Saturday, March 17, 2018

Durham's first food truck rodeo venue on the horizon

Saturday, March 17, 2018

If you have driven by the Lakewood area in Durham anytime in the last several months, you probably noticed a distinctive red barn being constructed along Chapel Hill Rd. This is the home of the soon-to-be open County Fare. 

Owners Gil Scharf, Steve Frasher, Peter Savarino and Richard Savarino hope their unique concept perfectly blends all that is the Durham food and drink scene.

County Fare will have anywhere from 3 to 5 food trucks onsite that will rotate daily. “The idea is to not only let customers eat from some of the best food trucks you will find anywhere, but to also allow new experiences every time you come,” says Peter Savarino. “You could come on a Tuesday for a work dinner and bring your family back on a Friday and have totally different trucks and different food options.”

County Fare will open in April and will serve as a permanent venue where people can eat from the wide variety of quality food trucks that are based out of both Durham and Raleigh. The project consists of a large barn that will house a bar, offering 30 different beers, ciders, and wines as well as plenty of seating. Additionally, there are 2 large covered patios and a big outdoor area for seating and games. 

The unique property even features old oak trees that the owners say provide great shade in the summer. Along with the trucks and bar, County Fare will have a small kitchen of their own. “We want to offer a super-casual and easy experience for our customers. At County Fare we are offering the Food Truck Rodeo experience that everyone loves, but making it even better by offering tons of seating, drinks, and other amenities that rodeos often can’t provide,” added Richard Savarino.

“We hope that the Triangle starts to think of us as a hub where you can go to experience the area’s acclaimed food truck scene whenever you want," Steve Frasher added. “Our focus is on great food and an amazing atmosphere you can’t get anywhere else.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beer Dinner Review: Oak & Dagger Public House

By Jennifer Primrose | March 15, 2018
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town
Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT 

On Thursday, March 8, Taylor's Wine Shop and Oak & Dagger Public House teamed up for a beer and food pairing dinner. This 5-course meal was set to showcase the food offered by Oak & Dagger as well as the craft beer made by head brewer Pete McCabe. The simple, yet powerful, German-style beers created by McCabe really paired well. And it all started with something as small and traditional as beer and pretzels.

Course 1
Course 1: Bavarian Pretzels and House-Made Beer Cheese paired with Mil's Pils Traditional Czech Pilsner. The brightness of the Pilsner cut with Saaz hops, with that nice herbal and spice notes paired well with the fattiness of the cheese and saltiness of the fresh baked pretzel. When referring to Bavaria, head brewer McCabe said it best, "That area of the world got it right when they made this combo."

Course 2: Spätzle and vegetables with bratwurst meatballs paired with A Little Bit of Everything Dunkelweizen. "We call it A Little Bit of Everything because we threw in a little bit of everything," says McCabe. "We threw in a little bit of rye, a little bit of wheat, a little bit of unmalted wheat, biscuit malt, victory malt. That's what we call playing around with the depth of character."

Course 3: Brat Bomber Slider with braised cabbage, whole grain mustard and beer cheese paired with Lator Hator Doppelbock. The dark malts and toffee flavor of this beer paired well with the bratwurst and mustard. Probably the best pairing of the evening.

Course 4: Shrimp & Grits paired with So Many Hoptions (Summer) IPA. The fruitiness of the IPA paired nicely with the shrimp. "Summer has a lot of nice, fruity notes that aren't necessarily citrus," says McCabe. "Summer has a little more melon and apricot in it ... and it works."

Course 5: Bread pudding with Cooler Beans (Imperial Coole Beans). The bread pudding paired well with this brown ale that gave off strong aromas of coffee. Perfect for the coffee drinker, it is reminiscent of pure cold press coffee. Great combination to end the evening.

This night couldn't have happened without the help of these two ... Ben Cash of Taylor's Wine Shop, who teamed up with Pete McCabe and his staff at Oak & Dagger Public House.

For more events hosted by Taylor's Wine Shop, visit the web page here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In The Kitchen: Tradition prevails for St. Patrick's Day with Corned Beef and Cabbage

It's been a tradition in our house for years – corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. So for this edition of In the Kitchen, we decided we weren't going to stray away from that tradition. It's such a simple dish to prepare, but we decided to do something a little different. 

