The Haw River Wine Trail

Thursday, June 24, 2021

  We often like to meander our way through North Carolina on the weekends. Stopping in various small towns along the way and discovering the charm that the Old North State has to offer. Recently we spent a Saturday checking out some vineyards and wineries located along The Haw River Wine Trail and added in a close one, not on the trail, for good measure. The HRWT consists of five artisan wineries that follow along the scenic path of the Haw River. Being in semi-close proximity to The Triangle made for a convenient road trip.

After a quick pit stop in Mebane for some delicious treats from NC Jelly Donuts, we headed to our first stop at Grove Winery in Gibsonville, NC. Grove Winery is located about 10 minutes from Greensboro and is one of the most awarded wineries and estate vineyards on the East Coast. The first grapes on the estate vineyard were planted in April 2002. They specialize in crafting European Style wines.

One of our favorite parts of The Grove Winery was their abundance of outdoor seating. You could definitely make an afternoon with friends and perhaps check out one of their Winery Comedy Tours or grab tickets for their wine and song concert series. 

We tried a variety of their wines and ended up purchasing a bottle of their 2017 Nebbiolo. This is the same grape used in Italy's Barolo wines) It's a robust wine and we enjoyed it with steaks on the grill. 

Next up we headed back to Mebane for some lunch and shopping in their sweet little downtown before popping over to Iron Gates Vineyard

Iron Gates Vineyard is on a former farm in Mebane and Gene & Debbie Stikeleather wanted a way to preserve their farmland and Debbie learned about sustainable agriculture and began building their vineyard with a plan to continue farming the land that had once produced tobacco while focusing on the long term health of the land. Debbie was an absolute joy to talk to and her passion for Iron Gates was evident. She showed us their barrels and the process for making both red and white wine. 

All over the tasting room and the bottles of wine, you will notice artwork by Kenny Glenn weaved throughout the property and they tell the story of the history of the farmland; its past and present.

 Every year, in their back tasting room they host murder mystery dinners and I told my husband we must attend. I have always wanted to go to one as they sound so fun but haven't yet. My favorite part of this room was the handmade stars all lit up around the room. Debbie shared that they were created from old tobacco sticks and this thrilled me. It brought back memories for me of spending my summers on my grandparent's tobacco farm in Virginia.

Iron Gate has a variety of places to sit, sip, relax and enjoy your wine. I loved their patio section. Even though we were there on an exceptionally hot day, sitting outside didn't feel oppressive because they have a covered patio and tables that aren't on the patio are blanketed by umbrellas. Right now they are offering tastings in 1 oz sample-sized glass bottles. 

We grabbed one of their fruit wines to create a sangria with. I typically shy away from sweeter wines but I absolutely love them for summer sangrias. The perfect choice. 

Our last stop of the evening was a place we are more familiar with: Botanist & Barrel. It's located at 86 in Cedar Grove, not too far from Hillsborough. B&B craft southern ciders fruited sours & wine. Their ciders and wines are made using little to no residual sugars. They create minimalistic wines which means they add little to no sulfates, along with no filtering or additives. The practice is known as 'Defi Wines" and is French in Origin and pays homage to their grandparents. 

 They also have a very spacious outdoor set up with plenty of room for friends to meet up and they typically have food trucks on the weekend.  I really like their Forbidden Fruit, which is a blend of blackberries, baby ginger & turmeric. The soft bubbles with the spicy is a tantalizing flavor profile and I am a big fan. 

We have spent much time exploring the wines in the Yadkin Valley and towards the western part of the state and it was a wonderful day to discover wineries closer to home. So, gather some friends and family or head out for a romantic weekend and check out the wineries of Piedmont and the Haw River Trail. ( We didn't make it to all five) There are so many wonderful wineries in NC and be sure to check out The NC Wine Council to plan your wine tasting adventure. 

Thank you to Tabletop Media and  NC Wines for helping to plan my day. While some parts of our wine tasting were complimentary all opinions are my own. 

