The Great Jen-Nis Weekend Winery Escapades

JenNis Beverage Marketing! Marketing the Craft Beverage Industry.

Allow us to continue introducing our judges for the Palmetto Wine Competition at The Belmont Inn upcoming May 1st, in historic Abbeville, South Carolina. Bob and Jennifer Aycock are fellow bloggers based in Matthews, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte. Together, the brains and personality behind the blog WineCarolinas.

We first met Bob and Jennifer at Childress Vineyards, while attending the North Carolina Wine Month kickoff event. As fellow bloggers, they are highly focused in on the local wine industry. The two recently attended the North Carolina Wine Bloggers Conference. Featured blog post on their site feature chef inspired wine and food pairings featuring local wine which the two have carefully selected.

Bob holds a BA from UNCW, and works professionally as a social media project manager and wine blogger. He recently shared, “I enjoy a fresh Rosé as much as I like a crisp Riesling or soft Merlot. I’m a native North Carolinian who loves the charm of small towns and their distinct history. I like celebrating and exploring all that the Carolinas have to offer with my wife and our four children. Jen and I have taken our appreciation of wine and decided to completely embrace it, setting out to explore the rich variety of wines of the Carolinas. It’s great learning about the people who make the wine, the love that goes into it, and what makes it all so unique. I believe supporting local businesses and industries is important.”

Jennifer has a BA in English, and works professionally as an educator and as a wine blogger. She explained to us, “right now my wine preferences are reds, Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Wine Carolinas, which recently celebrated it’s one-year anniversary is their passion. Although Jennifer adds, “my love of wine started as an easy way to reconnect with my husband and enjoy some adult time away from our four, awesome kids, it has blossomed into a deep passion of local wine. I thrive on learning all that I can about the industry, the grapes, the people, and the incredible stories that are poured into each glass. In the past year, I’ve visited many wineries, explored wine festivals, and attended key events with the local wine industry (NC Wine Month Kickoff Event, NC Wine Bloggers Summit). I’m excited to share with others all that South Carolina is creating in the world of wine.”

We are beyond thrilled to have both serving as judges in the inaugural Palmetto Wine Competition. Bob and Jennifer bring a wealth of knowledge about the local and regional craft wine industry and we look forward to learning from their judging notes.

May 1st, 2018, we are hosting the inaugural Palmetto Wine Competition at The Belmont Inn in historic Abbeville, South Carolina. We are thrilled for this opportunity to promote the small local wineries of South Carolina. We have assembled a diverse group of extremely qualified judges.

Allow us to introduce one of our highly qualified judges, David Murphy.

David assisted at the Donatoni Winery in Paso Robles, California for twenty three years, crushing, pressing, blending, bottling and other process. He also assisted in the tasting room. David talks about his further experience below.

“I have assisted at Mountain Brook Vineyard, Tryon, NC, with picking, crushing, pressing, blending, bottling and running the tasting room. I served on the Board of Chestnut  Mountain Winery, Braselton, GA for five years. Assisting in various processes from planting, picking to bottling. I’m a member of the French Broad Vignerons, a wine group that promotes the wine industry in Western North Carolina.”

David brings twenty-four hours of education for wine judges under the guidance of  AWS certified judges.

He had judged four Asheville Food & Wine Festivals and will judge in 2018 under the new name, The Western North Carolina Wine Competition.

He also Judged the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition for three years and will judge the 2018 competition. Was selected to judge the Best of Show in 2016 and 2017. Judged three North Carolina State Fair Competitions and expects to judge again in 2018. Was one of seven judges selected to judge the Best of Competition in 2017.

We first met David at Mountain Brook Vineyards in Tryon, North Carolina. We quickly realized that David would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our competition. We look forward to learning from David’s judging notes and having him learn more about South Carolina wines.

The Meritage Alliance states on their website, that a Meritage is the very best of a winemaker’s craft. A winemaker’s top blended wine crafted by blending traditional noble Boudreaux style grapes. Distinguishing the best blends from those more common blends of red table wine.

Meritage is currently considered one of the fastest growing wine categories in the industry. What started in California has quickly spread across the country. A winery must be licensed to label a wine as Meritage. A Meritage wine must contain a blend of at a minimum two of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties.

The traditional red “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties are Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon , Malbec, and Petit Verdot plus the more rare varieties of St. Mecaire, Gros Verdot, and Carmenère. A Meritage wine showcases the traditional winemaker’s art of blending the best of a vintage.

