What We’ve Been Drinking — November 2016

What We’ve Been Drinking — November 2016

November always seems like such a whirlwind of a month! Family visits, holiday parties and a few vineyard trips filled up our calendar. Among the highlights we made a visit to two new wineries (Midnight Magdelena Vineyards and the newly re-opened West Bend Vineyards) as well as took part in an impromptu botteling at Hanover Park Vineyards!  We’re excited to see what the next month brings with it!

Check out our Instagram feed for a recap of our November selections.

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Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
What We’ve Been Drinking October 2016

What We’ve Been Drinking October 2016

Half way through November and we remembered we didn’t post our recap of last month! October was one busy month! For us, it involved a trip out to the coast to visit Sanctuary Vineyards. On our return trip, we made a quick stop at the NC State Fair and sampled a few wines from those who were out sampling for the public. It was a tasty month and we are already making progress on our November.

Continue reading →

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
NC Wine Month 2016 Recap

NC Wine Month 2016 Recap

Yet another wine month has come and gone. This month, we really stepped it up with our wine postings and winery visits. At the end of the month, we co-hosted a #winechat takeover. There were lots of new participants this year and we had a ton of great questions! One thing we noticed is the increased number of #NCWine and #NCWineMonth hashtags! This is great news for keeping our consistent brand strong and getting the word out there about #NCWine.

Read on for a photo roll of our NC Wine Month adventures.


Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments

Lodi – Post-Wine Bloggers Conference Adventures

We made it through the rest of the conference. The sessions were good, but the networking and connection with fellow bloggers and the Lodi wine community were invaluable. We’re so thankful for the experiences we had.

With the conference over, we decided to head out and explore a bit more of the wine scene in Lodi. We also wanted to pick up wine to ship back to North Carolina. We first needed food, so we walked to downtown Lodi and grabbed a Panini at Wine Social ( After that we walked back and got in our rental car and headed out to gather wine and explore.

We decided we’d head east a bit. We needed to see some gently rolling hills after days of flat land. Our first stop was Bokisch Vineyards ( Bokisch specializes in Spanish varietals. They were tasting three of their Albariños side by side. Each was unique. We were really impressed by all of them. We moved on a few reds and then finished with our favorite wine, the 2014 Tizona Late Harvest Graciano. It was delightful with notes of dried cherry and spice!


Next on our list was Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards ( We just had to stop in here as we’re big fans of Rhône Valley style wines. Acquiesce did not disappoint! They only do white wines and a rosé made from Grenache. It was a perfect day for cool, crisp wine! We loved them all, but our favorite was the full bodied 2015 Roussanne. Its nose was apricots, almond and pear with a palate of pear and honey and a mineral-like finish. We also enjoyed a few freshly picked Viognier grapes and some freshly pressed Viognier juice! It was another unique experience in Lodi wine country!


The next stop was The Lucas Winery ( We had visited here on Thursday, but we need to pick up some wine. Sara greeted us again and offered us a small taste of the 2014 Chardonnay. It was perfect! We also shared with Sara and Mitra Lucas that Wine Enthusiast had shared Jameson Fink’s (Wine Enthusiast’s Senior Digital Editor) post on their 2001 Chardonnay. We tasted it during Live Blogging on Friday of the conference. They were delighted. Mitra was kind enough to offer us a bottle of that Chardonnay. We can’t wait to try it again! We made our purchases and moved along.

2001 Chardonnay from The Lucas Winery

2001 Chardonnay from The Lucas Winery

We decided with the heat we should drop off our wines at the hotel before heading to our next stop, Harney Lane Winery ( Our favorites from this stop were the 2015 Albariño and the 2013 Petite Sirah.


We ended our day at McCay Cellars ( We had the fortune of sitting at one of the McCay tables at the Saturday night dinner at the conference. Linda McCay was at our table. Her husband Mike McCay (also the winemaker) was at the other table. Given the wines we had sampled the night before, we were interested in seeing the rest of the lineup and to purchase wine to ship back to North Carolina. Our favorite was the 2013 Cinsaut. This Cinsaut was made from grapes that came from vines that were planted in 1886.   We certainly can’t find that in North Carolina!

