Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Over A Glass: Medaloni Cellars blends wine with hospitality

Joey Medaloni is the owner and winemaker at Medaloni Cellars
Joey Medaloni is owner and winemaker at Medaloni Cellars.

By Dathan Kazsuk and Jennifer Primrose
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT | Email: trianglearoundtown@gmail.com

When you get to know Joey Medaloni, you soon come to realize that he marches to the beat of a different drummer – and that’s not a bad thing. From his opinions on winning awards to admitting the lack of education he had in the wine world before buying the property which is now Medaloni Cellars, Joey Medaloni is here to plant his footprint along the vines of Yadkin Valley.

The North Carolina native, who never touched a drop of alcohol until he was in his early 30s, lived most of his adulthood in the nightclub and restaurant business. But it was when he learned that North Carolina was a prime location to both grow and produce wine, he became fascinated with the whole concept. With no wine making experience and no chemistry background, he decided to give this new task a shot. “I had no wine making experience other than the trial and error experience," Medaloni says, sitting in a chair during the opening weekend of the winery’s patio tasting room. With a breezy Carolina wind and crystal clear blue sky, he talks about his path into wine making.

“Westbend Winery was showing me some stuff behind the scenes. I was also going to a couple classes in California,” he says. “Mark Terry was making the wine at the time and he opened my eyes to a whole lot of stuff that really changed our wine making style.” Terry taught Medaloni the ins and outs from crafting up an average tasting Chardonnay to making a very good Chardonnay. “When we first opened, all we were making was a Chardonnay, and whatever red we happened to buy that year.”

Medaloni Cellars opened its doors in 2012 with limited tastings and went full-swing the following year. The winery sits on 22-acres of land with two tasting rooms, 1.5 miles of walking trails and 5 acres of vines planted. “Most of the fruit we do is in the Swan Creek-area. We also work with Chuck (Johnson) and Dana (Acker)," he says. Close to 50 percent of Medaloni’s fruit comes from the vineyards of Shadow Springs and Windsor Run in the Swan Creek AVA. 

While learning about wine in California, Medaloni learned the basic chemistry behind wine making as well as how to preserve and store wines correctly. “Then one day, I bumped into a guy on a flight, and we hit it off and he took me under his wing.”

That guy was Markus Niggli of Borra Vineyards and Markus Wine Company. The Swiss-born wine maker founded his winery in 2014 and has already received many accolades as well as a featured appearance in a 2017 issue of Wine Enthusiast. Niggli produces small production wines and ended up being a great mentor and friend to Medaloni, who eventually went on to collaborate a few wines together. 

The two first collaborated on the 2015 Markus Joey Insieme. A blend of 95 percent Torrontes from Silvaspoons Vineyard in California and 5 percent Traminette from Cain Vineyards in North Carolina. Italian for “together,” the Insieme would come to represent a blending of East Coast and West Coast winemakers, something Medaloni admits is the first of its kind. Medaloni says that collaborations can be a rather rare thing due to that longtime adage about having too many cooks in the kitchen. 

“You usually have some big winemaker names, but typically they don’t even get along long enough to stay in the same room,” he says. “You have people like Jay (Raffaldini) and JW (Ray) doing it here, but these are usually just few and far between.” 

In the beer world, collaborations are going on among brewers and breweries left and right.  Almost every day you see another post on social media that someone is brewing with someone else. And that brings together some great tastes. But as far as Joey sees it, the two worlds are completely different. “Beer is more of a recipe. You got to be able to learn to follow that recipe,” he says. But with wine, on the other hand, there is merging of two winemakers. 

“When you put two guys together that probably means that one guy is better than the other. And somebody is going to have to give up some secrets. Someone will have to show the other the magic behind the scenes,” he states.

Joey Medaloni of Medaloni Cellars in North Carolina.
Joey Medaloni talks to a group of people during a collaboration release with Markus Niggli.


