Monday, October 16, 2017

SPCA of Wake County raises funds for animals with annual Fur Ball

The annual SPCA Fur Ball at The Angus Barn Pavilion took place on Saturday, Oct. 7.

By Jennifer Primrose

"For it is in giving that we receive." - Francis of Assisi

My two loves in this world are pets and wine. From the time I was 4 years old and we decided to adopt a puppy, who I grew up with and who became the fourth child in our family to today, an avid cat lover who also has a thirst for wine and learning all there is to know. These are my passions. I often wonder if I missed my calling to work in the veterinary field or wine industry and if it is ever too late to shift gears. But for now, I enjoy supporting the many pet rescues we have right here in North Carolina any way I can. Whether it is volunteering my time, lacing up my shoes for a 5K, attending a wine tasting or being a guest at a gala knowing that my donations and my presence make a difference for just one homeless pet, makes me feel like I've made a difference in at least that one pet's life.

For my birthday, I was surprised with tickets to the SPCA of Wake County's 22nd Annual Fur Ball Gala held at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. This annual event changed venues last year and now includes a 3-course dinner and wine pairing in addition to a silent and live auction, raffle, chance to name a SPCA pet and more. This year also marks the SPCA's 50th anniversary that is 50 years of saving lives! We had a great time perusing the silent auction items and deciding just what to place a bid on. During dinner, we had a wonderful conversation with those at our table who ranged from SPCA Board members to SPCA staff to Veterinarians all there to support this cause.

Related Story: SPCA Fur Ball raised funds for homeless pets 

Kim Janzen, President and CEO of the SPCA, spoke on the history of the organization that started with just one person with a dream, and with that dream 320,000 animals have been saved. Janzen mentioned to the crowd that earlier in the week, multiple animal rescues, in conjunction with the HSUS, helped save 87 animals from hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico as they arrived on a flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. A staff member at our table also told stories about that night and just how special it was that these groups came together to help these animals and for the first time in weeks these dogs and cats found themselves with food, safety, a warm bed and surrounded by love. In fact, when we arrived at the gala, we were greeted by two of the dogs from Puerto Rico, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, they were happy and appeared very well adjusted with tails wagging. For more information on this effort, click here.

Kim also had a very special announcement to make on this evening, as the room filled with anticipation. "Tonight I am so incredibly proud to announce to you that our vision is to end the euthanasia of all adoptable animals by 2025," she said. This year, 2017, the SPCA took the first steps to make this happen by setting a goal to increase the number of animals being taken in and adopting out by 20 percent nearly 700 animals.

Gerald Owens of WRAL-TV fame hosted the event for the 13th year in a row. Each year we attend, we know we will see his smiling face as he works the room greeting guests. Alongside Leland Little, auctioneer, they are pros at working the room with the live auction, paddles going up one by one, and money being raised to help support these furry ones. This 2017 event raised an astounding $300,000. Imagine how many more lives will be saved this year. For more information on the SPCA of Wake County, visit the web page at

Related Story: Finding Love at SPCA's Bark & Wine With Your Valentine 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bottle Signing: A great way to meet and greet winemakers

Steve Reynolds, right, of Reynolds Family Winery at Taylor's Wine Shop in Raleigh.

By Dathan Kazsuk 
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

If you know us, you know we like our wine.

So it should come as no surprise that we have an extensive collection of wines that we've purchased from around the World. California Cabernets. German Rieslings. French bubbles. It's what we do.

And part of that is, when we can, get a winemaker to put his or her John Hancock on the bottle. It's a great way to have a personal one-on-one with the winemaker, and it's actually now part of our decor throughout our kitchen.

With a trio of Sharpie pens in our travel bag (black, silver and white), they're always on hand when we're at a winery, event or wine tasting. And in the past couple of years, we've had some memorable meetings with winemakers and owners.

One of our first signed bottles comes courtesy of Robert Foley of Napa's Robert Foley Vineyards. Foley started his career back in 1977 working for wineries such as Pride Mountain Vineyards, until he started his own winery back in 1998. We met Bob during a Triangle Wine Experience Sip & Sign event at Wine 101 in Wake Forest. There we purchased a 2008 Charbono.

If you live in the Raleigh-area, like we do, we find that the TWE Sip & Sign events are the best. They're free to attend, and a handful of shops in the area bring in some big name West Coast winemakers pouring samples of their wine.

