Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

The N.C. State Fair is right around the corner, Oct. 12-22, and this year there is some exciting news for wine and craft beer drinkers. North Carolina Commissioner, Steve Troxler, announced Tuesday, Aug. 29 at the Kickoff to N.C. Wine month event, that for the first time, the State Fair will allow flights of craft beer and wine to be purchased. 

And, on more exciting news, they are building a new facility, the Our State Public House at Heritage Circle, sponsored by Our State magazine. The new location will include 40 breweries and 40 wineries from across the state. So no more hiking over to the Horse complex to sample wine or beer, although there will still be some available for sampling only at this location. 

Each wine or beer tasting flight will contain four samples wine will be 1.5 oz. each and beer will be 4 oz. Tickets are $10 and will be sold from noon until 8:30 p.m. One ticket per person and IDs will be checked.

We were so excited to hear this news and looks like we'll be heading to the State Fair again this year after all. The new Public House is a partnership between N.C. Craft Brewers Guild and the N.C. Wine and Grape Council.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Celebrate 2017 N.C. Wine & Grape Month

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

September is N.C. Wine Month. It's time to celebrate all North Carolina has to offer when it comes to wine. And 2017 has certainly been good to the state's wineries. Several wineries brought home some bling from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition earlier this year, which included Biltmore Estate, Jones von Drehle, Mountain Brook Vineyards, Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery and Sanctuary Vineyards.

Several wineries also found themselves celebrating wins at the inaugural N.C. Fine Wines competition with "Best in Show" and "Best Red Vinifera" going to Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery for its 2014 Montepulciano Reserve.

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

A huge collaboration leapt onto the scene with two of the state's finest winemakers joining forces. Some newer wineries, such as Roaring Rivers Vineyards, Midnight Magdalena and Westbend Winery and Brewery, are all buzzing with activity - and in the Fall of 2016, UNC-TV debuted "From the Vineyard," highlighting local wineries and vineyards with host Lisa Prince. The show also features certified Sommelier, Henk Schuitemaker, joining in with a "Tasting Room" segment in each episode.

Related Story: Autumn in N.C. Wine Country welcomes two new wineries in 2016

Westbound Winery in Lewisville, N.C.
Midnight Magdalena in Jonesville, N.C

As for Triangle Around Town, we continue to make our way out to as many wineries as we can, paying a visit to our favorites and exploring those we have yet to discover.

This year, we once again took part in the Yadkin Valley Winter Reds and Herb Fest of Swan Creek. We were fortunate to attend the unveiling of RaRa Sisboombah, the collaboration wine between Raffaldini and Jolo, which we plan on opening later this month. We even ran the Shelton Vineyards Running the Vines 5K and stopped by the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival in Elkin that same weekend. In August, we attended the Riedel Varietal Wine Tasting at Hanover Park where Dathan and I had to settle an argument once and for all - does the glass really make the wine taste different?

Related Story: Made in Heaven? N.C. winemakers blend award winning wines in collaboration

Yadkin Valley Winter Reds 2017 
at Ragapple Lassie

We always have a great time exploring the state with all of these vineyards and love seeing all the great events happening with the wine industry. Follow along with us this month as we explore the different wine regions, grapes and types of wine, wine trails, events and anything else we can think of.


Felicia Trujillo's passion leads to cuisine brilliance


Food-Seen's Felicia Trujillo.

 By Dathan Kazsuk

Felicia Trujillo was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Going to Pepperdine University in Malibu, she received her Bachelor's Degree in history with a minor in art, as well as a Master's in business. 

Photography for Felicia had always been a hobby of hers, and eventually she started doing photo shoots here and there to make extra cash during grad school. That eventually led to her shooting for local events and weddings in LA's premier wedding venues. Then in 2013, she decided to make a move across the country, and along with her husband, Max, they moved to Raleigh.

Once in Raleigh, Max quickly found a gig running Midtown Grille, and that led to Felicia taking photos in and around the kitchen at the restaurant. Instantly, she fell in love with food photography and engaging with the chefs and the dishes they created. She then started taking over Midtown's social media accounts and website. The passion was continuing to grow, and out of that passion came her own business, Food-Seen, which was created in 2014.

We recently caught up with Felicia, whose boutique marketing firm offers photography, social media management and website design for the food, beverage and tabletop industry in North Carolina. 

In today's world of social media and smart phones, just about everyone with a phone and an Instagram account think they're a "food photographer." What exactly are your thoughts on this, especially being a professional photographer? There's a time and a place for everything. Taking great food pics and using them on social media is a great way to promote your food business or to promote a business you're a fan of, but there's just some things that cannot be captured by a phone. The control of light, composition, focal length, details and the dish's story cannot be truly mastered without using those tools made available by professional equipment and a true understanding of food. 

If you have a business and want to brand your business as a quality food product, you have to invest in the quality of your content as well. You want to tell your potential customers that this food product is as amazing as the picture tells you it is. If you have an amazing food product and poor imagery of your product, you're sending a confusing message.

Tell us some of the local clients you have worked with in the past, and how they came to contact you? You have shot for Replacements Ltd in McLeansville and even photographed Jamie DeMent's latest cookbook, The Farmhouse Chef. All of my projects come to me via word of mouth – that includes social media, referrals and networking face-to-face. I have had the opportunity to work with so many incredible people and businesses in the community. In addition to the aforementioned, I have worked with Vietri, Southern Foods, Bauscher Hepp, MRC Creative, Durham Distillery, Treforni Pizza and several other food businesses and restaurants in North Carolina.

