1 Weekend, 8 New Raleigh Hotspots

Last summer, the husband and I moved away from the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina after spending eight years watching the cities expand and their food scenes skyrocket off the heat-charts. Seriously, the New York Times is obsessed with the place! So I was excited to head back for the weekend in mid-September—my head’s still spinning from the other side of the country over all the new foodie destinations that have sprung up just this past year.

Downtown Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh

While my husband gave a presentation at NC DevCon, I decided to spend my weekend exploring as many of downtown Raleigh’s newly opened spots as possible. Why Raleigh and not the rest of the Triangle? I had no car and was staying downtown. It’s that simple. I needed to focus on places I could walk to.

After our flight in, my first stop was Jose and Sons (327 W. Davie St.) for dinner. It’s the newest incarnation of one of my favorite Triangle restaurants, Jibarra, located in the fast-redeveloping Warehouse District right by the train depot.

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Jose and Sons is now more Southern-Mexican fusion, whereas it had been pure upscale Mexican food in the past. While I remain skeptical about the value of $8 guacamole—

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–and the shrimps and grits didn’t have nearly enough heat for me—

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–I have to give solid props to the Booze and Mango cocktail.

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That’s dessert in a glass, and it’s a beautifully balanced one, too. Vanilla rum, Grand Marnier, cream, and what Jose and Son’s calls a mango popsicle and I’d call a mango-flavored ice cube make for a worthy night cap.

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Finger Lakes 20013 Riesling Launch–Live! On Twitter and Facebook

I hope it’s been a pleasant Saturday for you so far, readers. This is just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be participating in the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance’s launch of their 2013 Reislings in a short 3 hours from now, from 7 to 9 PM EST, which is 4 to 6 PM PST for those of you West Coasters who can’t do the math.

I’ll be tasting along with the 50 other media members participating in this live social media event. You can find us in two places: at the hashtag for the event on Twitter, #FLXRiesling, or over at the Finger Lakes Fans’ Facebook Page. I’m going to try to keep an eye on the happenings both places, but Twitter’s my social media forte, so you can definitely follow my thoughts there or in my own Twitter stream @theGourmez.

What will I be tasting? Four different 2013 rieslings with an emphasis on dry offerings–and yes, these are wine samples provided free of charge (disclaimer!).

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In case you can’t make out the labels, from left to right we have Glenora Wine Cellars’s 2013 Dry Riesling, Swedish Hill Winery’s 2013 Riesling, Chateau LaFayette Reneau’s 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, and Hosmer Winery’s 2013 Dry Riesling. They are currently chilling in my fridge, though I’m taking Talk-A-Vino’s advice to pour my glasses about an hour before the event begins to retain a slight chill and allow them to develop with some air.

This event is doubly, no, triple-ly exciting for me because I’ll be attending next year’s Wine Bloggers Conference located in the Finger Lakes (I won Quini’s Grand Prize!) and I have very little experience with Finger Lakes wines in general. I admit to some reticence. Sweet wines have never been my favorites, and rieslings have a reputation for sweetness. The rieslings I’ve ranked above average (Schloss Biebrech Sekt, Buitenverwachting Rhine) have been largely sparkling. And the last riesling I rated that well was four years ago (Lindeman’s Bin 75)!

But I’m always ready to be surprised, and that half the wines we’re tasting are specifically cast as dry gives me hope. See you on the interwebs soon, fellow riesling explorers! I’ll be sipping from my beautiful balcony facing the Bay. Okay, I can only see an inch of the Bay, but it’s all part of setting the mood, right?

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Oak Farm Vineyards Winery Expansion!

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The fishing lake at Oak Farm Vineyard. Click twice for the full view.

Oak Farm Vineyards Winery (23627 Devries Road) is on its way to becoming the first of its kind in the Lodi, CA, appellation: a family-owned estate that offers the full experience of a large-scale destination winery, minus the glitzy hotel and pretension. I took part in a media preview of their new expansion, which will help them achieve that goal. The Wine and Hospitality Facility is scheduled for a public grand opening on October 25 and 26 of this year, and if you’re a local wine lover, it’s an event you shouldn’t miss.

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That beautiful wood-covered tasting room is the centerpiece of the expansion. By now, the landscaping is likely all filled in along the terraced stone wall. Inside, the tasting room is covered in more gorgeous wood and decorated with an inviting modern aesthetic.

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That geode picture is really for my sister, who collects them.

That geode picture is really for my sister, who collects them.

Attached to the tasting room is a bonus room that is intended for the use of Oak Farm Vineyards wine club members. Dorothy Panella, mother of Managing Partner Dan Panella and Business Manager Nicole Panella, is officially in charge “of stuff,” which included decorating the room before us bloggers rolled in with our cameras. She assured us that the final version of the room would look much better, but frankly, I think she did a great job with the stuff.

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