grabs.


Why we picked this event: For Rufus! He's a great beer manager and friend. He raised all that money for a good cause. We at Triangle Around Town donated proceeds from our wine & beer club to the cause, as well as won a silent auction item which included a bottle of 2013 Bourbon County Brand Stout, as well as a barrel-aged Hardywood Ginger Bread Stout.  Check out photos from this event on our Facebook page here.




The Raleigh Wine Shop was just one of many vendors at the inaugural Raleigh Food & Wine Festival.

Name: Inaugural Raleigh Food & Wine Festival at Babylon Restaurant

Date: June 28, 2015


Description: The Raleigh Food & Wine Festival is an event showcasing the culinary talents of the many restaurats, wine shops and bakeries here in Raleigh. The festival is actually a 4-day event featuring prix fixe dinners at local restaurants, workshops and wine tastings leading up to the main tasting event on Sunday, June 28 at Babylon Restaurant.


The facts: We attended the sold out main tasting event which took place at Babylon and the new Melrose Knitting Mill special event venue. There were over 40 participating businesses from food samples to beverages sponsored by Ketal One Vodka, Don Julio Tequila and Bulleit Bourbon. Some of the participating establishments included 18 Seaboard, Driftwood Southern Kitchen, Fiction Kitchen, Happy + Hale, lucettegrace, Midtown Grille, Mandolin, Big Boss, Lonerider, Crude Bitters and Sodas, The Raleigh Wine Shop and dozens more.


Why we picked this event: We selected this event because it's about time Raleigh toots its own horn. So many cities in our great state already have festivals celebrating the great food and drink they have to offer. So it's about time Raleigh does the same.





Name: Grounds Café at Wendell Falls throws party for social media bloggers


Date: July 21, 2015


Description: Grounds Café is located in the new Wendell Falls Community just outside of Raleigh. Grounds is a local gathering place with a menu that includes bakery items, signature sandwiches, coffee from Raleigh Coffee Company and even craft beer from the likes of Big Boss Brewing Co. Grounds hosts weekly live music events, sunrise yoga, a run club and more.


The facts: We were invited to a social media/foodie event on July 21, and could not have had a better time. The evening included a DIY grilled cheese contest (which we didn't win), and tableside DIY s'mores!


Why we picked this event: We were hearing a lot about Grounds on Twitter, and thought what better time to check it out. It was also great to talk amoungst local food bloggers such as Triangle Explorer, NC Beer Guys, The Lushers, Meg Here and There and others. Check out photos from this event on our Facebook page here!




Devils Backbone brewer Jason Oliver and co-owners Heidi and Steve Crandall.
Name: Devils Backbone arrives in North Carolina

Date: Aug. 17, 2015


Description: Roseland, Virginia-based Devils Backbone is officially being distributed in the Tar Heel State.


The facts: Devils Backbone took over the second floor of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh to showcase to media and bottle shop owners the new beers they'll offer to the general public. Some of the people in the beer world that showed up to this event include the NC Beer Guys, Wine & Beer 101, Crafty Beer Shop, The Glass Jug, Taylor's Wine Shop, The Beer Dispensary, Triangle Wine Company, Total Wine, Harris Teeter, D's Bottle Shop, Big Boss Brewing Co., and Crank Arm.


Why we picked this event: To sample beers from the brewery, of course. We've had a few of the beers before during our visits to Williamsburg, Virginia. Plus it was nice catching up with a lot of bottle shop owners we usually see.





Staff Sergeant Thomas McCrae and his mother pose for a photo.

Name: Triangle Tunnel to Tower (T2T) 5K event

Date: Sept. 12, 2015


Description: The Triangle Tunnel to Tower event honors first responders and military heroes. The inspiration for this foundation comes from a NYC Firefighter, Stephen Siller, who ran 3-miles throught the Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers where he gave his life on September 11, 2001. This year's proceeds went towards triple amputee, Staff Sergeant Thomas McCrae.


The facts: This year's 5K event was held in Research Triangle Park on a rainy Saturday evening. Although the weather wasn't ideal, the 5K went on nonetheless. The National Anthem was sung by Durham Bulls Hayley Hall. Awaiting the runners/walkers were food trucks, a beer garden and live bands. To honor McCrae, Southern Pines Brewing Company made a special beer just for him – the Dirty Mac Milk Stout.


Why we picked this event: We selected this event for its inspiration if nothing else. We had hoped to attend the year before and were unable to make it. Despite the rain, we were so fortunate to be able to experience the energy this 5K emits – to witness the firefighters and other first responders participating in full gear to honor their own.




Double Barley Brewing is one of many breweries that celebrated The Glass Jug's 1-year anniversary.
Name: The Glass Jug celebrates 1-year

Date: Sept. 13, 2015


Description: The Durham bottle shop, The Glass Jug celebrated its first 365-days on Sept 12-13.