Usually we boil or slow cook some green cabbage, but this time around we used Savoy cabbage instead. The waffle-knit texture of this cabbage makes your dish look striking. So we picked up some corned beef at our local market and tossed it in the slow cooker along with 1/4 cup coffee, 1/4 cup white wine and rubbed the beef down with some whole-grain mustard. And 8 hours later it is ready.

We boiled whole cabbage leaves and transferred them into iced water and dried them off. Laying the leafs out we put a nice cut of the corned beef on one side along with onions, mustard and a splash of lemon juice and tightly rolled them up. Violá.

The beverage pairings were pretty easy. For the beer, we grabbed a couple North Carolina Kölsch-style beers. The first was a Kreamsicle Kölsch from Rail Walk Brewery and Eatery out of Salisbury. And the second was a traditional-style Kölsch from White Street Brewing Company out of Wake Forest. Both were light, refreshing and crisp and paired well with the fattiness of the corned beef.

For the wine, we selected Jones von Drehle's Viognier. The hints of floral notes and apricot on the nose cut down the salt of the meat and paired better than we originally thought it would. 

For dessert, we decided to stay on the healthier, yet festive side. We made No Bake Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Squares. This dessert is billed as low carb and sugar free. Very easy to make, these cheesecake squares were just sweet enough to end our St Patrick's Day feast. For the recipe, click here.

Related Story: In the Kitchen: Chicken, Cupcakes & NC Wine for Valentine's Day

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kill Two Birds With One Stone: Morgan Ridge Vineyard & Brewery



Morgan Ridge Vineyards & Brewhouse  is located in Gold HIll's Piedmont region. What makes Morgan Ridge stand out is the addition of its brewhouse, similar to the likes of Westbend Winery & Brewery and Round Peak/Skull Camp. What we did not know before we arrived is that they also serve Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. as well as lunch Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. 

With friendly hospitality, a pen in hand and a tasting sheet before us, we strategically chose our wines for tasting ensuring between the two of us we could try as many wines as were on the tasting sheet. As we learned about the wines we also learned a lot about Morgan Ridge and like so many other wineries in our state, the stories from farming to growing tobacco and turning that land into a winery holds true here as well.

Amie Baudoin inherited 33-acres of farmland from her father and alongside her husband, Tommy, decided to dive into the winery and vineyard business in 2000. This beautifully landscaped land, with a private pond and open air pavilion overlooks the Uwharrie mountains and makes for a nice Sunday afternoon sipping wine. They began planting grapes on-site in 2004 on seven acres with seven different varietals. Several years in the making, Morgan Ridge wine was officially ready to make its debut.

We decided on two tastings of 5 wines for $5. The current offerings were: Chardonnay,  Syval Blanc, Blush, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Syrah, Applelicious (fruit wine), What The Fruit (fruit wine).

We enjoyed all we tried, although with some differing opinions between us. Morgan Ridge produces approximately 1,500 cases per year with all being made and bottled on-site.

Morgan Ridge also has a brewhouse. They saw the need to incorporate craft beer into their business plan to appease both the wine- and beer-drinker alike. 

Following our wine tasting, we split a flight of beer.  

For our flight, we sampled the Caramel Coconut Cream Ale, VaCa IPA, Creek Bottom Brown and the Almond Stout.

Just recently, Morgan Ridge Brewhouse opened another location, the RailWalk Brewery in Salisbury. 

Triangle Around Town's top 🍷 choice: Chambourcin
Triangle Around Town's top 🍺 choice: Hands down the Caramel Coconut Cream Ale with its lightness and coconut flavor we described this beer as a "cruise beer"

Wine tastings are either 5 wines for $5 or 10 wines for $10 with an option for a full tasting of all wines in a Riedel "Ginormous" stemware for $20 

Beer flights are 6 for $8 or 4 for $6

Hours are 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday 

Visit their web page at or Facebook for upcoming events


By Jennifer Primrose & Dathan Kazsuk
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT | Email:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

North Carolina's highest-rated stouts according to Untappd

By Dathan Kazsuk
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

I live by the motto, "Love it or Hate it" when referring to Untappd. I like being able to keep track of my beers in one place so I can look back and see how I rated everything I've sampled. And of course I like collecting the badges.