We ended Sunday night early. We had more plans for Monday.

We started our day on Monday at Michael David Winery ( We were familiar with their wines as their flagship brands (7 Deadly Zins, Petite Petit & Freakshow) are readily available in North Carolina. We were very interested in seeing what else that had to offer. We also wanted to grab a bottle of the 2013 Inkblot Cabernet Franc. We had tasted it on Saturday during the live blogging event.


After we finished at Michael David, we head back to Van Ruiten Family Winery ( We just had to get some of their wines to ship back to NC. Akaylia greeted us in the tasting room and took us through all the reserves wines. We had some of them during the Friday night dinner, but it was good to see the rest of the lineup. Our favorite was the 2012 Reserve Ancient Vine Carignane. It was woody and earthy on the nose with notes of cherry jam on the palate.


Talk then turned to the tree in the parking lot. Akaylia walked us outside and had us try to guess what kind of tree it was. We weren’t successful with our guesses. It turns out that it a California Cork Oak, a real cork tree! It was super cool!

Cork tree up close!

Cork tree up close!

During our tasting Bill came in to greet us. He took us back to the crush pad where Chardonnay was being pressed. We also got to taste a few grapes!

Chardonnay heading to the press!

Chardonnay heading to the press!

We finished our tasted, selected our purchased and head out to Livermore Valley. We found a few good wines in that area and would love to explore there again. However, it didn’t compare to the experience we had in Lodi.

Lodi, thank you! You were warm and welcoming! It was an experience like none other. We will always remember you fondly and hope to visit again soon!

Downtown Lodi, CA

Downtown Lodi, CA

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 1 comment
Friday Night Excursion – Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 – Van Ruiten Family Winery

Friday Night Excursion – Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 – Van Ruiten Family Winery

The Wine Bloggers Conference had a full agenda. We focused on preparing for the actual conference sessions. We knew exactly what sessions we would attend. However, we realized on Thursday that we had not paid enough attention to the details about the Friday Night excursions. Thankfully, we were tipped off about that and looked at it in more detail.

The Friday evening excursions are a Wine Bloggers Conference tradition. The Lodi excursions were unique though. The excursion groups were smaller than past excursion and they were top secret! The only thing we knew was the name of our excursion, Dutch Crush. You see, you “signed up” by selecting a ribbon with an excursion name. Some of the names were “Gone with the Wine”, “She’s a Brix House”, “99 Bottles of Wine”, just to name a few. We had no idea what winery was associated with each. All we knew is that we would be whisked away to a winery for an evening of wine and food.

We all gathered by our sign - Dutch Crush!

We all gathered by our sign – Dutch Crush!

The conference sessions ended at 4pm on Friday. We were told to head outside and find our group. It was there that we learned from Billy, our chauffeur, that we were headed to Van Ruiten Family Winery (, his family’s winery. We piled in the van (Mercedes Benz no less) and headed over to the winery. We were greeted by Billy’s mom and dad, Bill and Angie along with Angie’s brothers, John & Jim, John (Winemaker), Bill (President) Rustin (Sales Manager), Akaylia (Tasting Room), and Elyse (Tasting Room). I’m sure we’ve missed someone though. We do apologize. The patio was set up for appetizers and a refreshing glass of 2015 Pinot Grigio. It was hot, and we were thirsty. The Pinot Grigio hit the spot!

Appetizers were ready when we arrived!

Appetizers were ready when we arrived!

We all grabbed a glass and headed out on our tour led by John the winemaker. We visited the barrel room, the lab, the crush pad and stopped by the big tanks which were filled with recently pressed pinot grigio from the 2016 harvest. The yeast was about to be pumped in the tank. It was cool to see the yeast. It looked like bread dough. We ended out tour with a look at the bottling line.

Yeast ready to go!

Yeast ready to go!