What's the hardest part of being a food photographer? Having to eat or not eat all the food you are taking photos of? The hardest aspect of photographing food is helping clients to understand the cost, production and value of the final product. All the other stuff is super fun and easy for me. I don't typically eat on set and am willing to take some risks to get the right shot ... within reason.

Rounding back to the challenge ... I can show up at a mom and pop shop with just a camera and a good window, shoot as many dishes as I can in an hour and be done. The images will be really good and the client hasn't had to spend too much money. Conversely, I can create an entire set with stylists, props, assistants, lighting, etc. The cost would be thousands of dollars a day, and the images would be amazing in terms of concept and quality. And then you have everything in between. A client's vision doesn't always match what they can and are willing to pay.

How physically or mentally demanding is a job as a food photographer? I guess depending on the clients and jobs, you can be running all around the state to shoot at a location. It can be both physically and mentally demanding. It really comes down to what the project is, where it is and if I can bring in a team for support. Typically, I have really amazing clients that know my style and let me do my thing. 

I have shot fish in giant refrigerators, hung from cherry pickers in a warehouse, sweated behind the line in a kitchen, shot a fall scene outside in 100 degree weather and sat in a chair hitting the shutter release from my laptop after the stylist staged a scene. It's the variety of projects that keeps it so fun and interesting.

Let's do a two part questions here. 1) What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the business and 2) What would you say is the hardest type of food to photograph? There are so many photographers in the digital camera age. In order to stand out from the crowd, you have to be authentic, and leverage that to create relationships. That's how you get the business. You also have to work very hard at building your portfolio. If you photograph food because it's a popular thing to do, it will translate and reflect in the quality of the work.

The hardest food to shoot ... anything that's primarily brown and orange or anything that's taco like (i.e. soft shell tacos, arepas or gyros). It's difficult to showcase the ingredients because the item is floppy and the ingredients are hidden inside. Adding a green garnish or spice to a bland colored food works miracles.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Riedel wine glasses spotlight red wines at N.C.'s Hanover Park

Riedel's Doug Cohn, left, teaches a class of roughly 30 wine drinkers at Hanover Park, owned by Amy and Michael Helton. Hanover Park is located in Yadkinville, North Carolina.
By Dathan Kazsuk

It's been a bone of contention in the Triangle Around Town household for years now. Do Riedel glasses actually change the taste of wine? I always tell people that I've drank wine from one side of the U.S. to the other. I've drank a lot of great stuff, but I've never seen one glass that can make me believe there's one all-powerful glass that can miraculously change the DNA of a liquid inside a bottle of wine.

This originally was going to be Jen's blog, but we decided that I am in the minority on this subject, we decided I should take the reigns to prove my point.

Related Story: Warning! Riedel glassware may effect wines taste and smell ... in a GOOD way!

I'm so use to hearing people say "My Riedel glass totally changed the taste of my wine!" Buzz ... Wrong! No glass, unless it's God's chalice, can change the DNA structure of a wine. 

But then, after a Riedel varietal red wine tasting at Hanover Park Vineyards, Jen and I finally think we're on the same page. Using words such as perception, intensified and muted, Riedel's Northeast Regional Sales Manager, Doug Cohn, helped the two of us come to a mutual conclusion.

The wine does indeed taste different, due to the glassware but unlike people thinking the glass changes the DNA structure of the grape, we learned that each glass is designed around the DNA structure of the grape. So in other words, the wine glass, your olfactory system hard at work and a lot of perception – makes the wine's palatableness appear to change.

Doug seemed to do a great job at helping everyone understand. "The vessel you put your wine in ... the shape, the size, the design of the glass ... makes a difference in how you perceive it," he says. Most people don't know this, but your wine glass can be the least expensive, but most important wine tool in your household.

During our 90-minute tasting and educational class, we experimented with three of Hanover Park's red wines, taken straight out of the oak barrels for the event. While seated in the winery with around 30 other wine drinkers, we sampled a Mourvedre, a red blend (Michael's Blend) as well as a Chambourcin. One by one, pouring each sample in its proper wine glass, as well as the other two glasses on the table, we noticed how everyone's perceptions changed, wine after wine.

Taken straight out of the barrels, we sampled three red wines at Hanover Park's Riedel red wine tasting.

From left to right, right to left, we noticed that each wine was either more or less intense as we went down the line. All three of the wines had a long finish, which typically means the wines are good – at least in my opinion. And that held true, particularly with the last wine we tried ... the Chambourcin.

At the end of the event, Hanover's co-founder, Amy Helton asked me if my thoughts have changed. I explained to her that they haven't changed, but that I see the new way of looking at this subject. If people only said that their wine  seems to taste different, due to the intricate design of these fine crystal wine goblets – I might be fine with the response.

As I noted to Helton, at one point you even said one of the wines tasted better ... "because [Doug] told me that it should in this glass."

Riedel does craft one of the best wine glasses around, hence us having an immense collection at home. And I do admit that these glasses can make sometimes even the cheapest of wines seem a little more palatable. Just watch how you describe your wine in a glass to me in the future.

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.