But not once has the app's rating system caused me to either not want to try a beer because of its low rating, or made me leave the house that very moment to go buy a bottle before it's gone. I just don't buy into that hype.

A couple months ago I decided to find out the highest-rated IPA according to Untappd and its weighted average formula, that rates all beers against each other. Each of its top 50 beers in each category must have 150 ratings or more to qualify.

Related Story: Higest-Rated N.C. IPA's according to Untappd

So where did our NC stouts wind up on the top 50 lists? Let’s find out!

Burial Beer Company
Skillet Donut Stout (ranked 12 out of top 50)
8% ABV  |  17,010 ratings  |  Average rating: 4.18

Wicked Weed
Dark Arts Espresso (ranked 2 out of top 50)
15% ABV  |  594 ratings  |  Average rating: 4.14

Highland Brewing Company
Black Watch (ranked 31 out of top 50)
8% ABV  |  5,876 ratings  |  Average rating: 4.18

Wicked Weed
Barrel Aged Milk & Cookies  (ranked 20 out of top 50)
9.5% ABV  |  3,830 ratings  |  Average rating: 4.21

Wicked Weed
Cuban Coffee Dark Aged Stout  (ranked 28 out of top 50)
12% ABV  |  462 ratings  |  Average rating: 3.96

Southern Pines Brewing
Drunken Vigils (ranked 1 out of top 50)
14% ABV  |  2,073 ratings  |  Average rating: 4.28

Free Range Brewing
Sea of Companions (ranked 8 out of top 50)
8% ABV  |  460 ratings  |  Average rating: 3.78

Untappd lists five other "stout" categories: American Imperial/Double; Imperial Double; Imperial Oatmeal; Irish Dry and Russian Imperial. In those five categories no North Carolina beer wound up on the top 50.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Learn beer from scratch & sniff stickers – a beer lover's companion

By Dathan Kazsuk | March 2, 2018
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town
Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT 
It doesn't matter if you are new to the beer world or a veteran, The Scratch & Sniff Guide to Beer is sure to teach you a thing or two about the heavenly suds we all enjoy.

"This book's an easy approach to becoming a well-informed beer drinker," says Master Cicerone Rich Higgins in the forward of this beer lover's companion written by Justin Kennedy.

Starting off with a brief history of beer and how it's brewed to some exciting beer quests around the world, this book has everything you need – from the novice all the way to the professionals.

The Scratch & Sniff Guide to Beer has a series of 10 scratch and sniff stickers scattered throughout the pages. They provide a sensory blast of aromas discussed on the pages within. Hops, Cloves, Pine, Cedar and more.

The author also discusses beer styles, with a little history of each, from original India Pale Ales to traditional porters and stouts. Kennedy helps out by even giving examples of these styles. Want to sample a Saison? Be sure to try Saison Dupont. How about one of the great Trappist Ales out there? Sample a Orval or a Westvleteren 12 (if you can get your hands on one).

You say you like more of the new world beers? Kennedy goes over such favorites as West Coast IPAs, California Commons, American Barleywines and American Sour Ales. 

In one section of the book, he goes into the hops that hail from different countries.
Did you know that two of the biggest hop growing areas of the United Kingdom come from Kent and Herefordshire? That's where you'll find Fuggle and Golding hops. Or in New Zealand they grow a total of sixteen different hop varieties. That is where you'll find the Nelson Sauvin  – a hop that's name is a mash-up of the city of Nelson and the grape, Sauvignon Blanc.

One of the most helpful items in the book turns out to be the Hop Stats. This chart shows a total of 18 popular hops, and tells where they are grown, its alpha and beta acid levels, total oil and its distinct flavors.

The back of this companion features a few pages devoted to cooking with beer. Beer can chicken, beer cheese, beer candied bacon and a flaming Dr. Pepper are some that are shared with the reader. 