At these events we've met winemakers such as Nile Zacherle from Zacherle Wine in Calistoga, California. At Raleigh Wine Shop he discussed with us why so many winemakers hop at the chance to fly to Raleigh for a week for this event.

Carolina Hurricane's Cam Ward and Tim Gleason, left, with a bottle of their Vineyard 36 wine – and Laely Heron, right, of Heron Wines in San Francisco poses with a signed bottle.

One year we met Scot Covington of Trione Vineyards and Winery out of Geyserville, California. We knew a distributor at the time who told us about a couple Trione wine tastings in town that week, as well as hanging out with Scot at 42nd Street Oyster Bar in Raleigh to taste wines with the restaurant's wine manager. Scot's been the winemaker at Covington since 2005, where the Trione family basically gave him a blank piece of paper and said to him, "Design your winery."

Then comes one of our favorites - Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Winery. It's now been at least 4 to 5 years that we've seen Steve at a Sip & Sign event, at the Triangle Wine Experience Gala itself, or being fortunate enough to see him a Eliza's house during her infamous house parties. A great, fun loving guy who brings a plethora of incredible wines with him – and a love for Tequila. If you don't know Steve or his wines – check out the documentary Decanted on Netflix. 

If you ask either Jen or myself, we'll say living in Raleigh is one of the best places to meet a winemaker – and Taylor's Wine Shop tops the list. The father and son team of Taylor and Ben Cash do an amazing job at bringing in top notch wines for tastings, and sometimes luring in the winemakers themselves. There we've met Laely Heron of Heron Wines, Hank McCrorie of Burly Wines and Carolina Hurricane greats Cam Ward and Tim Gleason, who are co-owners of Vineyard 36 in California.

It was great to spend time talking to Ward and Gleason about hockey, but also about their wine without a line of Canes fans trying to get an autograph. All we had to do was purchase a bottle of wine, which was the Crosscheck, and both signed our bottle and even posed for a photo.

Later this month, Taylor's Wine Shop will bring in another winery "superstar" in the form of Todd Anderson of Anderson's Conn Valley Wines. We met Todd back in 2013 and boy did he have some stories to tell. He even brought in a bottle of $2,000 Screaming Eagle for us to try. You can't beat that.

Hank McCrorie of Burly Wines talks about his wines at a wine dinner inside
Fleming's Steak House in Raleigh.
But don't just think of us a West Coast-area bottle collectors ... since we live here in North Carolina, and visit wine country a lot on our days off, we have bottles signed by places such as RagApple Lassie, South Creek, Jones von Drehle, Raffladini and Jolo Winery. 

It's a fun hobby, and we know signed bottles aren't really worth any money – not unless we have a signed bottle of the 1975 Chateau Mouton Rothschild signed by label maker, Andy Worhol

So grab a Sharpie the next time you head out to one of your favorite wineries and see if you can't get your favorite winemakers name on your favorite bottle.  


Surry Community College host symposium on "Finding the Perfect Blend"

Participants listen closely to an educational class at Surry Community College.
Photos c/o Surry Community College
By Dathan Kazsuk
Monday, October 9, 2017

Surry Community College will host its sixth annual Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium on Nov. 8 at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology. The event, held at the Dobson campus, will feature a wide spectrum of speakers in the grape growing industry. This year’s focus will be on “Finding the Perfect Blend.”

Franciscan Estate’s winemaker Maria Carroll will lead the presentation which will focus on the art of blending. Carroll holds a degree in biotechnology from UC-Davis. It’s her passion for food and flavors that shapes her approach to wine crafting – paying close attention to the expressions, complexities and nuances of wine.

Other speakers include NC State’s Mark Hoffman, an assistant professor and small fruits extension specialist; Travis Snodgrass and Brad Boyd with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture; technical winemaker at Enartis USA, Eglantine Chauffour; University of Georgia’s Cain Hickey; and Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance’s Dr. Bill Alter.

Maria Carroll, left, and Cain Hickey, right, are just two of the speakers that will
be at the Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium.
The symposium will take place all day beginning at 7 a.m. Part of the symposium also consists of the college’s annual Grand Wine Tasting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which will highlight wines of the Southeast.

The tasting is open to the public for a non-conference rate of $25 per person. The entire conference registration cost, which includes admission to the tasting is $120 per person. Participants can register for the entire symposium or wine tasting by going to

Saturday, September 30, 2017

NC Wine month concludes, but momentum can only build

By Jennifer Primrose
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

It’s a wrap! 