Following the tour of the winery, we loaded back up in the van. We were headed to the vineyard. Chardonnay was being harvested. We were going to get to ride a harvester! How cool is that? Turns out it’s not that cool, but that’s only because it was still blazing hot out. It was also dusty, but the experience itself was amazing. We don’t see many machine harvesters in North Carolina. We may not have the chance again. One of the best things was being able to see the vineyard from on high. It made the expanse of the vineyards in the Lodi area really hit home. Acre upon acre upon acre of vines is not something we see in North Carolina either. We’re certainly grateful to have had this experience!

The view from atop the harvester!

The view from atop the harvester!

We climbed back in the van to return to the winery for dinner. We were greeted with a glass of the 2015 Reserve Double Barrel Chardonnay. It was perfect timing! We were thirsty again. This Chardonnay certainly hit the spot! We soon took our seats at the table. Each table had at least one Van Ruiten family member (We also met Bill and Angie’s daughter, Mia) and at least one winery staff person. It was a great way to get to know the team. We were fortunate to have a seat at Bill and Angie’s table along with Bill (President) and Christine of! It was a fun table! We especially loved hearing all the stories from Angie about her mom and dad, John Sr. and Ann. You could see the love on her face as she was telling the stories. You got a sense of what a remarkable couple they were. It was very moving.

The menu!

The menu!

In addition to the great conversion, we got to experience a variety of the Van Ruiten wines. Some of the standouts were the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Cab-Shiraz Blend. Of course, there was also great food to go along with those wines. Each course paired perfectly with the selected wines. The highlight for us was the homemade Dutch cookies (made by Angie) that were paired with the Late Harvest Viognier.

Van Ruiten Family Pictures hang in their tasting room.

Van Ruiten Family Pictures hang in their tasting room.

After dessert, more wines and conversation were shared. Hugs and thank yous followed. We left feeling part of the Van Ruiten family and grateful that we’d been lucky enough to share the evening with them!

Our wonderful hosts!

Our wonderful hosts!

If you’re ever in Lodi, please go visit them! We know we’ll be back!




Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments

Lodi – Pre-Wine Bloggers Conference Adventures

We just got back from our first Wine Bloggers Conference. This year’s conference was held in Lodi, CA. It was our first time visiting this part of the Golden State. We really weren’t sure what to expect not only from the conference but also from the Lodi area itself. Boy! Were we pleasantly surprised! Lodi knocked our socks off! Ok, to be honest, most days we didn’t wear socks. It was hot. Regardless, it was an amazing experience!

We arrived on the Wednesday before the conference. We wanted to have time to explore the area. After we checked in to the hotel, we ventured out to downtown Lodi. We stopped in at Lodi Wine Cellars ( ) for a quick tasting. The wines were good, but there were no standouts. After that we decided it was time to eat. We were a bit jetlagged given the 3 hour time difference. We stopped by Lodi Beer Company ( ). The food was delicious. The beer was great too. After dinner and a beer, we walked around downtown Lodi a bit more before heading back to the hotel and going to bed early.


Downtown Lodi, CA

Since we went to bed so early the night before, we were up early on Thursday. We had breakfast and had to kill time before wineries opened. Thursday was our tasting day. We decided to go out on our own rather than join one of the organized excursions. We like to be able to be flexible and just go with our gut. We also often ask locals where to go for food and drink. We are rarely disappointed with the suggestions we have received.

Our first stop was Oak Ridge Winery ( They opened at 10am, so it seemed like a good place to start. The stand out wine there was the 2013 Moss Roxx Ancient Vine Zinfandel. The vines that produced the grapes for this wine are over 100 years old. The wine was jammy with hints of vanilla and a smooth finish. It was exactly what you would expect from a Lodi Zinfandel.

Next we headed to Lodi Vinters ( Our favorite wine here was another zinfandel. This one was the 2012 Reserve Concrete Zinfandel. This wine comes from 105 year old vines. It’s partially fermented in concrete tanks that have been in production for over 75 years. The wine was full of dark plum and vanilla. It was fantastic!

