Saturday, August 19, 2017

Petit Verdot Showdown

By Jennifer Primrose & Dathan Kazsuk | August 19, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Principally used in Bordeaux blends, the Petit Verdot, is a red wine that contains a lot of tannin, color and flavor to a blend. However, the grape on its own as a single varietal wine, can be a little rough around the edges.

At least 8 states here in the U.S. are now growing Petit Verdot in their vineyards, which include Texas, New York, Washington, Virginia and our own state of North Carolina.

In a side-by-side blind tasting, we obtained 100 percent Petit Verdot from a North Carolina winery and a Virginia winery. And we didn’t have to look to far to find them – they were sitting right in our own wine bar. The wines we selected were the 2012 Petit Verdot Limited Edition from the Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg, Virginia. The second wine, another 2012 Petit Verdot, hails from Jones von Drehle in Thurmond, North Carolina.

Along with our friends Chris Morton and Jason Martin from Wine & Real Estate TV, we decided to find out which one suited our taste buds the best. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sanctuary Vineyards crafts award-winning wines in Jarvisburg

Sanctuary Vineyards out of Jarvisburg, North Carolina.
Sanctuary Vineyards has won many awards for its different wines.

By Jennifer Primrose | August 18, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

When you think of the Carolina coast, what do you usually think of? The blue skies? The sun and the sand? Maybe even laying down a blanket along one of its many beaches? But you probably don't think too much about Carolina wine, do you?

If you follow our adventures, you know that we prefer the mountains over the coast, so we rarely make it out to the beach as often as we should – and when it comes down to North Carolina wineries around the coast, the common perception is that they're all sweet wines.

A few years ago, we started hearing about a winery on the coast named Sanctuary Vineyards – and that they were producing European-style viniferous wines. This not only came as a mystery to me, but almost a slight obsession ... to one day make it out to the coast to check out this winery.

In 2016, while attending the Raleigh Food & Wine Festival, we were finally able to sample the wines produced by Sanctuary. I was honestly shocked, as it was not what I would normally expect to taste from a coastal winery. In fact, following our recent trip to Sanctuary, a good friend even said to me, "Surely they get their grapes elsewhere!" But that's not the case. We have always been told that the only grapes that do well on the coast is Muscadine. And again, if you know us, you'll know that we're personally not fans of our sweet grape that calls North Carolina home.

Related Story: Celebrating Raleigh’s Culinary Appetite at the Raleigh Food & Wine Festival

I find it rather surprising that it took us basically a year-and-a-half since we first tried Sanctuary's wines at the food festival, until earlier this month to go check them out. But we finally decided to hop in the car for what became a whirlwind day trip on a rainy Saturday to pay them a visit. Once we reached our destination, we were greeted by the winery's tasting room manager, Elton Singletary.

Elton informed us that general manager and vineyard manager, John Wright, will be meeting us shortly, as he was doing some work out in the nearby vineyard. Prior to our arrival, we reached out to John to see if he'll be available to chat with us, and show us around.

While we waited for John's arrival, Singletary treated us to a reserve tasting of roughly 6 wines with very generous pours. We tried everything from an Abarino to a Orange Viognier. We sampled the Double Barrel – an estate grown blend of 50 percent Tannat and 50 percent Petit Verdot, which was incredible. We even learned about a grape we had never heard of before – the Aglianico, a black grape typically grown in the southern regions of Italy. Along with those wines, we also tried The Pearl, the winery's top-seller. The Pearl is 100 percent Albarino, and a winner of a gold medal at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition.

Almost as soon as our tasting concluded, John made his way in from the vineyard and behind the tasting room counter to greet us. After a short conversation, and sampling a few more wines, the three of us hopped into John's Toyota truck and viewed the property – from the Currituck Sound on one side, to the North River on the other.

On the North River side of the property, John showed us some of the young vines, whose fruit won't be seeing the crush pad anytime soon, as well as a plot of land which they hope to grow more grapes on in the future. 

On the Currituck Sound side, he drives us towards the rear of the property where he shows us the location where the Vineyard Voyage arrives after a six-mile ride across the Currituck Sound to Sanctuary Vineyards. The Vineyard Voyage is a boat tour conducted by Outer Banks Boat Tours. Once docked here, guests are transported on an open air 4x4 safari vehicle to the vineyard for a wine tasting experience sure to please.

For more information on the Vineyard Voyage, click here

All this was going on while trying not to jump out of our skins every time the propane cannons randomly fire to deter the birds from eating the grapes.