Some of Joey Medaloni’s biggest mistakes have become some of his biggest assets. That sounds like a strange statement, but he’s quick to bless that fact. “When you drink our wine, there are no chemicals, no nothing in it. It’s just wine. Because I don’t know how to do that chemical stuff,” he says. A lot of his success also goes back to Niggli in the early days and the little tips he learned. “Markus basically told me all those books you buy about wine – just throw them all in the trash can.” 

It's never fun to have to drain pour bottles of wine, and in the early days, Medaloni had to do just that. Shipments of his Chardonnay, the winery's flagship wine, went bad. There was a lot of science mumbo-jumbo as to why the wine went belly up, but the wine went out to wine club members and out to restaurants. A total of 180 cases, or a little over 2,000 bottles. "We had to get in touch with our barrel club members and the restaurants and get everything back. This is our name attached to the wine, and we only want to release what is the best." 

Today the winery produces a total of 13 wines. From its dry reds such as the 2015 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon to the Carignan which it files under its Flight Series, Medaloni Cellars is making wines that draw in the big crowds every week. 

“We’re the leaders in entertainment,” he says. “It’s really hard to beat Medaloni Cellars at its own game.” He is very adamant when he mentions that the winery was one of the first in the area to bring in live music. To him, Medaloni Cellars isn’t just a winery, it’s a place where people come to unwind and not want to leave. They encourage people to go eat at many of the great local restaurants around the area to support small businesses. It’s one of the reasons he says that they only have food trucks once a week or why they don’t have a restaurant onsite. 

It’s also another reason you don’t see many bottles of Medaloni Cellars in grocery stores. “We only like to sell to local wine shops and restaurants,” he says. But there is one exception. One day he was approached by Tim Lowe, president of Winston-Salem’s Lowes Foods, who wanted to carry Medaloni’s brand in the grocery chain. And just like that, Lowe took a total of 180 cases of wine to distribute in Lowes Foods. 

It all seems to be flowing in the right direction for Medaloni at this current time. Great wine, great mentors, a nice location to call home in the Yadkin Valley. What else can you ask for? “We love it when we get wine drinkers. We don’t need to have 2,000 people at an event. We don’t need tons of awards in our tasting room. I’d rather gain 5 loyal people a week than have them come out just to party.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

In the Kitchen: Hidden Pipe Porter Bison Stew

For this installment of In the Kitchen, we decided to keep our wine in the cellar and reach for a bottle of beer. After all, April is North Carolina Beer Month. So what better time to cook with beer?

We took this recipe from Boulder Beer Company in Boulder, Colorado. It’s call the Planet Porter Bison Stew. But instead of using its brown porter (that we can’t get here anyway), we used a couple cans of Raleigh Brewing Company’s Hidden Pipe Porter. There are so many great NC porters to choose from, but staying right here in Raleigh seemed best for this easy to make recipe.

Take 1 large red onion and finely chop it up and put in a skillet with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. After the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, add 8 garlic cloves, minced, 1/2 tablespoon of chopped rosemary leaves and salt and pepper. Transfer to a soup pot and set aside.

Now take 1 pound of bison steak and cut into 1-inch cubes and cook in the skillet until browned on all sides. Let the fond build at the bottom of the skillet. Once cooked, transfer the bison to the pot with the onions. De-glaze the skillet with 3/4 cup of the porter, scraping the fond into the liquid. Transfer the liquid in the skillet to the pot, then add the rest of the porter. We used a total of two 12-ounce cans.

Bring stew to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes. Then add 4 cups of beef broth, 4 carrots, peeled and sliced, 4 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped, 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed and 2 bay leaves. Reduce heat and simmer another 30 minutes.

The last step is to make the white roux. Combine 2 tablespoons softened butter and 1 tablespoon corn four and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour. Mash with fork to create a paste and add to stew after first 30 minutes of simmering. After roux is added, cook an additional 30 minutes.