The Scratch & Sniff Guide to Beer is 162-pages and published by Harper Design. The book retails for $9.99 through Amazon or Barnes & Noble book stores.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Durham's Kaffeinate hopes community bonds over coffee

Photo c/o Kaffeinate


By Dathan Kazsuk & Jennifer Primrose | February 28, 2018

Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town
Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT 

In this edition of Five Questions With ... we reached out to Diana Lee from Kaffeinate, a new coffee shop located in Durham, after meeting her and her brother at the Durham Media Mission in January. This family business is not new to small business. Diana's parents owned a few service-oriented businesses in North Raleigh and one restaurant in Chapel Hill. Her and her brother decided to enter the coffee business because of their mutual love of coffee. Diana's brother is a coffee guru who knows the technicalities of roasting and processing the bean from plant to product. While Diana loves anything that brings community together, and she believes coffee has become such an integral part of the way that people bond and converse in our society. Together, this duo hopes to bring superior coffee service - from product to atmosphere to education - to the Triangle.

Why did you select Durham as the city to startup your business? Durham and the Triangle is an ever-growing area and our coffee scene is pretty big in this area, correct?  Absolutely! The foodie scene in the Triangle has been explosive. From award winning restaurants, innovative combinations of food and service and retail, and more, we find the Triangle to be an exciting area for food and drink at this time. We also find that the residents here really know their coffee “stuff” and appreciate the history and science behind it. Durham in particular has such an entrepreneurial spirit that we wanted to get in on and this extends beyond the traditional ways we see entrepreneurship. We find it to be a place we can continue innovate and create community.

Related Story: Media Mission Spotlights Durham businesses

Tell us a little bit about the coffee you serve. Where do you get your coffee beans from? How many different types of coffee/beans are available to customers? Do you do your own roasting? If so, what is the process?  We get our drip coffee from Dilworth Coffee, a local coffee roaster. We are really excited about being able to feature rotating local roasters for our espresso and pour over options and have so far partnered with Caballo Rojo, a Durham roaster. We have a house blend on drip that is always available, but we also feature single origins options on rotation like Guatemala, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Peru, Brazil, etc. 

Photo c/o Kaffeinate

Tell us about your coffee list and food menu. What can one expect when they come to visit? We heard you are featuring Belgian waffles. How did you come up with coffee and waffles being the perfect combo?  We offer the traditional espresso drink options such cappuccinos and lattes and have a range of flavors that we can add to those as well as alternative milks like soy and almond. We have monthly specialty drinks and anything can be iced. We have a deliciously smooth cold brew as well and many non-coffee options such as a matcha latte and house-brewed chai.

We do feature Belgian waffles! We want our community to feel at home in the shop, and we were thinking about the ideal weekend morning, being able to take your time sipping your coffee and munching on ...? Waffles, of course! We love the warmth and home-like feel of a waffle paired with your coffee it’s familiar enough to be nostalgic but rare enough to be a luxury at the same time. Get your fluffy Belgian waffle topped with an assortment of fruits like blueberries, strawberries and bananas, and add extras like whipped cream, nutella, fudge sauce and more!

Related Story: Raleigh couple plans to bring first cat café to town

You are located in a great place, next to the Durham School of Arts, as well as other restaurants, etc. How has your business been since you opened (and what was your official open date)? Seems like it would be pretty consistent in that location and with the school nearby. We opened in mid-October and have had such a wonderful reception so far from the community. We love being by DSA and able to serve the hard working staff, faculty and students there, and we love being in the downtown area close to Duke and all the office buildings. We’re also fortunate enough to be right across the street from many West Village residents and just right around the corner from Brightleaf Square.

Photo c/o Kaffieinate
Baristas and Mixologists ... they both take the craft of making drinks to a new level. How passionate are baristas in making coffee drinks for customers? Do they strive to come up with new mixtures/ideas in the likes of cocktails? If so, what are some unique drinks someone can find in Kaffeinate? Our baristas are constantly working on taking our drinks to the next level and coming up with unique and delicious flavor combinations. These are usually featured as our monthly specials for example, our February featured drinks are the pistachio rose latte and the lavender vanilla latte; for January, we had our Okinawan steamer made with purple sweet potato, maple syrup, and spices. We have friendly competition in the shop for who can create the best latte art, and we’re always studying coffee in our free time. For us, it’s all about quality, consistency, and community, and we hope you’ll come see that for yourselves!