And still wondering how almost 25 acres of grapes can grow along the coast, John explains how the marine climate and sandy soil actually helps with the grape growing. He kicked his heel into the soil several times for us to reach down and rub the sand between our fingers – even in the middle of a rainy day, the soil remained dry.


The history of Sanctuary Vineyards, or at least its property dates back hundreds of years, with several generations of Wrights' living on the property. As far as the winery goes, Sanctuary was established back in 2001, beginning with a single Muscadine vine. Today the property grows an assortment of varietals which include everything from Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Norton, Chardonnay, Petit Menseng, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, as well as others mentioned earlier.

There are around 2.5 acres of brand new Pinot Noir growing, which is expected to mature by 2019 and start their journey from crush pad to bottles, while the Tannet is looking to make it big in the next year or so. We were given a lot of information on our tour, and the one thing I noticed is the passion and pride John has for his business. His heart is in it, and we can only imagine what the future holds for the winery.

After arriving back at the winery, John let us taste an experimental wine that won't be released to the public for at least another year. With a great experience we had on this rainy afternoon, we left the winery with four bottles to bring home: The Triangle, the Orange Viognier (a rosé which will be added to our summer blog series, Rosé and Sorbet), and a bottle of the Morton, for our friend, Chris Morton.

Related Story: N.C. wineries win awards in largest American-made wine competition

In all, even though the rain did slightly invade our parade, we had a fantastic time, and the hospitality was simply amazing. We would recommend visiting Sanctuary Vineyards the next time you are vacationing or passing through the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

After a tour of the vineyard, John Wright, takes a photo with us.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

INSIDE LOOK: Durham's Unscripted Hotel

By Jennifer Primrose | August 10, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to preview the new Unscripted Hotel by Dream Hotel Group in Durham. The doors first opened on July 19, following a $19.5M property-wide renovation.

The new hotel is located at 202 N. Corcoran, the former Jack Tar Motor Lodge, and is a 74-room, boutique hotel with five locally-inspired food and beverage venues and a rooftop pool deck and lounge. Located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance from the American Tobacco Campus, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, DPAC, restaurants and bars.

When we first arrived, we were greeted with cocktails and socializing/networking before being escorted upstairs for a tour of the hotel.

We were able to tour a couple of the rooms, which are furnished with complimentary WiFi, smart LED HD TVs with Netflix and Hulu, USB charging stations, Bluetooth sound system and a fully-stocked minibar. 

Following our tour, we were led out to the Patio, a retro-inspired poolside lounge that overlooks the Durham skyline. Here we were treated to a sampling of the menu items and cocktails.

The Patio features food items such as Sushi Cones, Chuka Bun Bun, Carolina Popcorn, the Patio Burger, Lamb Pops and the Fullsteam Roasted Chicken. We look forward to visiting again sometime, perhaps for a weekend, staycation, getaway.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Say Beans! Family travels leads to bean adventure, but no secret recipe

By Jennifer Primrose | August 8, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

In July, I took a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a family vacation. Little did I know that en route to our destination, would we pass the Bush's Beans visitors center. There's nothing I love more than going on a road trip and finding new and interesting places to visit. On our way home, we did just that. We stopped at the visitors center not knowing what to expect and it actually ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. 

As we walked in, we noticed the Bush's Theatre, where they were getting ready for the next showing of a short film with a history on the Bush family. Normally, these things tend to bore me, but to my surprise, it was extremely interesting. And, of course, anything with Jay and Duke (the sidekick talking Golden Retriever) is always entertaining. There we learned about how the company got its start over 100-years ago as a tomato cannery in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, and how they later grew, saw its struggles through the wars and persevered to what we see today sitting on our grocery store shelves. The company started as a family run business and remains so to this day.

After the film, we walked through the museum and through a giant replica of a can of baked beans that depicts a bean's journey ... OK, just walking through a huge can of beans was cool! Next, we got to weigh ourselves in beans, which by the way, would be the only way I would weigh myself in a public place! We walked through the timeline of the Bush brothers and how the company has changed over time and then had our photo taken with Duke (not the real Duke, just a photograph!).

We shopped around and picked up some beans we have not seen back home and some novelty items and hit the road again. There is a restaurant onsite as well, serving up Pinto Bean Pie, but we did not have time to check it out this visit. I would definitely go back to this travel/tourist destination next time we head to Gatlinburg. Why not? 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Brewery Profile: High Branch Brewing Co.