One of my biggest wine pet peeves is the common incorrect pronunciation of the term Meritage. The correct pronunciation is one that rhymes with heritage. In fact, the term itself is a combination of merit and heritage. We often hear fellow winery visitors and wine lovers pronouncing Meritage incorrectly in a manner that rhymes with Garage. Drinking Mer-i-tahj in their garage! I’ve even heard a tasting room associate while pouring our wine tasting erroneously pronounce the wine they were serving! I try to bite my tongue, but most often I just can’t! I just can’t!

The Meritage Alliance explains that back in the nineteen eighties, an international contest was held to choose a suitable name for the best blends produced by their alliance of California vintners. Meritage was chosen from over six thousand entries. Wow!

Currently in our area, the Southeastern United States, four North Carolina wineries, three Georgia wineries, and fifty plus Virginia wineries are producing a Meritage. One of our current favorites is the Meritage produced by Burntshirt Vineyards in Hendersonville, North Carolina. This Meritage was in fact, the toast wine at our wedding. We also love the Meritage at Shadow Springs Vineyard in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley AVA. However, we’ve many, many Meritage blends still to taste.

Learn more about Meritage wines at The Meritage Alliance website. Consider the merit and heritage of wine blending as you enjoy your next bottle of Meritage.

So we stayed local this weekend because my son was going to be in town briefly and I wanted to see him and his lovely girlfriend.

We went to Mountain Brook Vineyards. It had warmed up nicely so we sat out on the porch that overlooks part of the vineyard and the mountains are in the distance. It is so lovely there. We enjoyed a bottle of their Rose. We met some very lovely people and enjoyed our time there and got to tell Rucha (one of their horses) Happy 21st Birthday!

We left there and headed to City Scape Winery for a Girl Scout Cookie paring. Man was that fun and good! Josh & Deb always do such a great job with the events they plan. All of the cookies went excellently well with the wines they pared them with. We walked to the back of the property to say hello to Pinot and the goats. We had a nice chat with Josh’s parents, Jane & Karl, as well.

Jane pruning the vines Saturday.

After dinner we went to Dorman High School to watch the finals of the WGI Indoor Percussion Regional so I could see Andrew and Nicole for a little bit as Andrew works for Civitas Independent Percussion.

Congratulations to these guys as they took home the first place trophy in the Independent Percussion Open Class Division. After the awards ceremony we all 4 headed to New Groove Artisan Brew so I could have just a little more mama time. I enjoyed the blueberry cider that they have from Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill. Sadly I had to say goodbye/goodnight to my son and his girlfriend and head home.

Sunday after church and lunch we headed to Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard. It was another beautiful day and we enjoyed the sunshine as we shared a bottle of their very lovely Riesling. Sadly we did not get to see Charles and Anne this trip as they were busy working a spring show in Charlotte. We did however meet some fun couples and enjoyed chatting with them.

This past Saturday we set out for something a little different. We were participating in a chili cookoff at our church that evening so didn’t want to venture too far.

The story of how we chose Muddy River Distillery is a little interesting. Monday before, being a Holiday, we were looking for fun places to visit. Not that many wineries open on Monday, so we started looking at deals on Groupon and ran across a tour and tasting deal for Muddy River Distillery. The name was familiar as we had met a gentleman Sunday at Burntshirt Vineyards who explained to us how he contracted with Muddy River Distillery to produce his brand of Paw Paw Murphy’s Moonshine. We quickly snatched up the Groupon deal only to discover tours were only available on Saturday. No worries, as only an hour away just up in Belmont, the tour and tasting fit perfectly into our Saturday schedule.

We invited some friends to meet us and all four of us arrived with a sense of excitement. The distillery is located in an old textile mill facing the “muddy” Catawba River. Honestly though , the view of the river from outside the distillery is quite beautiful.

The first thing noticed as you enter the distillery is a strong scent of molasses. Although I’m thinking the scent is artificially derived at the entry door, yes rum is the distilleries main product. Their rum is derived from carefully chosen molasses. Once checked in for your tour, everyone gets their very own Muddy River Distillery shot glass to keep, and for sampling after the tour.

Owners and proprietors Robbie and Caroline Delaney, started from scratch with no investors and no debt. Robbie leads the tour, because as he states, Caroline is the boss. All joking aside, Robbie explains that women in general have a more refined palate, and they rely on Caroline approving each new batch of rum. It isn’t bottled until Caroline says it’s good enough, and these guys are proud of their rum, with good reason. Robbie talks about the three stills, Liberty, Democracy, and the new workhorse 450 gallon still named Independence.