Cheerwine Holiday Punch Cocktail: Christmas in Carolina

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

*disclosure* this cocktail is part of a campaign. All opinions are my own. 

Cheerwine is a big hit in my household. the iconic 102-year-old, family-owned soft drink is made in  Salisbury, NC. We love supporting NC made products and it helps when they are legitimately delicious! My husband fell in love with it when he first moved to N. Carolina and got my brother in law to be their biggest out of state fan. We ordered him a gift basket a few years ago and his Cheerwine clock hangs downstairs in the "man cave" Every time we drive up to Boston, we have to take a few cases with us...or we're not welcome;)

I have made quite a few cocktails with the original Cheerwine and am excited to try this new one with their limited edition Cheerwine Holiday Punch. This Christmas themed cocktail is perfect for the winter months and is simple to whip up! You only need a few ingredients. The most important being Cheerwine's seasonal soft drink which is the perfect blend of Cheerwine, tangy pineapple juice, and bright bubbly ginger ale. 

"Carolina Christmas"

1.5 oz pineapple OJ
1.5 oz apple cider
1 oz bourbon
Cheerwine Holiday Punch
sugar-coated cranberries for garnish (optional)

Combine OJ, cider, and bourbon in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.  You can pour over ice or drink straight up. Top the cocktail with about an ounce or so of Cheerwine Holiday Punch. 

I made this a few different ways and for a lighter cocktail, vodka was my favorite option. I also tried it with mango OJ and that was tasty as well. Make it your own creation, the only rule is to enjoy it.

Cheerwine Holiday Punch is available in North and South Carolina grocery stores now through December 31st! 

Music In The Valley- Crabtree Valley Mall

Sunday, April 29, 2018

I love live music and I am so happy that spring weather may actually be here to stay and we can finally get our music fixes in on a regular basis. This past Wednesday, a friend and I were able to take advantage of the (long-awaited!) gorgeous weather and head over to Crabtree Valley Mall and take in their Music In The Valley concert series that runs every Wednesday night thru May.  The music is on The Patio (the upper level where Brio, Fleming's, McCormick & Schmick's are located) 

There is a different band each Wednesday ( you can check the line up here) and this past week was Smile and they were fantastic. They played a wide variety of songs and were very lively. On the patio, the restaurants offer varying drink specials that you can walk around and enjoy while listening to the band. These options that are outside of the actual restaurant patios are cash only.

The music starts at 6:30 and if you want to sit on the patio at any of the three restaurants, this is an option and a great time to do so as each one offers happy hour specials. Food and drink ( drink specials in NC are all day) that range in prices from $4-9 at each of the three restaurants! 

These are a few of the delicious cocktails and eats my friend we were able to partake in while relaxing to Smile. 

At Fleming's, my friend and I made a boo boo and ordered from the regular drink menu ( worth the price because the blueberry lemon drop is one of my favorite cocktails anywhere) my friend got the peach mule. Despite our mix up, they do offer 5 appetizer, wines, and cocktails for $6 each as a part of their 5 for $6 til 7. Here is a link to their offerings and this is every weekday, not just Wednesday! 

I love the patio at Brio and their Bar Bite menu has so many options starting at just $4! We grabbed calamari (not on bar bite menu but so tasty and light and I want some right now) and tried one of their cocktail specials, The Wild Island, It features pineapple infused vodka, Moscato, lemon, and pineapple juice for only $5!  Made me dream of summer life.

McCormick & Schmick's
This was actually my first time to dine at McCormick and Schmick's and it did not disappoint. They do their happy hour specials every single day (including weekends) and have been voted top Happy Hour in the country more than once. Their happy hour specials are from 4-7pm and range in price from $3-$9. And if you are there for Music In The Valley, your luck is even better as they offer their Shrimp & Shuck for a buck each during their happy hour offering!

I had heard rave reviews about their bacon jam burger and for $7, I decided it can't be beat. It comes with fries as well and I opted to wash it down with their most popular cocktail; the agave margarita (also $7) I recommend both!