N.C. Wine month 2017 is officially over, but that doesn’t mean planning those visits out to the wineries has to come to an end. We hope that as bloggers, we were able to shine a light on the wine industry here in our state. After living here for over 20 years, I have indeed discovered love in wine, both abroad and here in the state I call home. It has been an interesting journey watching the wine industry evolve here in North Carolina. However, at least here in the Triangle, there is still work that needs to be done when it comes to highlighting these wines.

North Carolina has five AVAs, with a sixth one on its way. Stretching from the coast all the way to the western part of the state and encompassing approximately 180 wineries, it can be hard to keep up. As for us, we have now visited, at least, 75 wineries – three of which are now closed. From the mountains to the coast, the state also offers a range of wine styles from the sweet Muscadine or Scuppernong variety to the European-style, viniferous wines that can hold their own against even the best in California. Some of these wineries also produce craft beer, such as Westbend Winery & Brewery, Round Peak, and Morgan Ridge Vineyards & Brewhouse, while others are producing ciders, such as McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and the new kid on the block, Botanist and Barrel.

So, how did we celebrate N.C. Wine Month? We kicked it off at the inaugural N.C. Wine Month Kickoff event hosted by Childress Vineyards and N.C. Wine Guys fellow bloggers. We were honored to be invited to this event, geared towards media, bloggers and the wine industry, where we heard Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, speak on the state of growth in the industry and announced that the State Fair, for the first time, will allow flights of craft beer and wine for purchase in the new Our State Public House.

Following Troxler, Gov. Roy Cooper spoke to the crowd and officially declared September as "N.C. Wine Month." Next, came the speed tasting. Yes, you read that right! Like speed dating but with a glass, or glasses, of wine! Wineries in attendance were given 5 minutes per table to talk about and pour one of their signature wines. It was a great way to learn a little more straight from the wineries themselves on the products they produce and serve.

Governor Roy Cooper declares September N.C. Wine Month

Related Story: Nothing Can Be Finer: Wine and Beer to be served at NC State Fair 

Aside from enjoying N.C. wine in the comfort of our own home and finishing up our summer series, Rosé and Sorbet, we also discovered a new winery/cidery that recently came on the scene, Botanist and Barrel, located in Cedar Grove. We enjoyed our time there talking with the owners and enjoying a couple of flights. To learn more about this place, see our Five Questions With ... we did with them in September.

Related Story: Five Questions With ... Botanist and Barrel 

We also introduced our California family to N.C. Wine Country on a day trip that took us to four wineries - Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery, Piccione Vineyards, McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks and Jones von Drehl. We packed up our picnic basket and headed out on our 2-hour road trip for some tastings on a beautiful Fall afternoon.

Having been to all four of these wineries multiple times, and wine club members of three-quarters of them, it was second nature for us. But we enjoyed introducing our family that North Carolina is more than just BBQ and NASCAR. We also have a wine country. I must say though, that my favorite of the day was Raffaldini. We've been several times and as the popularity soars for this winery, so do the crowds. Depending on when you go, if the tasting room is crowded, the staff can only spend so much time with each person before the next group arrives. However, on this early Friday afternoon, we had probably the best hospitality we have had there and learned more about Raffaldini than ever before. Denise was very attentive, gave tons of information about the winery, Yadkin Valley and even California! 

We ended up having a wonderful afternoon at all four of these wineries and loved having a picnic lunch at Piccione overlooking the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Now that harvest is just about over for the vineyards, hurricane season is hopefully wrapping up soon and the crisp Fall air is starting to settle in. This remains a perfect time to relax with a bottle of N.C. wine. It's been a wild 30 days of keeping true to North Carolina wine, and posting daily on our Instagram site. We've had the pleasure of drinking some amazing wines and visiting breathtaking wineries in September. We encourage you to get out there and pay a visit to any of these local treasures and experience what the Tar Heel state has to offer.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brother and sister team up for latest N.C. fruit wine/cider endeavor

c/o Botanist and Barrel
By Dathan Kazsuk and Jennifer Primrose

The brother and sister team of Lyndon and Kether Smith are into keeping the family tradition going. The Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm, which lies just north of Hillsborough, was purchased by their parents many years ago as a blueberry farm 'u-pick' for the surrounding community. This was just a portion of the original farm, which was later bought by Lyndon and Kether to bring the land together as one.