And there you have it. Enjoy with a can of Raleigh Brewing’s Hidden Pipe Porter. Other porters we considered were Foothills’ People’s Porter or Burial Beer Company’s Ulfberht Baltic Porter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Never Judge a Book by its Cover: Lazy Elm Winery & Vineyard



Never judge a book by its cover. Our initial impression as we drove up on Lazy Elm Winery, located on a quiet road in Mocksville – on yet another dreary March afternoon, was that this small winery did not hold much character. We found ourselves reluctantly admitting that we were wrong – a fault of judging too soon. Weather played a big role in our first impression and even the time of year. No longer the gray skies of Winter, but not yet the sunny skies of Spring. However, by the time we left this now quaint winery, our minds were changed. We could see us visiting on a nice Spring or Summer day, with the Carolina blue sky overhead and the sun shining brightly down, perhaps sitting under the lazy Elm for which this winery is named after, sipping on a glass of wine.

The winery resides on a 43-acre farm located just three miles north of I-40 and one mile east of Highway 601, a part of the Yadkin Valley AVA. You don't realize just how close you are to the interstates as this location is quiet even on this day, with the rain coming down ever so lightly.

We arrived shortly after they opened. We grabbed the umbrellas from out of the car and made our way into tasting room. The tasting room was straightforward with a plethora of Lazy Elm wines displayed with medals of their award-winning wines. As we looked around to get our bearings, we were offered a tasting. We went through the wines one by one – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Merlot and the 2015 estate bottle Mourvèdre. At which time we commented that this wine reminded us of something we would have at Hanover Park Vineyards in Yadkinville.

Sitting across the tasting room a gentleman was quietly working. He overheard us and introduced himself as Chris, the owner/operator/wine maker and "jack of all trades." Chris informed us that he used to work alongside Michael Helton at Hanover Park – and then it all made sense.

Our tasting continued with a 2014 estate bottled Petit Verdot, 2015 estate bottled Montepulciano and onto the 2013 Damn Yankee. Each wine impressed us more and more and as we continued our tasting, we continued our conversation with Chris.

This environment was more to our liking this day. To be in a smaller setting with little, or in our case on this dreary afternoon, no crowds, where we can actually learn more about the wines, the history and the future behind the winery. We discussed the recent Fine Wines competition after noticing some bling around the necks of a couple of bottles on display. Chris informed us which wines he entered, which ones won and how the competition worked. From the pros to the cons, and how he found himself at the Fine Wine gala with no more than a couple hours notice. 

Our tasting continued with at least four more wines with our favorite being the 2013 Pinot Grigio Arancione – the latest craze of "orange wine," which is most commonly found in Italy. Following our tasting, Chris showed us inside the new wine making and bottling facility he built as part of the expansion.

We did walk away with one of the award-winning wines that day but not the Pinot Grigio Arancione, which can only mean one thing. We'll be back!

So, lesson learned. Never judge a book by its cover! And this winery is certainly one to watch.

Triangle Around Town's top 🍷choice: We really liked the 2015 Montepulciano and ended up taking a bottle home with us.

Hours are Friday - Sunday from 12-6 pm

Visit their web page at http://www.lazyelm.com for Facebook for upcoming events.


By Jennifer Primrose
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT | Email: trianglearoundtown@gmail.com

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wine & Beer 101 chat beer collaborations for 10-year anniversary

By Dathan Kazsuk
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT | Email: trianglearoundtown@gmail.com

Anniversaries are always a noble celebration of how accomplished a business has grown. From the one-year, ‘Yes, we made it,’ celebration to the five-year, ‘We finally know what we’re doing’ ceremony. 

Later this year, one of our favorite bottle shops, Wine & Beer 101-Wake Forest, will celebrate a decade of servicing the patrons of Wake Forest with admirable customer service and knowledge.

Over the past 9 years, we’ve become friends with many of the owners and employees, as well as met so many new friends from inebriated Friday nights. One afternoon we were chatting with beer manager Rufus Hoffman over a glass of wine, and he discussed some of the upcoming craft beer collaborations that’s coming soon.