We didn’t know a lot about Lodi wine before our visit. We did know Klinker Brick ( though. It was our next stop.   We loved all the wines we tasted there. There were a few new ones for us. One was the 2015 Albariño. The other was the 2015 Rosé which was a blend of Carignane, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. The stand out new wine for us was the 2013 Farrah Syrah Grand Reserve. Aged for 23 months in French oak, this wine comes from only 2 rows of the Syrah vineyard. We had the pleasure of meeting Farrah, the namesake of the Farrah Syrahs, during the Live Red Wine Blogging session!

Klinker Brick Winery

Klinker Brick Winery

After lunch at Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe and Deli ( – it was so good we went back again on Saturday – we met up with another blogger, Heather of 10K Bottles ( for the afternoon. Our first stop was Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards (   The standout there was the 2014 Winery Exclusive Nero d’Avola. This wine presented cherry flavors with hints of cocoa.

Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards

Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards

Next we headed to Oak Farm Vineyards ( ). We were struck by the beauty of the tasting room. It had a modern, lodging feel. It was also here, that Heather, Matt and I realized something special was in store for us on the Friday night excursions (more on that in another post.) The standout wine from our tasting was the 2014 Barbera. It was aged in oak and gave both a nose and palate of cherry and warm vanilla. While there we met the owner, Dan Panella, and the winemaker, Chad Joseph. They took us on a tour of the winery and spent time answering our questions and chatting. We appreciated their time and how warmly we were welcomed. This was a theme all through Lodi.

Fireplace in Oak Farm Vineyards Tasting Room

Fireplace in Oak Farm Vineyards Tasting Room

We ended out tasting adventure on Thursday at The Lucas Winery ( ). Heather had received a recommendation to check them out. We’re so glad she did. Lucas is one of the original five wineries in Lodi. They produce only straight varietal wines. We were quickly greeted in the tasting room by Sara. She was such a pleasure! The tasting included wine in the tasting room, a short walk out the back door to taste zinfandel from the vine, wine in the barrel room and finally Late Harvest Zinfandel paired with freshly baked brownies. We ended on a high note!

The Lucas Winery

The Lucas Winery

Thursday evening we headed back downtown for dinner. We also wanted to check out the farmers market. It’s a weekly staple during late spring through summer. Wow! This was more like a festival than a farmers market. There were all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and baked goods along with food trucks, live music, a beer garden and wine tastings! Lodi does their farmers market right! We were super jealous that we don’t have something quite like that here in North Carolina!

Our first full day in Lodi confirmed what we first experienced Wednesday night. Lodi is a special place. We would find more about just how special on the following day. We’ll have more on that in another post! Stay tuned!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
What We’ve Been Drinking: July 2016

What We’ve Been Drinking: July 2016

Another late posting, but we’ve been busy during the month of August! July was another hot month, but we found some great wines to keep us cool. We also made our way to another new winery in July! Roaring River Vineyards opened its doors in mid July so we couldn’t resist making a visit.   It was so peaceful and serene we didn’t want to leave!  We made a few other winery trips during the month and picked up another set of Riedel glasses during a special tasting event at Hanover Park.  It was a great way to beat the heat of summer!

Check out our Instagram for a recap of what we had during the month of July:

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
How to Read a Wine Bottle Label

How to Read a Wine Bottle Label

This post originally was written by us for Craft Carolina.  You can find it here:

Shopping for wine can be a fun if you know what you want. On the other hand, it can also be a daunting experience. Unless you’re in the business, sometimes those wine labels can be confusing. We’re here to help. We’re going to take a look at how to read an American wine label. European wine labels are a different animal for a different time. We’ll look at labels for wine made right here in the USA. In particular, we’ll look specifically at a North Carolina wine label.

