Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Public House at NC State Fair served up NC wine & craft beer

The brand new Public House at the N.C. State Fairgrounds will now feature local craft beer and wine.

By Jennifer Primrose and Dathan Kazsuk

Wednesday, October 25

It was back in August, during an inaugural event to kick of N.C. Wine Month, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, announced that wine and beer flights would be available to purchase inside the state fair. The first time in 150 years! We were shocked.

Not because we want to venture to the fair to drink, but because the industry is finally beginning to get some of the attention it deserves. With how much money flows into this state via the wine and beer industries, we're surprised it actually took this long to happen.

And as talk of the fair drew closer, we started reading comments on various platforms – which varied from one extreme to the other. Everything from, "I can't wait," to "This is the worst idea ever," Concerns about public intoxication, throwing up on rides with the addition of beer and wine was going to bring out the rowdy folks to reap ruckus upon the fair's Midway – bringing destruction and chaos.

We were rather perplexed to say the least. Let's hope that those who might have doubted the new addition had an opportunity to check out the Our State magazine's Public House, and were not only able to sample what this state has to offer, but also realize this was not in any way a "bar" atmosphere, but a gathering place to celebrate North Carolina's libations.

And this one goes out to you - the skeptics. This was a controlled setting. Everyone was carded upon entry, had to get their wrist stamped, checked again by an officer on duty, and you are only allowed one flight per person, per day. The beer flights were four samples, poured into 3-ounce cups. And for the wine, four 1.5-ounce pours. So essentially the equivalent of a 12-ounce pint of beer and one 6-ounce glass of wine. No one is getting drunk here – move along. There's nothing to see here!

As far as our review of the Public House, we can only give a review the evening that we attended and what was available to purchase on that Tuesday evening.

The beer selection was pretty weak the evening we arrived. I was considering the "Hoppy" flight, but wasn't keen on two of the beers in the flight, and the other two I've had many times. The "Dark" flight was on my mind from the beginning, but by 6:30 p.m. that evening, that flight was officially sold out. I usually feel "Light" beers aren't worth the price of admission, so I went with the "Sampler." This sampler had a Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Gose - hailing from Ponysaurus, Uptown Brewing, Yester Years and Tarboro Brewing Company, respectively. I liked the diversity, but the beers were a little bit of a let down. Ponysaurus was a nice, light beer, and actually felt like it belonged in the Public House on a night like this. Uptown's pale ale was just that - a pale ale. Nothing bad about it. But then again, nothing great. The Brown from Yester Years had a cool name, Münster Mash, but fell flat on taste. My favorite of the night was the Seed Spitter Watermelon Gose from Tarboro. The taste of the beer hit the spot, but the smell was like rotten watermelon rinds. So I had to hold my breath while drinking all this one. With over 40 breweries taking part in the week-long festivities, I'm sure many were able to pick up a great flight of beer – it just wasn't in the cards for me this time around.

My greatest fear became true when I perused the wine flight selections. Muscadine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it just is not my taste in wine. It's way too sweet. There are so many other amazing wine varietals in our state that I was hoping for more variety that night. Also, as “NC Wine” bloggers, we try our best to help spread the word about our own NC wine country and the variety that this state offers, so to see this lack of diversity in the flight options was disappointing. There were four flights to choose from. The sweet flight I did not even look at the list knowing I am not a sweet wine drinker. The white wine flight I considered, but decided on this cool Fall evening, I just wasn’t feeling like white wine. The sampler intrigued me, but it wasn’t all wine? It was a red Muscadine and three ciders. Now I love my ciders, but I felt like ciders and meads should have their own area and let the wine shine. I was hoping for the sampler to be a white, a rosé and two reds. So, I went to my favorites – the red and rosé flight. I knew what I was getting into but still remained disappointed. And this is why. A flight of four reds; two Muscadine and two drier reds. I drank in order that they were given which meant the Muscadine first. If you’re thinking, so what? I’ll tell you. Coming off the sweet Muscadine to the Childress Three Red Blend did not make this wine taste good. I knew I had tried this wine in the past and was initially surprised by the taste. By the time I got to the last one, the Grove Winery 2014 Estate Block Red Blend, it was starting to finally taste a little more of what was intended.

In years past, and continues today, there are also wineries represented pouring small samples in … the Horse Complex.  We made our way over just as they were packing up for the night. We were able to try some Chatham Hill wines – a Malbec and a spiced wine warmed to perfection and perfect for the upcoming holidays. Not to sound like a snobbish wine aficionado, but why have these wineries feature their wines in a place that – for lack of a better sentiment – smells like horses?  What are the 5 S’s of wine tasting again?  See, Swirl, SMELL, Sip and Savor. I’ll leave that here.

So, as we bid adieu to the 2017 North Carolina State Fair, our thoughts on the new Our State Public House … we actually do give this new venue two thumbs up! It may not sound like it from our critical review, but it’s time this industry was given the attention it so rightfully deserves.

We look forward to 2018 and hopefully options that better suite our discriminating palates!

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 

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