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.
At an hour when many bars and restaurants are busy closing up shop, Dream Nightclub lights up as a beacon to nocturnal wanderers from across the city. Custom-designed graffiti murals, pulsing LED lights, and energetic dance beats greet patrons as soon as they enter the after-dark dancehall and performance venue. The 5,000-square-foot club features ample lounge seating for bottle service or dramatically lit staring contests, as well as two bars and a full-service kitchen that churns out plates laden with chicken wings and french fries as late as 2:30 a.m. on most nights. A QSC sound system floods the dance floor with Latin, techno, or hip-hop tunes depending on the day, although the club also hosts occasional DJ sets and regular jazz-band performances.
Ethiopian main courses divide into two parts: injera, a thin flatbread, and wot, a stew comprising mostly meat or various beans. Ashee Ethiopian Cuisine adheres to tradition, serving stews of chicken, beef, or curried lamb and goat atop spongy slices of injera. Beyond its carnivorous dishes, Ashee caters to vegetarians with heaps of lentils cooked in berbere sauce and split peas cooked with mild green peppers. Feasts are served atop a mesob, a round table designed to encourage sharing among diners. Beers and Coke products can complement meals, though for a more authentic experience Ashee recommends ordering coffee, which is served during a traditional ethiopian ceremony.
Guests who pull up to the Summer Picnic Concert Series might find themselves torn between lounging and dancing. On the one hand, there's the lush, picnic-ready lawn of Cypress Bend Vineyards' pastoral grounds; on the other, there are the shuffling native sounds of Carolina beach music boogying from the stage. The three-piece team of Joyner, Young & Marie seamlessly shifts gears from power ballads such as "Frozen in Time" to twangy, up-tempo numbers such as "Live the Blues." The Sand Band plays up their dance, blues, and classic-rock influences, combining soulful melodies with eminently danceable beats.
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.
With the fountain chortling pleasantly in the background and the sun soaking into the fertile ground, it's easy to lose track of time at Vineyards at Southpoint. The glasses of handcrafted wines probably don't help much, either. In addition to shipping varietals to wine-club members, the vineyards offer weekly and special-event tastings, so guests can sip award-winning vintages while taking in the beautiful scenery.
Nestled on 225 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and operated by two passionate winemaking families, Grassy Creek Vineyard produces and bottles high-quality Yadkin Valley wines. Vineyard visitors, adorned with a pair of matching logo hats, peruse the wide selection of wines, selecting red or white to match gustatory preference or seasonal color coordination. An aromatically complex cabernet sauvignon from 2006 blossoms with a concentrated fruity bouquet of blackberries and plums ($18), and the 2008 chardonnay twinkles with light floral notes and a delicate, peachy disposition ($15). Grapes from Grassy Creek’s distinctive red soil collide in the hearty and chocolaty Red Barn Blend, a rich ambrosial bottle bursting with herby flavors ($16). Two included wineglasses make the perfect accessory for celebrative toasts to newly crowned benevolent despots.