You just brewed with Wicked Weed for a collaboration beer for your 10-year anniversary. Tell us a bit about that? We spent a couple days up in Asheville. We just kind of hung out and had a team exercise. Got some drinks. Stayed out way too late. We woke up the next morning and started brewing at 7:30 a.m. We did a barrel-aged American Barleywine. And the barrels, the liquid that was in them previously, was their Old-Fashioned. We aimed for a 13 percent Barleywine. And we nailed it.

Which 101ers made the trek to Asheville to brew this beer? It was me and Joe (O’Keefe) and Matt, who works there at a small capacity now, but helped me build the beer program there. We also brought Kent, a good friend of the store, that's been with us for other collaborations in the past.

Did you get to brew with Walt or Luke that day? We brewed with Jeremy Claeys. He was their first hire in their production facility. We’ve done enough of these to be welcomed in various ways and sometimes it can feel like we’re in the chef’s kitchen – but Jeremy was the exact opposite. He was nice and understanding. He walked us through the process and made us feel very welcomed.

So what was the process? We looked at the Barleywine recipe they put together for us. Typically they don’t brew a lot of Barleywines, so they were excited to do it. They were thinking it would be a 90-minute boil, but it ended up being a 2.5 hour boil. So, our brew day ran a little long. But Jeremy stayed very patient with us the entire time.

Your anniversary is in September, so that gives this beer a lot of time to rest in the barrel. We wanted this beer to spend ample amount of time in the barrel – Barrleywines can be a little harsh and they’re not for everyone. But we think with this barrel treatment and the extended rest in the barrel we’ll have a product that people will be willing to try once.

In the past you’ve done collaborations with Haw River and Double Barley which have been bottled. Will this Barleywine be bottled as well? Wicked Weed focuses a lot on their brand, so they told us they would prefer to do everything on draft. So I’ll be doing draft only, but by then I might have a crowler machine, so we might be canning it in limited supplies.

You and I have shared several Barleywines in the past, and are both fans of this high-gravity beer. So I take it this was your idea. Was it easy to get others on board with this strong-style beer? We have done many collabs, and you know the easy thing to have done would have been like, ‘Let’s brew an New England IPA.’ But you know a lot of our collabs in the past have been bigger-style beers. There are so many people doing IPAs. And we serve so many good IPAs. I think the reason why everyone came onboard is because I wanted to do something different. But when it was brought up in a team meeting, they knew that I’ve been barking up the tree of doing a Barleywine for a long time. And I think, honestly, they just thought, ‘OK, let’s just let Rufus have this one.’

So you mentioned possible collaborations for this anniversary. Who are some other local breweries you guys have reached out to? We’ve talked to Trophy. We have all but Trophy confirmed – but with them we might do an IPA. Typically, when you have a big anniversary, people expect the hard to find stuff – and yes, we’re going to have that. But on the other side of that, I want to have stuff that’s drinkable. So I want to do an East Coast-style – you know, which was in style, but no one brews them anyone. And those are the nice IPAs to drink. So we’ll be brewing something along those lines with Trophy.

Is that all? No. I got a couple more feelers out. I want to do one more. Maybe reaching out to some close friends … but we will have three collaboration beers in September.

We can’t wait to see what this third collaboration will be. But we know a Barleywine on the menu and an IPA from Trophy … you can’t go wrong. But we still have 5 more months to wait, so we hope the anticipation eats at you as much as it does me. I know I will be there on whatever day the celebration ends up being to celebrate with some good friends.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Over a Pint: Group of fun guys set to open new Raleigh brewery

Nick Fiorenzano, Nick Brango and Carly Pina of Funguys Brewing.

By Dathan Kazsuk
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown | Pinterest: TriangleAT | Email: trianglearoundtown@gmail.com

What do you get when you mix together three friends from Duquesne University who want to leave the cold weather of Pittsburgh for something a little warmer and who love making beer? Who also have an appreciation for sour beers and the single-celled microorganisms fungi that goes along with beer making? You get one of the Triangle’s newest breweries coming to Raleigh – behold Funguys Brewing Company.