By Dathan Kazsuk | August 7, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

High Branch Brewing Company
325 McGill Avenue, Suite 148, Concord

Phone: (704) 706-3807
Owners: TJ and Maureen Creighton
Head brewer: TJ Creighton
Brewing system: 5 barrel
Year established: 2015
Flagship beer: High Branch focuses on IPAs, Saisons and Barrel-Aged beers
Most popular beer: Pounder (a hazy pale ale)
Hours: Thursday: 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Saturday: 2 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. (will add Wednesdays this Fall)
Parking: Parking lot
Free Wi-Fi: Yes, but High Branch encourages folks to chat
Dog friendly: Yes (on a leash)
Stickers: Yes/$3 each

Beers on draft: Varies from week to week. Typically they have an IPA, Saison, Stout and barrel-aged and/or sour on draft
Pints/costs: 13-16-ounce – $5-$6; 8-ounce – $3-$4
Flights: $7 for a flight of 4 (5-ounce pours)
Cans/bottles for sale: High Branch tries to release cans (25-ounce) or bottles every couple of weeks. They are currently waiting on a canning line to sell 16-ounce cans in 4-packs.
Growler/howler fills: Yes
Crowler fills: No. The cans they currently release are 25-ounces and are not filled to order – eventually they'll be moving to 16-ounce cans.
Wine available: No. They plan on adding cider and possibly wine in the future.
Food: Yes. Cheese boards from Cackleberry Farms and various snacks from Carm's Cafe, plus Cabarrus Country Food Truck Friday (during the summer)
Within walking distance: Depot Antique Mall; Cabarrus Brewing Company
Sampled during our visit: Sour Tree, Off the Record, HB Squared, Pounder

High Branch Brewing Company is an all family-owned and operated brewery ran by TJ and Maureen Creighton. TJ was a home brewer for around 8 years before the Creighton's moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina – where they decided to start up a brewery 2 years ago.

Interested in having your brewery profiled? Contact us at – and be sure to follow us on Facebook for other beer and libation coverage.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Largest Breweries in the Triad

Ben Woodward of Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw.

Last month we did a list of the largest breweries in the Triangle, according to the Triangle Business Journal. This month we now picked up info from the Triad Business Journal on the largest breweries in the Winston-Salem-Greensboro area. Just like our last blog, the breweries are ranked by the number of beer barrels produced in 2016.

Related Link: Largest Triangle Breweries 

So without further adieu, here's the breakdown – starting from 15 and working our way to the number 1 position. Wise Man Brewing, who is a popular destination in Winston made the list as "Note Rated" since they officially opened this year. 

An interesting tidbit is that the Triangle's 18th ranked brewery, Bond Brothers Beer Company, ties the 4th largest brewery in the Triad at 1,200 barrels produced last year.

15. Kernersville Brewing Co.: 66

14. Small Batch Brewing Co.: 300

13. Skull Camp Brewery: 350

12. Pig Pounder Brewery: 650

11. Brown Truck Brewery: 650

10. Hoots Roller Bar and Beer Co.: 700

9. Liberty Brewery & Grill: 750

8. Four Saints Brewing Co.: 787

7. Preyer Brewing Co.: 800

6. Gibb's Hundred Brewing Co.: 917

5. Joymongers Brewing Co.: 1,160

4. Haw River Farmhouse Ales: 1,200

3. Natty Greene's Brewing Co. : 11,000

2. Red Oak Brewery: 23,000

1. Foothills Brewing: 40,295

                                                                                                                                                                        SOURCE: Triad Business Journal

Monday, July 31, 2017

Brewery Profile: Little City Brewing and Provisions Co.

                                                                                                                                                 Photo by Paul Prause
A couple bartenders at Little City Brewing and Provisions Co. pose for a photo.

Little City Brewing and Provisions Co.
400 W. North Street, Suite120, Raleigh

It was my first time inside Little City Brewing and Provisions Co. since it opened to the public. Myself and fellow beer drinker Paul Prause had a good time at our last stop of the evening, as Paul found someone who watched the Showtime series, Shameless. The thing I liked about LCB was that not only can you order some beer, but wine and up to 11 specialty cocktails. 

One of the bartenders that day mentioned that they were still working on the ideas to also have a bodega-style kitchen with light food items. Once LCB has that operational, as well as a few more beers on draft, this will really be a nice place to hang out. And being that LCB's owner,Jon Seelbinder, also owns Raleigh hangouts such as The Architect, Linus & Peppers, Virgil's Tacos and Level Up, I think he knows what's he's doing in the Oak City.