Kaffeinate is located at 115A North Duke Street, Durham, NC 27701

Keep up with Kaffeinate by visiting their web page at or follow along on Facebook at

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

WINE: Open That Bottle Night is meant to be shared with Friends

By Dathan Kazsuk  | February 27, 2018
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | 
Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT Email:

It was a little over 18 years ago when Wall Street Journalist's Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher came up with a brilliant concept titled "Open that Bottle Night." The two wrote a column for WSJ called Tastings where they rated wine with a range that went from "yech" to "Delicious!". 

The whole idea of "Open that Bottle Night," which occurs on the last Saturday in February is aimed to motivate people to reconnect with friends over some open bottles of wine, and to open something in your wine cellar you've been dying to open for a special occasion, just haven't got around to it quite yet.

We thought to ourselves ... we're game! We took some time looking at all our wines, thinking which ones had a nice story behind them, and came up with two to uncork. Our first was a 2008 Robert Foley Charbono. Our second was a 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon. Why did we select these two wines? The Foley has been sitting in our cellar for over seven years. It was signed by Robert himself when he visited the area for the annual Triangle Wine Experience weekend. And for the Caymus ... well, it's an incredible wine and we've just been waiting for the right time to open up a bottle.

Related Story: Bottle Signing: A great way to meet and greet winemakers

We invited a couple friends of ours who are also huge wine enthusiasts, and they brought over a couple bottles of 2009 Turley Zinfandels. Looks like we were going to be drinking in style with this stellar lineup.

Sitting around the dining room table, we did some catching up since the last time the four of us were together while trying all the wines and pairing them with the chocolate and cheese spread we put together for the evening. Each of the reds paired well with the blue cheese we had, but we all agreed hands-down the best pairing was with the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. The Habanero-Mango Cheddar went best with the subtle complexity of one of the Turley Zins. 

When we felt the Charbono decanted for long enough we each filled our glasses with this dark colored red wine. We were slightly scared that 10-years in the bottle could have been past its prime, but we were mistaken. Its ripe blackberry, slightly oaked and remnants of black licorice made this wine just a good as the other three.

We had a great time enjoying wine with friends over good conversation, as wine should be enjoyed.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Over a Pint: Lynnwood Brewing Concern

Lynnwood Brewing Concern's head brewer Bill Gerds
Lynnwood Brewing Concern's Bill Gerds has been head brewer since June of 2013.

By Dathan Kazsuk | Feb. 19, 2018
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | 
Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT

Over a Pint is a new series where we’ll sit down with local North Carolina breweries and discuss informative intel over – you guessed it – a pint of beer. For our first installment, we sat down with Bill Gerds, head brewer at Raleigh’s Lynnwood Brewing Concern. Just like most brewers, Gerds got his start home brewing at a young age and eventually landed his first brewing job at Redwood Brewing Company in Flint, Michigan. Working there part time for 4 years, he learned a lot, which eventually led him to securing a job at Michigan’s Arbor Brewing Company.

This is how our interview began, over a couple IPAs. We discussed his past while he selected his favorite IPA of the moment, Hop Sauce. And I decided on one of LBC’s more recent releases, Hombre Enojado, a DIPA. Just two hop-heads talking about the past and what eventually brought him to North Carolina.

“I grew up in Southern California, plus my daughter turned 16 and lives in Michigan,” he says. “So I started looking to move somewhere warm.” Gerd’s then started applying for brewing jobs left and right. Resumés were slinging all over the Southeast, from North Carolina to Florida.

It was through a classified in ProBrewers that Gerds saw the job posting from Lynnwood’s owner Ted Dwyer and applied for the position. Gerds flew out to North Carolina, and just like that, he became the brewer of Lynnwood Brewing Concern. That was all the way back on June 2, 2013.