The facts: This event took place inside the shop, and outside in the parking lot. Breweries who came out to celebrate this event with some great beers include Fullsteam, Ponysaurus, Highland Brewing Co., Devils Backbone and Double Barley. Glass Jug also did two collaboration beers, one with Sub Noir Brewing and another with Mystery Brewing.


Why we picked this event: Because Chris Creech and his gang at The Glass Jug are amazing at running their bottle shop. Plus we were hearing a lot about the collabortion with Sub Noir from Michael Stagner for awhile. Also the mention of Double Barley's barrel aged Steak Cake Stout.




Musicians lined Main Street during Apex's 5th annual Jazz Festival.
Name: The 5th Annual Apex Jazz Festival

Date: Sept. 19, 2015


Description: The Apex Jazz Festival is held annually in Apex and is host to great musicians around the Triangle with an emphasis on jazz. This full day event was held on Saturday, Sept. 19 in downtown Apex.


The facts: The event draws approximately 25,000-plus music fans to the town of Apex, who was recently named the No. 1 Best Place to Live by Money magazine. The street festival operates the main stage on the Apex Chamber of Commerce property with such bands as MikeMicXer and the Sidecar Social Club. Other venues included the Salem Street Pub, Common Grounds and The Beer Dispensary. According to its Facebook page, the event was nominated for 'best festival' in the Triangle. Next year's event will take place on Sept. 17, and will be named the Apex Music Festival.


Why we picked this event: We chose this event following Money magazine's rating of the town, and decided to check it out. During our research we came across this festival and being music fans we couldn't resist. Although it was an unusually warm day for September, it did not keep the crowds away. It was a great music festival and we look forward to making this an annual event for us.


Check out photos from this event on our Facebook page here!


While in Apex we come across Cloer Family Vineyards ... read about this Apex winery here.




Pho Nomenal Dumpling's Sophia Woo hosts the event at Blackjack Brewing Co.
Name: The Great Food Truck Race

Date: Sept. 27


Description: In celebration of the end of Season 6 of The Great Food Truck Race.


The facts: The event was held at Blackjack Brewing Company on September 27 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Three local food trucks, Chirba Chirba Dumpling, Sol Tacos and Cockadoodlemoo Truck had a food challenge done realty TV style.


Why we picked this event: We selected this event to pay honor to the girls of Pho Nomenal Dumpling, who eventually went on to win The Great Food Truck Race. This was also a send off party for the gang at Blackjack Brewing Company, as they make the move to Wilmington to start up the brewery on the coast.




Lonerider's Sumit Vohra and Crank Arm's Adam Eckhardt smile for the camera.

Name: Hops for Hope

Date: Oct. 17, 2015


Description: Hops for Hope is an annual cask competition that pairs local companies with local breweries. Money raised from ticket sales and donations goes towards Children's Flight of Hope, a nonprofit that provides free air transportation to ill and injured children who don't have the means to reach a medical facility.


The facts: This year 10 local companies teamed up with 10 local breweries to create some unique and one-off cask ales. Breweries participating this year include Deep River, Aviator, Nickelpoint, Brüeprint, Big Boss, Lonerider, Crank Arm, Bombshell, Gizmo and Raleigh Brewing Company.


Why we picked this event: We selected this event because we like giving to local charities, and we love our local breweries. So this was the best of two worlds. Some of our favorite beers this year was the Wise Guy (whisky soaked oak chips and tart cherries), Rule of Three's (old-style English Ale) and the winner of the event, Breakfast Battle Dragon by Big Boss Brewing Co.




Triangle Around Town's Jennifer Primrose, left, along with Gina Sanders with Cooper and Gibson.

Name: SPCA Santa Paws 5K


Date: Nov. 15, 2015


Description: This annual Santa Paws 5K was held at Dorothea Dix campus and benefits the homeless pets of Wake County awaiting forever homes at the SPCA.


The facts: This 5K event is the largest, certified dog-friendly race in the Triangle. Following 

the race, WRAL-TV's own Gerald Ownes served as Santa Paws.

Why we picked this event: We enjoy participating in 5K runs, and this one was so much fun. With or without a dog ... it's festive. It's compe
titive. It's just fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Elkin Wineries: A day trip that's worth it



By Dathan Kazsuk | Dec 20, 2015
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Elkin, North Carolina. It's a small town that resides in two counties, Surry and Wilkes. And, if you didn't know - it has a handful of wineries that makes a day trip worth your while. Or, if you're looking for a weekend stay, locations like Frog Holler Cabins or the Fairfield Inn & Suites can fulfill your needs for a couple of days.