After the tour, it’s time to taste. Four different rums are produced and distributed in the Carolinas. Silver Carolina Rum is a small batch award winning rum produced in a one of a kind still. Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Rum is barrel aged for one year. The Coconut Carolina Rum was my favorite and their Spiced Carolina Rum was Jenni’s favorite. We brought a bottle each of our favorites home with us.

As we previously mentioned, the distillery is by contract producing moonshine for the Paw Paw Murphy’s brand. Samples of the moonshine are also included in the tasting. Afterwards visitors are allowed to mingle around the distillery and we took full advantage to snap a few pictures. As some of their rum bottles are dipped in wax, check out the nice letter they received from Makers Mark.

Robbie encourages everyone to visit the small micro-brewery located in the same complex just behind the distillery. Knowing our friends Will and Pam love a good craft brew, we quickly decided to give the York Chester Brewing Company a try. They were featuring a flight of four craft brews paired with Girl Scout cookies. Loving both beer and Girl Scout cookies, we just couldn’t resist. The brewery though small, does feature some outdoor seating.

We highly recommend this day adventure for a fun outing. Belmont is likewise a charming small town just SouthWest of Charlotte. Also certainly look for Muddy River Distillery rums in your local ABC store. I’m giving this day adventure an 87, a solid B+. Call ahead or check the schedule online to plan your tour, Well worth the fun!

So after getting a late start on Saturday the 10th, we headed to Hamptonville, NC. We stopped at Windsor Run Cellars first. We did the distillery tasting there first. They have 3 different spirits that are made from grappa and one from honey. This is the second time we’ve been to the distillery and we now have a bottle of the Killer Bees (made from honey) and a bottle of the Shadow Hawk. We will add the third one (whose name escapes me) the next time we go. Kelvin was our bartender and he is a lot of fun as well as a wealth in information.

We left the distillery and then went to the winery. They have a lot of lovely wines and it was too difficult to chose what to take home. We had such fun doing the tasting with Teri. We will go back again soon and make that tough decision.

We left there and quickly darted over to their sister winery, Shadow Springs Vineyard where sweet Buddy the poodle greeted us when we walked in. Buddy has recently, since our visit, celebrated his 16th birthday! Again, we had a difficult time deciding what to bring home, but we decided on a bottle of the Dark Shadow which is a heavenly dark chocolate wine.

We left there and started home and realized that we were close to Randy’s BBQ in Troutman. This is a quaint BBQ place and the BBQ is fantastic!

Sunday after church and lunch on Sunday, we went to Russian Chapel Hills Winery and had a glass each. We each enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc.

We left there and went to City Scape Winery for their annual Valentines Chocolate and wine paring. We had a blast! The chocolate was made especially for this wine paring and it was amazing. Josh and Deb do such a great job with all their events!

This past weekend, we took some friend up to Biltmore House to celebrate their anniversary. We toured the house, did wine tasting and had dinner.

We stayed the night in Asheville and after a lazy morning, we headed to the Grove Arcade area in downtown Asheville. There we found something new to do a tasting of… honey! We went to the Asheville Bee Charmer store. We each tried several and then we brought a sampler box home of the 3 that we really liked.

From there we headed to Addison Farm Vineyard. The lovely Arianna did our tasting and told us a lot about the family, how they came to own the Farm and about the different wines. They have 3 mead wines and we brought a bottle of the Love Herbal Wine home with us. Can’t wait to get into that some night soon.

We left there and went to Noble Cider. We each did a flight of 5. It was a lot of fun and we got to meet some fun people as well. There were a lot of ciders that we really enjoyed.

With Monday being a holiday for us, we wanted to go winery escapading, but not a lot of wineries are open on Mondays. After stopping at a couple of RV dealerships, we finally ended up at Dennis Vineyards and Winery. Lauren, who is the owner/winemaker’s daughter, did our tasting. She is also the graphic designer for their labels. Most of their wines are muscadine. They do have some that are different vinifera. We bought a bottle of their Snow Boots, had a glass there and had her re-cork the rest to take home.

So Dennis and had a long and much needed weekend in Savannah. We left Friday morning and headed south. We first stopped at the Angel Oak Tree in Charleston. I have never seen a tree so huge and beautiful.

