In 40 years, Hinnant Family Vineyards has had time to grow 87 acres of muscadine grapes that have been turned into succulent wines, some as old as the vineyard itself. While the wines are the specialty, the team also opens its gate to visitors seeking to learn about winemaking, picnic on the wraparound porch, celebrate their weddings, or attend a summer music festival.
Owner and vintner Dr. Lane Gregory and his staff of merry winemakers harvest their wine grapes from the fertile muscadine vines that flourish on Gregory Vineyards' 120 acres of lush farmland. The winery's Old-World tasting room and wood furniture lend a rustic atmosphere to samplings of cleverly named wines such as Sly Fox, Ruth Walton, or the dry white known as Bald Eagle. Like North Carolina's banana trees, the regional muscadine grape thrives from late August until early October, giving Dr. Gregory and company only a matter of weeks to harvest the tough-skinned fruit.
In addition to tastings, the handsome property plays host to weddings and other special events. And, on an average day, visitors may be spotted in the vineyard with Dr. Gregory, or exploring the vineyards.
Deep in the Umstead Industrial Park, something stirs. Amid the clank of modern machinery, a group of workers busy themselves with one of the world's oldest crafts: brewing. At Gizmo Brew Works, this meeting of contemporary technology and ancient know-how produces a tempting slate of small-batch beers. Inside tanks that hold the equivalent of 1,000 pints each, brewers prep favorites including the smooth and sweet Black Stiletto Stout and the complex Palisade Wasp India Pale Ale with the same care that has earned many of their past beers medals at the Carolina Championship of Beer. They also save room for seasonals, carefully adding a sweet caramel flavor and spicy Noble hops to their altbier, which they serve in a traditional stange glass or a large mug in celebration of Oktoberfest. These beers and more make frequent appearances in the brewery's taproom, gracing pint glasses for impromptu toasts or filling up growlers for at-home sips. Never ones to shy away from curious guests, brewers also open up their facility for Saturday tours, walking groups through the beer-making process during 30-minute explorations.
zpizza— voted best pizza in Raleigh by CitySearch and Best Pizza in Cary by WakeCary Magazine —is known for its inventive, California-style pizzas: think zesty Thai-style chicken pizza with peanut sauce and cilantro, or Mexican-style pizza loaded with taco fixings. But even a simple cheese or pepperoni pizza from zpizza is sure to be memorable. That's because the restaurant's cooks use only top-shelf ingredients in their brick-oven-baked pies, from the Montana winter wheat that goes into their hand-thrown crusts to the organic tomato sauce and Wisconsin skim mozzarella layered on top. Diners can customize pizzas with other toppings, including locally sourced meats, fresh produce, and gourmet ingredients such as truffle oil.
The team at Artistic Abandon subscribes to the notion that creating art, in any capacity and with any level of skill, can be a way to better oneself. Host and professional artist Emily Page envisions the studio's events as more like a lively get together than a class and encourages each intimate group of students to get to know each other over snacks and beverages of choice. Brushes flick softly across canvas in the studio, and pupils slip happily from the room, carrying new paintings to hang over embarrassingly bad paintings of safes.
Barley & Vine's wine aficionados demystify the art of fruitful grape-juice guzzling during wine-tasting classes that borrow sips from the shop's bountiful collection of adult elixirs. Throughout the tasting session, knowledgeable instructors funnel wine-swilling tidbits into inquiring noggins, such as the beverage's basic components, how to check for body, and techniques to decipher a good wine from a bottle of Listerine. After sipping, students learn how to articulate the flavors and notes radiating from each sample, and which styles best suit their palates.