Phone: (919) 502-7155
Owner: Jon Seelbinder
Head brewer: Bert Halpert
Brewing system: 7 barrel brewing system
Year established: 2016
Flagship beer: Jalapeno IPA
Hours: Monday - Thursday: 3 p.m. - 12 a.m.; Friday: 3 p.m. - 2 a.m.; Saturday: 12 p.m. - 2 a.m.; Sunday: 12 p.m. - 12 a.m. 
Parking: Street parking 
Free Wi-Fi: Yes (GreatBeer) 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Stickers: Yes

Beers on draft: 5 beers on tap, 8-9 guest taps (when we were there)
Pints/costs: $4/$6
Flights: $10 (four 5-ounce pours)
Food on site: Foodtrucks on weekends
Cans/bottles for sale: No
Growler/howler fills: Yes
Crowler fills: No
Wine available: Yes
Within walking distance: Raleigh Beer Garden, Carolina Ale House, Sullivan's Steak House, 42nd Street Oyster Bar, Clouds Brewing, Mosaic Wine Lounge
Sampled during our visit: Amber, Hefeweizen, Kolsch, Imperial IPA, Jalapeno Serrano, plus a local coffee-infused Kolsch

Photos by Paul Prause

Raleigh entrepreneur's networking series becomes a rock star

Steven Elliot and his wife, Sarah.

By Dathan Kazsuk | July 31, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

In our next installment of 5 Questions With ... we got in touch with master meet-up organizer, Steven David Elliot. We first met him many years ago when he owned a book store near the Falls River neighborhood. But Elliot's life and knowledge went back way before that. 

Elliot started off with a degree in Jewish studies at the University of Florida, which then led to a trip to Israel and work as a educator resident assistant. Then coming back to the U.S. he worked as a social worker, marketing for a nursing home and even his own radio show. But after the high-pressure of working with the elderly, he was getting burnt out. He decided to have no regrets and do something he really wanted to do ... own his own bookstore.

And with the assistance of his family, he finally opened his first bookstore in Miami – which eventually lead to owning a few in the greater Miami-area. From there, he had time to experiment on how to interact with clients and determine their wants and needs. At the same time his business was starting to grow. He then realized it was easier to promote what was happening around him instead of promoting his own business. That lead to him starting a farmers market, an art festival, a music series and poetry readings.

                                                                                         c/o Rockstar Connect

Is that the start of getting your feet wet with what's now known to the area as North Hills Networking? During that period of time I created my first networking event. It was a morning event called Success is Contagious. This group was designed to be almost a support group for people going through bad times in business. I started North Hills (Networking) immediately when I became a real estate agent. The networking events were very popular, and I carefully crafted my program so it would be scalable around the country, unlike my book business. The event was popular immediately.

And there is now Rockstar Connect. What exactly is that? I formed a partnership with a young man named Nick Cioffi, who understood my vision. Together with my wife, Sarah, Nick and I knocked out all the nuts and bolts of my system. That became Rockstar Connect. After a few months we have started several programs around the country. My partners at Fathom (Marco Fregenal and Joshua Harley) invested in Rockstar Connect as partners, we scaled the company nationally. Within six months of this partnership and eight months of forming the company, we were in 60 cities around the U.S.

That's great. It seems like you've been doing entrepreneurial endeavors pretty much your entire adult life. What are some words of advice you'd give to someone starting up their own endeavors? My advice to entrepreneurs would be to determine your 'Why?' Why are you trying to do what you're doing? Is it because you want your independence or freedom? Is it because of money? Do you want to be rich? Or is it because you want to make the world a better place. Or maybe it's a combination of all these things. It's also important to recognize that you have to have your integrity. Your mouth has to write checks that your ass can cash!

Related Story:  Raleigh realtor mixes wine with real estate

                                                                             c/o Rockstar Connect

The only way you are going to figure something like that out is if you just hop into the deep end of the pool and figure it out on your own, right? It's OK to reach out to others for help, but I think you'll gain the most value by figuring it out your own way. I have always been untrainable, uncoachable and incorrigible. This has forced me to be an autodidact that thinks outside of the box. The market rewards people who think like that. It is also important to let go of some control. Get good partners. They can help you with your vision as well as relieve you of a lot of the pressures and time constraints of the business. 