And it was there, at the original location, where the restaurant still stands, he started pushing out some of Lynnwood’s favorites such as Bad Leroy, Putin Tang, Czars & Stripes and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Amber Lager. But there is one beer that gets the Raleigh locals to head over to the taproom and that’s LBC’s Imperial IPA, Hubris. Gerds admits that this hopped up IPA is one of his favorite beers to brew, which only comes out once or twice a year. “It’s my favorite because I can slap a bunch of hops in there and [that] makes me happy,” he says.

With the popularity of Hubris here in Raleigh and the popularity of IPAs in tall-boy cans, the obvious question was about to come out of my mouth before he beat me to the punch. Hubris will soon be packaged in 16-ounce cans sold in 4-packs. How that made my day.

When I first ordered my beer when I walked into LBC, it wasn’t hard to notice all the hardware hanging on the wall above all the taps. Gerds and his crew have been fortunate enough to win many medals, including a gold and silver award from the Great American Beer Festival last year. Hung with pride, Gerds confesses that these awards mean a lot to him. “They do. I love to compete,” he says. “It’s really one of the only ways we have to quantify what we’re doing … well, other than people buying and drinking our beer.”

And keeping with his competitive nature, Gerds mentions that LBC usually enters beers in the National IPA Challenge (NIPAC). He recently entered the beer in my hand, Hombre Enojado, in the next installment of this bracket-style competition pitting IPAs against one another. The competition starts out with 128 IPAs and widdles in half after each round until a champion is crowned. “Hubris lost in the championship 3 years ago, and Hop Sauce lost in the championship last year,” Gerds says. Maybe this is the year, and the angry man will win it all.

When you look up at the wall of beers at LBC you’ll find a wide array of great beers, from Hefeweizens to stouts – but the one thing you’ll see a lot of is IPAs. With Gerds being a hop head, it’s to be expected. But one thing you don’t see a lot of is the latest craze – New England India Pale Ale, or NEIPA. “We don’t make a whole of of them. We’ll make a few hazy IPAs but nothing that we’d come out and characterize as a New England IPA,” he says.

But even though he doesn’t make a lot of that hoppy nectar, he’ll be the first to admit that this craze isn’t going away anytime soon. “I think they’re here to stay. The only problem I see is the shelf life in packaging those beers. They don’t have a great shelf life, but if consumed fresh, they’re very tasty.” As we’re almost done with our beers, I decided to bring up a question that’s been bugging me with the freshness of canned IPAs … and that is ‘When is a fresh IPA no longer fresh?’. In Gerds opinion, anything under three months would still be considered fresh to him. “When I’m buying them, I’d personally like to see them under a month old,” he says. “But I won’t turn down a two or three month old IPA, but anything older I’ll probably start thinking about looking elsewhere.”

With us on our last few drops of beer left in our tulips, it was time to conclude the interview. But right before I stop the recorder on my phone, I had to find out what’s in store for us in 2018. And what I found out is that LBC has an assortment of beers to be released through its cellar program as well as a series of single-barrel releases. “We’re going to go straight out of a barrel and into a bottle,” Gerds says. “The series is based on whatever barrels we really like back there.” And with Gerds being a hop-head at heart, we’re pretty such guaranteed some more hoppy beers. “I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but I always love pushing new hoppy beers.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

2018 NC Fine Wines Competition Awards Results

By Kimberly Williams
Weddings by the Vine and guest Triangle Around Town blogger
Website |

Kimberly Williams is the creator/owner of Weddings by the Vine based in Cary, NC. Weddings by the Vine is a boutique wedding planning service specializing in vineyard weddings here in North Carolina. 

I definitely had no idea what to expect last night and how the evening would unfold. With that being said, my excitement grew for the vineyards and for the industry as a whole. I’ve been promoting the North Carolina wine industry for a number of years, and it was very exciting to attend the Fine Wines competition this year.

The event was capped at 250 guests and quickly sold out at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem. As soon as we entered the grand lobby, glasses of 2017 Shelton Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc lined the bar and amuse-bouche was passed out lobster vols au vents with fennel leek relish, corn pudding and chives. This paired very nicely with the Sauvignon Blanc, and I was already happy with my decision to join the celebration.