If you are a fan of good music and tasty eats, I highly recommend you spend a Wednesday evening at Crabtree Valley Mall on their upper patio and partake in Music In The Valley and dining at Fleming's, Brio, and McCormick & Schmick's. Go hungry like we did and you can sample from all three places;)

I Like It A Latte: Raleigh's Ever Expanding Coffee Scene

Thursday, September 7, 2017

If you are looking to get your java on, here are a few awesome spots in Raleigh to help you start your day with a little pick me up! I linked to each of their web pages if you would like to know where they are all located and what roasters they use for their products. Raleigh really does coffee very well. Find out for yourself. And if you live locally, is there a place I left off that you think I should try? Let me know!

Jubala I got hooked on Jubala while visiting their original location in Lafayette Village. This is where I learned to love a Cortado (with a lot of sugar, mind you;) They now have a location closer to downtown off of Hillsborough St. If I go, I can't get out of there without also indulging in one of their amazing ham biscuits. 

Brew This is the home to my favorite cappuccino in town. It is always made perfectly and I tend to not need as much sugar with their version. The simple things that keep me happy. 

Sir Walter Coffee
This is a newer coffee shop in downtown and I love their space. It is one of the best places to grab a pick me up and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Plus, their caramel macchiato is amazing. Or at least their iced version is, I have yet to try it hot but I have hope. 

Cup A Joe is home to my favorite Iced Mocha.  It is almost dessert like and well, I like dessert. 

Slingshot Coffee is cold brew at its best. Or at least according to my husband. It is a little too strong for me in its natural state so I love to add it to vanilla ice cream and make a sling shot affagotta.  They also make a cascara tea and I love it! It is tantalizing for your taste buds. You can find their products at Whole Foods and Trader Joes along with a few other local spots. 

42nd & Lawrence is where I learned to love draft latte. It took me a bit but I am now a pretty big fan. I think the creamy foam is what captured me. I also love their lattes. They concoct a ton of unique drinks here, definitely give them a try if you are downtown. 

Benelux is the best place to go for a hot beverage accompanied by a waffle. They have the most amazing waffle selections and I usually go for caramel with ice cream. I mean, why not? Plus, their staff is always so friendly when I pop in!

Morning Times was one of the first in downtown Raleigh and this is when I tell you I have never tried one of their coffee drinks. Nope. Sorry but their hot chocolate is so damn good that I have never ordered another thing off their menu. I love it so much.  Maybe I should try a mocha so I can have the best of both worlds!

Liquid State is a cool spot near NC State. I'll be honest, I have never indulged in one of their coffee based brews, I have only had their hot tea and wine. However, I know people that really like it. 

Sola Coffee Cafe This is my favorite spot for a coffee milkshake and, like everyone else, their mini donuts. Yum! Plus, the I Believe in Raleigh mural on their back patio is an amazing photo op. Be sure to go on a Saturday when they showcase local artists and their goods at a pop up shop. 

Larry's Coffee is one of my husband's faves. Here is a link to their site to tell you where you can purchase the beans and who locally uses it for their coffee/espresso.

KFC Done Right

Friday, July 21, 2017

If you are looking for some of the best friend chicken in The Triangle, look no further than Soo Cafe. I almost hesitate to post about Soo and how good it is because I love how it somehow flies under the radar. Even having been voted by Southern Living Magazine as the best "flavored" fried chicken in The South. 

The first time I was able to indulge in the goodness that is Korean Fried Chicken was about 8 years ago in a tiny hole in the wall dive bar near Wall Street in NYC. I had one bite and I was basically hooked. That trip alone we ate at the tiny spot 4 times. We frequent NYC and it is rare to eat at a place more than once but I just had to have it. It wasn't until about 4 years ago that I stumbled on a Facebook post about Soo Cafe and how amazing their KFC truly was. I decided to test it out for myself. It was love at first bite. 

Soo is totally unassuming. There is nothing flashy or chic about this establishment, The lighting is terrible and it is full of oversized fake plants and they play Korean dance videos non stop on the tv in the back. None of that matters when the food is this good. It is not upscale Korean food and while their bibimbap and bulgogi are decent, you can find better in Raleigh. I come here specifically for the chicken. 