That's some good advice. We're now a little past the halfway mark of 2017, is there anything we can expect from North Hills Networking or Rockstar Connect to finish up this year? I foresee my real estate business continuing to grow at both the local and national level. Rockstar Connect will morph into the area of technology to better serve our constituency. Also, I will be happy to see that my wife and I will be able to achieve our goal to help people across the U.S. and perhaps the world with our unique events.

For more information on North Hills Networking or Rockstar Connect events, check out the Facebook pages, 

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in our monthly Five Questions With, please send an email to

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Winery's treehouses offer means of escape while offering vineyard views

By Jennifer Primrose | July 20, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

What is it about a treehouse that sounds so appealing? I’m not quite sure, but combine that with a winery and my interest is definitely piqued. Twenty minutes southeast of Charlotte is Monroe, and there is where you can find Treehouse Vineyards and Winery. I was finally able to pay them a visit and was very pleased with the overall experience.

Included in the $8 tasting price is a winery tour, where we learned all about this vineyard – the history, the operation and its wine. Our tour started outside overlooking the vineyard, where we learned more about the history of the winery, the owners and its grapes. 

Next we were escorted inside to see where the magic happens and the wine making takes place. We also learned about the bottling and label making process. Following our tour, we were directed into the tasting room where we were all seated at tables for a sit down tasting with pre-selected wines, both dry and sweet. What made this experience unique as opposed to other wineries we’ve visited over the years is the group tasting accompanied by story-telling of the family and history of the vineyard.  

Treehouse Vineyards and Winery is family-owned and operated and sits on a 200-year-old family farm that opened to the public in 2010. The owners are Phil and Dianne Nordan and they had grape vines on their farm for more than 50 years. Well before the winery became a reality, Phil had decided to build a treehouse that overlooks the vineyard back in 1999, and named it Date Nite.

The treehouse is not built for overnight stays, but does include a couch, outdoor fireplace, phone and rocking chairs, and it can be rented out for up to six adults. Before Treehouse officially opened, Papa’s Dream was built, an overnight treehouse overlooking the rock quarry and vineyards, also available for rent. And lastly, Horsefeathers Hideaway, which can be described as a “modern spacious treehouse” for 2 to 8 people.
The first vines at Treehouse were planted in the Spring of 2005 and currently include eight varieties of Muscadines, which are native to the area – with one variety coming directly from “The Mother Vine” in Manteo. Also planted on the grounds are Carlos and Noble grape varieties, both in the Muscadine family. The grapes for the Viniferous wines come directly from Yadkin Valley.
The main reason to visit a winery is of course the wine. To be as upfront and honest as possible, I simply do not care for muscadine wine. I usually lean more towards dry-style European or California wines, primarily red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec. That’s not to say that muscadine wine is not popular, especially in our state. One reason I enjoy wine tasting so much, and especially with others, is that we never have to agree, as everyone’s tastes are different and unique. I prefer to blog about my experiences. And luckily for me, Treehouse produces more than just Muscadine wine. They also make a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, a dry white blend and a reserve Riesling – in addition to several award-winning Muscadine wines.

The wines on our tasting menu on that warm Friday evening were “Her Way” Cabernet Sauvignon; “Liquid Sunshine” – a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris; “Rock Quarry” Riesling (a reserve wine); "Windy Hill" – a semi-dry white Doreen blend; "Sweet Union" – a sweet white Carlos; "Date Nite" – a Doreen blend; "Bailey's Blend" - a semi-sweet red muscadine blend; "Sunset Hills" – a sweet Carlos and Noble blend, and we finished with a wine slushie with our choice of wine which was surprisingly refreshing for such a warm July evening.

The property encourage guests to enjoy a picnic overlooking the scenic vineyards with a glass or bottle of wine. Or better yet, if you’re looking for a unique experience or perhaps a special date night, consider renting the Date Nite Treehouse for an afternoon or evening. We were not able to tour the treehouses on this visit and we later learned that everything is booked into 2018. So, plan ahead!

Treehouse Vineyards also hosts several events, such as:
  • Murder mysteries
  • Live at the Vines music events
  • Dance nights
  • Craft and wine nights
  • Treehouse trivia
One of the signature events takes place on Saturday, September 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and that is the Grape Stomping Harvest. This even will include craft and food vendors, contests, bands, tastings and tours. Rumor also has it that a vineyard 5K run may be in the works as an upcoming event.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this experience, and did walk away with a bottle of "Her Way' Cabernet Sauvignon.

Treehouse Vineyards
301 Bay St
Monroe, North Carolina