Nick Brango, Carly Pina and Nick Fiorenzano are set to test the waters here in Raleigh as they prepare for their grand opening on Saturday, April 14. The trio fell in love with the City of Oaks after a long search to find a place to settle down after deciding to leave Pittsburgh. “We wanted to go somewhere warmer, because I like wearing shorts and you can’t wear them all year long in Pittsburgh,” jokes Brango, who will assume the duties of head brewer for Funguys, and a student of the American Brewers Guild.

It was during a snowy day in Raleigh, that kept a lot of people off the streets, when we met up with this trio of fun guys at BottleMixx. “A little snow like this is nothing,” said Pina about the light dusting starting to line the parking lot outside. We decided to chat about their new undertaking and the tips new brewers can take away with trying to start up their own brewery in the future over a pint of beer. Below are excerpts from the interview.

First off, how did you come up with the name? It reminds me of that old joke, ‘Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties? Because he was a fungi!’ Fiorenzano: I was just sitting there at work one day toying around with ideas in my head during a lunch break. This was when sour ales and wild beers were coming into our lives. I was being goofy, like fungus and bacteria which sours the beers, and also the three of us have fun together, so fungi. Not only does it have a connection with the beer, but with us. Without yeast, all you can make is some expensive water.

I know it is hard to open a new brewery serving up sours that you enjoy, so when you open to the public, what are some beers we can expect to taste? Brango: We will have 9 taps and one will be a Randall. We will have a pale ale at around 5.5 percent. We’ll be doing a Saison. We will have a number of session beers. Then down the road our first major expansion will be to add a barrel room with climate control.

Once you bottle or can, you’ll run into having to get your beer labels licensed. I know that hasn’t happened yet, but what are some tips you can give to wouldbe brewers? Brango: There are things you have to watch out for, but there are a few databases to look up names. We were going to name one of our beers Mountain Man after one of our friends who likes to go hiking and got us all into beer. But there was already another beer named The Mountain Man, so we renamed it Beard Scratcher.

Fiorenzano: Since we are not distributing out of the state, we would submit our labels to the North Carolina ABC commission. Places like Founders who distribute nationwide would have to send their labels through the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).

Another issue new breweries can run across is raising money. Unless you are filthy rich, you’ll probably have to take out a loan or find an investor who believe in what you’re doing. How did this pan out for you? Brango: We were coming out of college without a whole lot of savings, so we had to seek investors. And we got lucky because our families were willing to invest in us. They saw the passion in us, and the uptick that the industry is having right now. It’s also figuring out how much you need to raise. Figure out what you want to do. If you are doing barrel culture, you wouldn’t need all the stainless steel tanks. Just get pricing for whatever it is you think, and then double the initial cost. You always leave out things you need and find out about it later. Our initial cost did get doubled and our time got doubled.

You’re located on Paula Street in Raleigh near places such as Big Boss, Lynnwood Brewing Concern and Sub Noir. I always hear it’s pretty difficult to find a great location. How did you find this current spot? Brango: There were a few places we looked at. Actually, Barrel Culture’s current location … we called a week after them, as well as 15 other breweries. This was in January 2017. The location we have now, our landlord said that 10 people called after us. Our biggest issue was being delayed. What we thought would take us 8 months, ended up being 13 months.

So you ran into some issues? Brango: Basically. It was getting the permits. Originally we had the plans to put the initial taproom around the back, but were going to run into a number of issues from sprinklers, capacity, this, that and the other. And that would have cost way more than our budget. So we started on the brewery and added the taproom later, which just took longer to make. We were looking to be open in late October (2017), but it took us longer to find a contractor, that we didn’t even start until October. So we ended up paying rent for longer than we planned on, which can easily add up.

But all that is behind them now as they are set to have their grand opening on April 14, where they will be happy to serve up their beer, along with a collaboration with Collusion Tap Works out of York, Pennsylvania. Funguys will also have its first batch of cans available to purchase at a limited supply.