We decided to go to Deep Waters Vineyard in Charleston and it’s a lovely place. Most of the wines are muscadine or a muscadine blend. The blends are muscadine with CA imported grapes. They use two types of muscadine that we had not heard of before, the Tara and the Ison. They have all sorts of animals on the property. Lots of chickens, roosters, ducks, pigs, a goat and bunnies. The goat (who’s name I have forgotten) will climb up a spiral staircase in his enclosure to get you to put some food in a little bowl that is attached to a pulley and you send it up to him & he’ll eat out of the bowl. We brought a bottle of their Magnolia, just the name of the wine not the varietal of muscadine home with us. This wine is actually made from the Carols grape.

Much to our surprise the Firefly Distillery is on the same property as the winery. So more fun there! We brought some of the Coconut Cake Liquor home. Our other favorite was the Apple Pie moonshine.

We left and headed on down to Savannah. Our hotel was amazing! We had a river view and got to see all sorts of HUGE cargo ships. They have wine and cheese every evening so that was always our appetizers before dinner. Friday night we went to B. Matthews on Bay Street for dinner and then over to Savannah Smiles for dueling pianos. To say that Savannah Smiles was not quite what we were expecting would be a vast understatement. I’ve been to a few dueling piano shows before but this one was very different. Now, just because I say it was different does not mean it was bad or that we didn’t have a good time because we did. It had just been quite the while since either one of us had a hand stamp. LOL! I had also not been to one that the players changed out periodically. There were 4 different pianists and one drummer who played on select songs. We experienced our first bicycle taxi to and from the bar and it had not been SO cold, it would’ve been a lot of fun. Both of the “drivers” were super friendly.

Saturday morning after an amazing breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to explore a bit. Again…. if it had not been so cold it would have been terrific! We both ended up buying ear muffs of sorts. The wind was brutal. I had looked at the forecast before we went and thought it would be great weather for Saturday. Not realizing there would be wind. Let me tell you, the wind coming straight off the river is COLD! But as always, we made the best of it. We then headed to Butterducks Winery. They us a combination of NC and California grapes. We had stopped there on our way home from our honeymoon and wanted to revisit. Since the winery is about 30 minutes from Savannah, it was much warmer and less windy. We had a nice time there and met some fun ladies who were enjoying a mommy’s day out. Enjoyed a glass each of their White Merlot and cheese and crackers.

Headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We went over to Tybee Island to go to the Crab Shack. SOOOO good! I had the low country boil and Dennis had the crab cakes. Both of us were STUFFED! Headed back to the hotel to get ready for our ghost tour. We decided to do The Hearse Ghost Tour because it was simply to cold to do one of the walking ones. Each hearse holds 8 people so we met some fun people. Our tour guide was hysterical! But one note. If you ever do this tour, and choose to sit in the very front, don’t sit on the left side of the hearse. Sit on the right. EVERYTHING is on the right.

After another great breakfast on Sunday, sadly we had to leave. There is so much to do in Savannah that I’m not sure even a week would be long enough to do everything. Upon checking out of the hotel., we drove around the city one more time and then headed to Hilton Head to go to Island Winery. (We went to both of these SC wineries because a) they weren’t too far out of the way and b) we needed to get them the SC Wine competition information). We found one antique store as we didn’t want to arrive exactly at noon when they opened. Between the two of us we got to taste all of their wines. They have some really nice varieties. We each enjoyed a glass and a cheese tray. We met a very lovely lady who was headed to Florida for the month.

Sadly, our fun long weekend had to end and we had to head home. Sorry for the picture overload on this one, I just had to post them all!

More fun to come next week!

#DiscoverSCWines

This weekend we got a late start partially because we knew we weren’t going far because we decided to stay in SC so we could talk to a couple of the wineries about our up coming SC Wine Competition and partially because we had some errands to run before we could start the weekend fun. Our first errand was of course the standard grocery trip everyone has to make once a week. We then headed to Brown’s Meats on Union Street (formerly Eastside Meats). We were thrilled that at meat market had open back up in Spartanburg. We purchased some pinwheels – pork lion sliced long ways and stuffed with Italian sausage and rolled up. We also bought some pickles to take to a friend of ours that loves spicy pickles. We left there and headed to another meat market in Spartanburg County, Foster’s Meats, where we met Jennifer McAbee who is part of the Foster family. We found out all sorts of fun stuff from Jennifer. They are producing sausage for a couple of farms using local to the farm wines, some using beer from local breweries and also some from local distilleries. This information was very intriguing to us and we are going to follow up on these and hopefully go visit the farms in the near future. She also told us of a Cidery that is hopefully going to be open to the public in the near future as well. We hope to get to speak with the cidery owner and do a feature blog on him when it gets close to his grand opening. So stay tuned!