Related Story: And the winner is ... North Carolina Fine Wines Society to host awards ceremony

I was able to chat with a few of the vineyard owners that I haven’t seen in a while and make a few new friends. What’s also exciting about this event is that the winners are announced to both the industry and public at the same time. Vineyard owners were anxious to hear the competition results but dinner was next, so they would have to wait a little longer.

As a planner, I was thrilled when right on schedule the doors to the Millennium Grand Ballroom were opened. We were seated at table No. 24 with three other couples who love wine and support the NC wine industry through wine clubs and visits. To our surprise, we were all members of two wine clubs and laughed when they were the same two for all the couples. We vowed to branch out more and share the love! 

Winners from the 2017 NC Fine Wines case were invited to submit their wines and Chef Patrick Rafferty designed the menu specifically to complement those wines. I’m not a foodie and am actually a picky eater, but the pairings were lovely – both in taste and presentation.  Chef Rafferty did an amazing job!

The amuse-bouche was a great pairing with the Sauvignon Blanc, so I was anxious to taste what was next. The second course was winter squash salad with butternut-acorn, red kuri, goat cheese mousse, white wine poached pear, confit chestnut, honey poached cranberries and young mache paired with Cellar 4201's Chardonnay (Oaked).

The third course included sous vide duck breast with red wine poached cherries, parsnip puree, salsify, baby carrot and cherry vincotto demi-glace – paired with the 2013 Grove Nebbiolo. This pairing was definitely the highlight for the majority at our table.

Fourth course – eye of bison ribeye with truffled fondant potatoes, bone marrow custard, white asparagus, cavolo nero, cipollini onion with sauce perigourdine – paired with the 2014 Jones von Drehle Petit Verdot.  

Last and definitely worth it, was a dark chocolate torte with blood orange sorbet, pomegranate gelèe, piment d’Espelette and vanilla powder for dessert – this was paired with the 2015 Raffaldini Montepulciano Riserva. Another favorite of our group!

There were over 100 wines submitted for the competition including wines from six new wineries. There were several category types, and the wines were judged by advanced Sommeliers. This is the toughest state specific competition in the country as North Carolina continues to make great progress.  

It was finally announcement time, and it was quick. They had been waiting long enough and the top twelve were announced altogether and gathered on stage – it was hard to keep up but all the details are below.

The top award, Best in Show went to Sanctuary Vineyards for its Double Barrel 2015. Beach trip is on the agenda now, as they are located at the Outer Banks. 

The other award winners are:
  • Best Red Vinifera – Sanctuary Vineyards 2015 Double Barrel red blend
  • Best White Vinifera –  Point Lookout Vineyards (Riesling 2016)
  • Best Dessert Wine – Surry Cellars (Iced Petit Manseng 2013)
  • Best Hybrid – JOLO Winery & Vineyards (Crimson Creek 2016)
  • Best Sparkling – Surry Cellars (Blue Ridge Bubbles 2016)
  • Best Rosé Jones von Drehle Vineyards (Rosa Dia 2016)
NC Fine Wine Case Winners:
  • Laurel Gray Vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 2014)
  • Jones von Drehle Vineyards (Petit Verdot Estate 2014)
  • Parker-Binns Vineyard (Cabernet Franc 2015)
  • Raffaldini Vineyards (Vermentino Superiore 2016)
  • Jones von Drehle Vineyards (Petit Verdot Reserve 2012)
  • Midnight Magdalena (Merlot NV)
We managed to take a few more photos and then it was time to leave. Riedel wine glasses were given as we made our way out.  So much excitement – it was definitely worth it – to be a part of the celebration! I’ll be scheduling a few trips to some of the winning vineyards this year that I haven’t already visited, and I hope that this blog may encourage you to plan some trips of your own.

Is it just a coincidence that today is #NationalDrinkWineDay? Enjoy yours!

*The North Carolina Fine Wines Society was established as a nonprofit with two goals. The first goal is to promote the quality of North Carolina Fine Wines (Vinifera & Hybrids). The second goal is to fund a scholarship for NC students, attending NC Colleges or Universities, pursuing careers in Enology, Viticulture, and wine related Hospitality and Agritourism programs.