Label standards in the US are regulated by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau (TTB). The regulations are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Per their website, the TTB works to ensure that alcoholic beverages sold in the US are properly described on their containers. The TTB goes on to state that they review over 100,000 labels and advertisements each your to ensure that they comply with Federal regulations. You can find more information at the TTB’s site. It was used for most of the information in this article. Here is a link:

The basic parts of an American wine label are:

  • Brand Name – This is the name used to market the wine.
  • Vintage Date
    • This is the year in which the fruit used in the wine was harvested.
    • If state or county is used as an appellation of origin, then 85% of the fruit in the wine must have been harvested in the vintage year.
    • If a viticulture area is used, then 95% of the fruit in the wine must have been harvested in that vintage year.
  • Estate Bottled
    • This is used when 100% of the fruit came from a vineyard owned or controlled by the winery.
    • The winery also must have processed the wine in its entirety at the winery.
  • Varietal Designation
    • This is the name of the grape variety that comprises at least 75% of the wine.
    • If this designation is used, then an appellation of origin is required. This means that the 75% must have all come from the appellation of origin.
    • The above rules only apply to vitis vinifera grapes (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, etc). For vitus labrusca grapes (Concord, Catawba, Niagara, etc), the requirement is only 51%.
  • Other Designations
    • As the varietal designation is not required, other designations may be used.
    • These include Red Wine, White Wine, Rosé Wine, Table Wine (< 14% Alcohol) or Dessert Wine (> 14% Alcohol).
  • Appellation of Origin – This can be the state, county or geographic region in which 75% of the fruit in the wine was grown.
  • Viticulture Area
    • This is the American Viticulture Area (AVA) in which 85% of the fruit in the wine was grown.
    • An AVA is a designated wine grape growing area within the US so designated for its distinctive geographic features.
  • Name & Address
    • This is the name and address of the bottler of the wine.
    • The designation of “Produced” can be added to designate that at least 75% of the wine was fermented at the address listed.
    • The designation of “Vinted” can be added to designate that the wine was cellared at the address listed.
  • Alcohol Content
    • This is the alcohol by volume of the wine.
    • Wine that is between 7% and 14% alcohol can be labeled as “Light Wine” or “Table Wine”.
  • Net Content
    • This is the net content of wine in the container in metric units.
    • Wine can be bottled in 50ml, 100ml, 187ml, 350ml, 500ml, 750ml, 1L, 1.5L or 3L sizes.
    • Bottling greater than 3L is allowed at even liters only.
  • Health Warning Statement – This is required on all beverages at 0.5% alcohol or greater.
  • Declaration of Sulfites
    • This is required on any wines that might be sold across state lines where the wine contains 10 or more parts per million of sulfur dioxide.
    • It is not required for wines only sold within a single state.
Wine Bottle Label Details

Wine Bottle Label Details

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
Reflecting on #WBC16: Our Insights

Reflecting on #WBC16: Our Insights

Well the Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 edition is now over and Lodi, CA can go back to the harvest that is quickly approaching. This year was our first year in attendance. When we arrived in Lodi last week, we weren’t sure what to expect. Sure, we read up on the conference and joined in on the numerous web stream chats from @WineAntics. But still, we were a little unsure what would happen. If you don’t read the rest of this post, you can take away this one piece of info. We absolutely loved this conference and we gained so many valuable insights, that it will now be on our calendar for years to come.

Let me first start out with a quick overview of the conference schedule. The first two days were jam-packed with information sessions, keynote speakers, panel discussions, and live wine blogging (aka speed tasting). Of course, there was plenty of time for meals, mingling, and making valuable contacts in the blogging industry. The final day of the conference was only a half day, but the ratio of insights to time spent sitting was the highest of the entire conference.

I’ll get to a post about the first two days in the next coming days, but I wanted to focus on the last day first. The break out session that day only had two options, so Joe and I decided to divide and conquer. I ended up heading to the session titled “Increasing your Audience and Engagement” presented by husband and wife team @marycressler and @emberandvine. Their award-winning blog Vindulge and their popularity across their social platforms made them ideal presenters for this topic.

There were so many takeaways from this session, that I now have weeks worth of homework ahead of me and I could write post after post about everything they taught me. The point that resonated with me the most was probably this; instead of trying to build an audience of new readers, we need to focus our writing and posts on those who already read our blog. By focusing on our readers we will end up writing better, writing more often, and gain a base of loyal readers. The rest of the popularity equation will eventually unfold after this first key step.