You get your choice of sauce. One per order. The most popular is Soga. I love that but prefer Old Fashioned. It is thick and sticky and plays so well on my palate. It has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. I prefer the boneless tender. I love the crunch from the double frying. They also offer wing combos and, oh my gracious, they are ginormous! My husband and his friend got the hottest one a few weeks ago and I had one bite that turned into total regret but they loved it. You know your limits and now I know mine. 

Go to Soo, just keep it our little secret. 

Kate Alexander: Raleigh Stylist

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Today it took me about 20 minutes to do my hair. For some people that may seem like a lot or it may seem like a short time. For me personally, it is about half an hour shaved off of my normal styling time, at least on morning that I wash my hair and don't pull of the pony tail trick. This is in large part to this lady! Meet the amazing stylist Kate Alexander!

 Kate has been doing hair for the past 14 years, her favorite part about doing hair is watching the transformation come to life and seeing how a hair style/color change can make such an impact on her clients.

I have extremely thick hair, apparently it is fine but there is a lot of it! While my hair is somewhat straight, it can be unruly and gets tangled rather easily and makes doing my hair in anything other than up, somewhat overwhelming. Enter the Brazilian Blowout. I had heard great things about this process but due to not having curly hair, I just assumed I was not a candidate. Wrong! A Brazilian Blowout can help to lessen tangles, rid your hair of frizz and make it more manageable

The whole process took about a little less than two hours and I was thrilled with the results. It has been about 3 weeks since I had my hair done and I have loved styling my hair. It has been easier and it seems so shiny and straight with hardly any work. No questions asked the best part for me has been the tangles...I barely have any when I do my hair. Will be getting this done again just for that!

If you are interested in a new stylist who has years of experience, is fabulous with cut and color; you must check out Kate! She will work with you to bring you the best style for you! I cannot recommend her enough. here are a few examples of her work. The first four are of my hair and it has left my hair that shiny, even when doing it myself! If you get a Brazilian Blowout it should last for about 12 weeks. And great news, if you schedule an apt in April, she is offering $100 off a Brazilian Blowout! You can't do better than that!

Here are a few more pictures from Kate's portfolio, you can tell what kind of work and attention to detail she pays to her clients. She truly does not just do a hair cut and color, she gives you a style that is best suited to your face structure and skin tone.  You can find Kate at the Geoffrey James Salon on Durant Rd. You can follow her along on Instagram at colorbykatevg or on her facebook page. She is also offering 20% off to new clients!

Art In Bloom

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whenever we have visitors come to town, we almost always end up at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It is, undoubtedly, one of our favorite places in The Triangle. From it being free for permanent pieces to the Summer Concert Series, or, if I am being honest, my favorite, the outdoor movies, there is never a shortage of reasons to visit the NCMA. Which is why last year we finally took the pledge and became members.

This past weekend was one I have been looking forward to and we always seem to be out of town when it comes to the museum, Art In Bloom. I had heard how lovely it was and, I must say, I was not left disappointed. I went a little early for a sneak peek and I am so glad I was able to because I ended up sick and would have once again missed it.

The original Art in Bloom was held at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1976 and each year since, more and more museum across the country participate. This is one of the few times that the permanent exhibition is only open with tickets but it is worth it and if you are able to ever attend, I implore you to do so!

With Art In Bloom now behind us, this means the museum is kicking into full gear with concerts and movies on the horizon! plus, with the warmer weather, take a stroll in the Museum Park or ride your bike on the trails. Picnics are also a great idea.  If you live in the Raleigh/Durham area, I also urge you to check out becoming a member. We have the dual membership which only cost $75 and this gives us two free tickets to all new exhibits and discounts to all events. Plus, 2 free tickets to each summer series movie. Yessss.'s tax deductible!

Here are a few pictures of the event and keep in mind I was seeing them as they were being installed so there are a few pictures that are in various stages of installation. All flowers were from North Carolina and all artists were North Carolina florists.

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