But after a long week of work, Jen and I decided to take a day off, and on Sunday, Dec. 20, we drove from Raleigh to Elkin to cross off three wineries we haven't visited yet – Elkin Creek Vineyards, Adagio Vineyards and Grassy Creek Vineyards.


I dropped a tweet to the the NC Wine Guys, based in Charlotte, and asked for a few good places to eat. The guys got back to us, saying we have to try the pizza at Elkin Creek – but that they only serve pizzas on Sundays. Well, that's great, because we're going on a Sunday afternoon. But just to let everyone know, call ahead to reserve your pizza dough ... which we did!


And that takes us to our first stop of the afternoon – Elkin Creek Vineyards. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the winery is a "hidden gem in the Yadkin Valley with quite a story to tell." And with our first look of the winery, we were impressed – but it's the wine that makes a winery, not just its ambiance. And Elkin Creek has both.




One by one we went through the list of wines, from the Mistela (blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Viognier) to the delightful bend, Rossa. The two I really enjoyed were the Vin Doux and Vino Limone. Both of these dessert wines really hit the spot. The Vin Doux is a port-style dessert wine made in the French tradition. While the Vino Limone is crafted in the style of the classic Italian Limoncello.


After the tasting we ordered our pizza. But word of advice – if you are in town for just a day, order your pizza as soon as you arrive. Pizza served to perfection in a small wood-fire oven could take some time. But the pizza is worth it. We ordered the Bacon and Brie pizza and enjoyed every bite of it. Elkin Creek is a place as soon as we walked out the front door said this is a place we'd bring members of our wine & beer club to share in the experience. Plus, it doesn't hurt Elkin's reputation when Southern Living magazine calls the kitchen " ... the best in the valley."


Our next stop took us to a relatively new location – Adagio Vineyards. Also located in the town of Elkin, this winery features an adequate-sized 2,400 square-foot tasting room which features a variety of locally handmade arts and crafts, as well a stone fireplace.


We were greeted as soon as we walked into the tasting room by Douglas Sanders, Adagio's tasting room and events coordinator. A very insightful host, Douglas told us a lot about the history of the vineyard all whilst pouring us samples of the 7 wines available that afternoon.


We already knew the theme of Adagio Vineyards was of a "musical" nature – with both us having musical backgrounds from back in our early days. But that afternoon we also learned that co-owner Jan Wahl is a trained violinist, and actually builds her own violins – several of them were on display in the tasting room. We also learned that Jan, along with her husband/co-owner, Tim, both work in the dental field in Winston-Salem.


Towards the end of our tasting, Douglas, in almost a low, secretive voice, asked us if we wanted to head downstairs and try a sample of the latest version of Vivace, which still resides in large stainless steel tanks.


"Sure." Who in their right mind would not want to sample a wine that's still in the making?


The three of us made our way down a flight of stairs and down to where all the fermenting goodness takes place. After showing us where the bottles are filled then labeled, we had the opportunity to sample what's soon-to-be the 2015 Vivace. After we finished our sample, Douglas went into another small room and came out with a barrel thief, and asked if we wanted to try a Chardonnay straight out of its barrel.

"But of course."



Pouring barrel-aged Chardonnay using a barrel thief at Adagio Vineyards
                         
I donned the barrel thief as if I were a master wine maker, and poured out a sample for both Jen and myself. This was fun, and we greatly appreciate Douglas giving us this experience.

Adagio Vineyards, even though it's one of the state's newest wineries, has a lot to offer, and is worth a visit the next time you find yourself in Elkin. Things can only mature from here.


Last on our agenda for the day, we paid a visit to Grassy Creek Vineyards. This winery was founded in 2003, and it was nice to finally get a chance to try the wines they offer. Inside, we made our way to the bar where we started our tasting.





For $5 you get to select six wines from the selection of 11 that were currently available (the 2013 Barbera was sold out). And for an extra $2, one could also sample Grassy Creek's 2013 Perfect Pear dessert wine.

We sampled the following: 2012 Pinot Gris, 2010 Red Barn Blend, 2008 Chambourcin, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Ruby Slippers, Klondike Farm Golden Guernsey and the Klondike Farm Guernsey Red.


The Chambourcin was my favorite of the bunch, but the novelty lies in the two Klondike Farm wines. The two Guernsey wines are actually bottled in 750ml glass milk bottles. 


Although they're a little too sweet for my taste, they would have made perfect stocking stuffers or gifts for family or friends who are fans of sweeter wines.

The Elkin area has several other wineries in the general area, including Slightly Askew, Brushy Mountain and Carolina Heritage Vineyards – but for this day trip we only checked out the wineries mentioned. A weekend stay in Elkin could lead to checking out all these wineries, and would be recommended – if you're like us and plan on hitting up almost every winery in our great state.