First winery stop was Enoree River Vineyard and Winery in Newberry. We drove up we were greeted by the three dogs, Dusty, Tipsy and Maggie. We had a nice visit with Richard and they have some lovely wines! We shared a bottle of their great Gewurztraminer. We also got to sample a couple of wines that we had not had there before Saturday. The Sweet Tipsy Rose is 1/3 Carlos, 1/3 Vinifera White and 1/3 Vinifera Red. While discussing this wine with Claudia, Richard’s daughter, she couldn’t remember the exact varietals that were used and Richard and Dennis were deep in conversation and we didn’t want to interrupt. This is a very lovely wine that would be great to have on a warm summer day sitting on the porch. Another I got to try was the Curiously White it is named that because they are not certain of the muscadine varietal. The reason is that they had thought that they purchased all Carols vines and when the grapes matured they discovered several vines were something else. Again, it’s a fun wine that I think would be great in the summer or possibly make a terrific wine slushy. The wines are great, everyone at the winery is super nice including the dogs, apparently they have a cat named Robin, but I don’t believe I’ve seen her. We missed seeing Laura on this trip though. But Pack the Porch will be returning soon so hopefully we will get to see her then!

Dusty

Tipsy

Magg

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We left Enoree River and after a stop to pick up some dinner we headed to Old Rock Quarry in Enoree, to visit with Debbie, Linda and Lindy. They were rather busy but we had a nice visit with Deb and Lindy. Poor Linda was stuck inside. Debbie & Lindy were in and out but we were still able to discuss the wine competition with Debbie. We had our dinner and shared a bottle of the Snap Apple Sassy (and brought one home). There was a birthday party outside and I’m not sure what the ladies inside were celebrating, but they sure had a good time! Sadly it was time to go home. If you have not been there, you really should. These 3 really make everyone feel like old friends and family.

Sunday after church and family lunch, we headed to Overmountain to take Sophia her pickles. We were pleasantly surprised at how busy they were for a rainy Sunday afternoon. We shared a bottle of the Camilla, which is their white table wine. Got to talk to some lovely people from Gastonia and hope we get to see them again! I kept thinking when I saw them that I knew them from somewhere. Turns out they had been at Cat’s Paw a couple of weeks ago when we were there. Was so great to see them at another winery we love.

Upon leaving Overmountain Dennis wanted to go to Biltmore and since we’re pass holders he didn’t have to twist my arm very much. We thought they were open until 9 but winter hours are only until 7. Our very nice and super fun waitress Jyll totally helped make the trip there for us and we hope that we get to see her again when we go back to celebrate some of our friends anniversary. Regardless of the earlier closing time, we were able to have a nice dinner and a bottle of their Riesling before having to bring this weekend to a close.

Jenni and I will host the inaugural Palmetto Wine Competition on May 1st, featuring wine produced by South Carolina Winery Association members. We are both honored and excited for this event which provides the perfect platform for us to promote our passion (some might say obsession) for local wineries.

In our winery escapades, we are so fortunate to meet the owners and winemakers at many of the local wineries we love and visit often. Shannon Mercer, owner and winemaker at Lexington’s Mercer House Estate Winery approached us with the idea of a South Carolina wine competition. Jenni and I discussed the idea with others, Josh at CityScape Winery in Pelzer and Deb at Old Rock Quarry Winery in Enoree to gage interest in the event. The more we discussed the more it seemed the perfect event to promote local South Carolina wine.

We knew in order for the event to have ligitimacy, we’d have to ensure no bias towards any of the participants. Jenni and I knew the perfect venue in the Historic Belmont Inn in Abbeville, South Carolina. The charm not only of The Belmont but likewise of Abbeville is perfect for showcasing the artisan crafted wines. I approached Renè Smith, owner of The Belmont Inn about hosting our event and she was immediately excited to work with us.

The competition will feature artisan crafted wines produced by 16 South Carolina wineries. Judging will take place by blind tasting. Our diverse panel of judges will include, winemakers, sommeliers, chefs, and fellow bloggers. The 20 Point American Wine Society scale will be used for scoring and gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded for each category. Best of show and Palmetto signature winners will further be awarded.

The awards ceremony is open to the public. Afterward will afford the opportunity for wine tasting and food pairings and shopping of local merchants. Our hope is to promote local South Carolina wineries and the town and small merchants of Abbeville, South Carolina.

Promotion opportunities for The Palmetto Wine Competition at The Belmont can be explored by contacting us at wineryescapades@gmail.com