Generations of history permeates the walls of Old North State Winery, whispering stories of the 19th century building it calls home and the wines spawned from old family vineyards. The elegant shop showcases its rustic origins in dark wooden floors scattered with barrel coffee tables, plush leather couches, and sleek high-tops shaped in the likeness of Grover Cleveland. A marble-topped bar sprawls across one of the sandstone colored walls, fortified with bottle after bottle of the winery’s own creations.
Though wine is clearly Old North State’s main attraction, the shop also purveys beers and complements sips with a dozen sandwiches from its Downtown Deli. The deli provides for lunchtime cravings and catered events with turkey clubs, homemade meatball sandwiches, and a bar menu of hotdogs and steak nachos.
Lovingly tended by proprietors and master winemakers Tommy and Amie Baudoin, the idyllic fields of Morgan Ridge Vineyards yield delicious, fruity batches of handcrafted vino. Six varieties of grapes sprout from the fertile grounds, including classics such as chardonnay and merlot and rarer fruits such as sangiovese and seyval blanc. Within the newly built winery, stout oak barrels house a harvest of 1,500 cases of wine per year, and a tasting room welcomes guests with warm, comfortable hospitality. Regular tours explore the vineyard’s rolling hills and neat rows of plants before retiring to the tasting room, where patrons sample the fruits of the Baudoin's labor by drinking their wines and trying on their work gloves.
At any given time, the Rioja! WineKeeper's handsome wooden casing houses 12 bottles in a temperature-controlled setting. These conditions keep the wines fresh and result in a full-flavored pour. A quick flick of the tap and a crisp white or bold red streams into Riedel crystal, the only glassware used at Rioja! A Wine Bar. Between these sophisticated pouring and storing methods, and the sheer immensity of the full selection—some 800 wines—Rioja!'s dedication to the appreciation of wine is palpable.
Their tapas menu was designed with elegant pairings in mind and—much like playing "spin the bottle" at the UN—highlights flavors from around the world. Prosciutto bruschetta, stuffed dates, and a chorizo and manchego plate show off the kitchen's Mediterranean leanings. South African-style jerky, on the other hand, indicates a willingness to infuse an Old World dining tradition with New World recipes. The bartenders also keep a healthy selection of craft beers from brewers such as Bell's, Duck Rabbit, and Founders.
Taste Carolina Wine Festival's ninth annual installment fills swirling goblets with varietal wines and ears with the dulcet tones of talented musicians. Aged grape spirits hail from wineries such as Native Vines and Cellar 4201, filling complimentary commemorative stemware and the cupped hands of feral connoisseurs with samples of their signature blends. As evening descends, musical headliners The Grey Street Band jam and wail through popular Dave Matthews Band covers such as "#41, " and "Warehouse." Bottled wines are also available for purchase, and a pick-up area prevents customers from having to tote their selections around and provides bottles with one last chance to fraternize with their friends.
Creeping across a 5-acre swath of the Haw River Valley, 16 varieties of grapevines sprout from fertile, sandy soil, twisting their leafy arms around trellises and soaking in the lush, grape-growing climate. Benjamin's artisan enophiles hand pluck each of the muscadine, french, and hybrid grapes that blanket this vineyard. The grapes are escorted into the afterlife inside fermenting barrels where they live on as red and white wines for every taste—from dry dinner varietals and sweet country classics to seasonal bouquets. The whole creative process is observed by spectating visitors who wind through the idyllic facilities on self-guided tours—often including picnics on the winery’s covered porch, or perusals of of local art at the gift shop.
As an ecofriendly facility, Benjamin Vineyards & Winery employs sustainable practices, such as composting agricultural products, recycling bottles and other reusables, and growing plants with nightly bedtime reading instead of pesticides.
The chefs at El Rincon Mexican Restaurant create Mexican specialties such as enchiladas with mole poblano sauce, pork chops slathered with a green hot sauce, and sincronizada—a grilled tortilla sandwich stuffed with chicken or beef and cheese and served with sliced jalapeños and avocado slices. Guests pair these eats with libations from the full bar, including imported Mexican beer such as Bohemia and Tecate bottles and Negra Modelo drafts. After concluding meals with fried ice cream, patrons can head over to the eatery’s game room for some foosball and pool.
Studio 91 proprietor Annette Girman handpicks each work of art that adorns the walls of Studio 91, as well as the boutique assortment of fine small plates and artisanal wines that grace guests' gullets. Visitors dip crusty slices of bread or crunchy action figures into savory hummus and nosh on gourmet meats and cheeses, briny kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes artfully arranged into small plates. Eyeballs drink up the work of artists such as France's Gerard Puvis, who molds the metallic foil found on the necks of grand-cru wine bottles into miniature humans, or Canadian painter Rod Chase, whose photorealistic creations often deflect criminals attempting to flee into another reality. As a complimentary gift, each visitor can sample a quartet of 3-ounce pours of South American wine, tasting red, white, and rose varieties of the adult grape juice.