Right from the start, the siblings knew exactly what they wanted to do with the land. "Given our backgrounds as a chef and as a partner in a wine distributorship ... it was not a far leap to start fermenting ourselves," says Lyndon. And with full-scale production about to begin, they then brought in Rob Sievert, who left a 12-year career as a teacher to become the third member of the team.

Triangle Around Town visited Botanist & Barrel one Sunday afternoon, where we met Lyndon, Kether and Rob – and were able to sample just about everything on the B&B tasting menu that day. From the peach and blueberry fruit wines, to the different barrel-aged ciders, to a homemade sangria. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Botanist & Barrel.

Botanist & Barrel is new to the wine scene – with fruit wines and ciders. At what point did you decide you wanted to steer in this direction, and how did you prepare to head into this endeavor? We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to make bone-dry fruit wines. We look at cider, which is just a fancier name for apple wine, as one of the core fruits we work with, along with blueberry, blackberry and peach. All of us at B&B prefer to drink dry, so we naturally focus on creating dry wines.

We prepared for the endeavor by reading and reading and reading, and then making test batch after test batch after test batch. We also talked with every winemaker and vineyard manager we knew and asked a lot of questions. Having come from the wine business, as well as being lucky enough to travel around the world ... we had access to some of the greatest minds in the business. Kether also spent time getting cider certified at a specialized cider program through Cornell University.

We tried virtually everything you had available to taste the day we were at B&B. A blueberry wine. A peach wine. As well as some ciders and barrel-aged ciders. What else can customers expect from you guys in the next couple months?  We are especially excited about our new Fusion series, which focuses on co-fermenting multiple fruits together, such as our Cranberry Blueberry Grape Cider. That cider will be available straight up, or as an aged variety in maple syrup, Port and bourbon barrels. Also included in the Fusion series are a blueberry apple wine, blackberry apple wine and rhubarb blueberry grape cider. We will also release a dry-hopped blueberry wine, a dry-hopped cider and a rum barrel aged cider. Next up is a Muscadine apple wine, a raspberry cider and an elderberry wine. We use our neighbors apple and grapes, we sourced some raspberries from a friend's farm and elderberries grown at Lyndon's farm in Asheville. 

So it seems like you are focused on the fruit wines and ciders. But are there any plans down the road to maybe grow some vinifera grapes on your property. Maybe produce some Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. Because there are so many regions on earth that are better suited for vinifera grapes that are also coupled with a tradition of winemaking and thousands of years of growing experience, we feel that we should let those winemakers and regions create those types of wines. Non-grape fruit wines are so poorly represented and apples, blueberries, blackberries and peaches grow so well here. Part of our mission is to focus on what works best in our region. We will make some wines and ciders with Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes – which do grow well here.

With being relatively new, how do you plan to get the word out? Any events on the horizon? You recently had a cider/wine and chocolate pairing with local chocolatiers. How did that go, and do you plan on hosting other events such as that in the future? We are a true nano-winery and our tasting room reflects our small size. We do have plans on adding additional outdoor seating in the near future. Our plan to get the word out is to pour at great local events, farmers' markets, and to host more on-farm events. We don't have a marketing budget or a PR firm, so we are solely dependent on word of mouth and social media. We believe if we make a great wine and share our hospitality and passion that everything else will fall into place.

We do have some happenings lined up for October and November, including a wine and cheese pairing and a free cider pancake brunch which includes a pop-up holiday market and pumpkin carving on October 29 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. We will also be at Ciderfest in Asheville on October 6th and have set up a few cider brunches the next day with two of Asheville's best restaurants. In addition, we will be a part of the first ever 'Our State Public House,' in the Carolina Sampler, at the State Fair from October 12-22; TerraVita Wine and Food Festival in Chapel Hill; the South Durham Barn Dance on October 21st; and Txchfest in Durham on November 18.

Check out B&B's Facebook page for a full list of events.

What’s next for Botanist & Barrel? What can we expect from you in the next 3 to 6 months? Maybe seeing your ciders in bottle shops or restaurants around the Triangle-area? Maybe tastings at local shops? You can definitely find us at many local bottle shops and restaurants across the state. We also do have several in-store tastings lined up for 2017. Appalachian Vintners in Asheville on October 5, Pharmacy Bottle in Cary on October 25, Black Twig Cider House in Durham on October 26 and Hillsborough Wine Company on November 4. You can also find us many Saturdays at the Eno Hillsborough Farmers Market and the South Durham Farmers Market.  And of course on the farm in the tasting room every Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to like Triangle Around Town on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow our adventures of local craft beer, wine, cider/mead and travel. 

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