Our Message to You

So here’s to you, our loyal readers. Thank you for sticking with us and for reading each of our posts and reviews. We really appreciate your comments and feedback, so please let us know what else we can do to make it more interesting for you.

We’ll be posting more about the Wine Bloggers Conference in the next coming days, so keep an eye out for more posts. As we continue our journey of taking NC Wine to the next level, we’ll also be making a few improvements on our blog and our social media outlets. Even though we only went to one WBC so far, we feel ready to take on the world. Cheers!

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments

Live Wine Blogging at #WBC16 — Red Wines

We’re back at it for day number two. This time we’ll be enjoying an assortment of red wines. The setup is the same; several tables filled with bloggers with a winery bringing their wines to the table. We’ll have 5 minutes per wine and we’ll be posting our reviews here. You can also find our reviews on Twitter, so check back between 3:30 and 4:30 Pacific Time for more info!

the tastings—

Cultivar Winery – 2013 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted: August 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Entry level Napa blend. Dark color, even to the edge of the glass. Classic Napa nose, red fruits, a touch of herbs. Big, bold, fruity, almost chewy. High alcohol on the finish, very hot. Yet still maintains a fruity balance.

Klinkerbrick – 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted: at 7:24 pm
A first release of this varietal. Deep and even in color and quite expressive on the nose. A cooling first sip reveals a very nice fruit profile with soft tannins. It’s still youthful, so it’ll be interesting to see what it does in the years to come.

Peirano Estate Vineyard – 2013 The Other

Posted: at 7:19 pm
A red blend mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Rich color, not deep but still bright. Classic nose of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot notes, big cherry with hints of vanilla and oak. Fruity flavor, very vibrant with a well balanced oak mid-palate. An excellent value (12.99 average retail).

Michael David Winery – 2013 Inkblot Cabernet Franc

Posted: at 7:13 pm
A smokey nose with a touch of dried black cherries. Fresh black cherries start out on the front, then move into a mineral rich, almost flinty, finish. Vanilla is present on the mid-palate as well, then fades quickly before the finish.

Prie Winery – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted: at 7:09 pm
A complex nose, earthy and hints of sage and possibly thyme lingering around. Cooling on the first sip. Dried fruits throughout with a bit of a lighter body than the other wines tasted so far. Another refreshing change from the heavier cabs just a bit more to the north.

Lange Twins Vineyard – 2014 Nero D’Avola

Posted: at 7:04 pm
Earthy nose, almost a little nutty. Big fruit forward profile. Tannins and oak are well balanced with a delicate herbal undertone. Light cassis on the finish; a different wine than the others in the lineup.

Harney Lane Winery – 2013 Zinfandel

Posted: at 6:59 pm
Garnet in color, even color distribution. Clean youthful nose, dried red fruits, maybe a touch of spice. Big fruit flavors, distinctive. Hints of herbal mid-palate and a bit more savory. Nice oaky finish, long with a drying end.

Oak Ridge Winery – 2014 OZV Zinfandel & 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted: at 6:55 pm
OZV: A full juicy nose, hints of vanilla and a woody backbone. Big fruit forward flavors, leaning on black fruits and well ripened blueberries.
Cabernet Sauvignon: lighter in color, very dependable. Classic cab nose, red fruits with an oaky balance. Bigger fruit with a lighter finish. A nice Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon.

Abundance Winery – 2013 Carignane & Copius Red

Posted: at 6:51 pm
Carignane: Medium purple color with a slight pink on the outer rim. Bold caramel and a hint of plums.
Copius red: 50/50 Carignane Cabernet a bit more smokey with a bigger fruit mid-palate.

Klinkerbrick Vineyards – 2013 Farrah Syrah

Posted: at 6:43 pm
A single vineyard Syrah poured by none other than Farrah herself! Deeply colored and a light licorice nose with a plum note in the background. The flavors are bold with dark red fruits and dried berries. Big pepper on the finish with a touch of smoke and vanilla.

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments