Private Wine Locker

I was on a business outing several weeks ago that took me to City Club in Charlotte, NC.  This is one of those private clubs that is abundantly adorned in rich mahogany wood and you know as soon as you step through the doors that being a member is as much a status symbol as anything else.  I was actually there to network with the local banking community of Charlotte.  Having arrived early, I had plenty of time to wander around – and I am so glad I did!

Wall of Wine

I stumbled upon a Wall of Wine!  I immediately went up to the desk and started asking the receptionist questions.  (1) What are these wines for? and (2) Can I please take pictures? 

Turns out these doors/windows you see in the picture are private wine cellars for club members.  You will note that each one has its own lock as well as the member’s name engraved on a brass plate at the bottom of the door.  Members can bring wine to the club from their private collections at home and have them stored in these temperature controlled wine cellars so that their own wines are readily available for dinner!  Talk about a status symbol!  The members can actually have their own wine menu created from their personal wine collection so that when they sit down to dinner, they are ordering wines from their own private collection!

These lockers are in huge demand at City Club too.  There are not enough to serve every member so you have to put your name on a waiting list to even get one.  The picture above is only one portion of a wall.  When you step into the dining room, there is another wall lined with private wine lockers.  And for the really expensive wines that need to be kept under even more security, the club manager has a wine locker in his office as well for members to lock these up in.  You will notice that each wine has a tag hanging from it.  This tag has the member’s number on it so that he/she can request his reserve by membership number.

And if you don’t already have a “private” collection of wine at home, the wine manager at the club is constantly finding great wine deals that he passes along to members.  Members can order wine at his discount and either take them home or keep them in their private wine locker and have them added to their own personalized wine menu!  If you are not fortunate enough to have one of the private wine lockers, you can still bring your own bottle (BYOB) to the club and enjoy it with your meal.

Needless to say, I was duly impressed!  I wonder how this would compare to being in a wine club.  You would have options to purchase great wines at bargain prices plus get all the added perks mentioned above.

Kool Bag (Really Cool!!!)

This was a product sample from Koolbag.


This is one of the handiest items any wine lover can own!  Hands down!

Fold it up and stick it in your bag to take on your next wine tasting adventure or better yet, keep it in the trunk of the car – that’s where I’m keeping mine!  Just pull it out when you get to your destination and ask for some ice.  You’re set.  It is even good for red wines in the heat of summer as you can add a small amount of ice to keep your wine from getting too warm on those sweltering summer days.

This bag is also a great gift idea.  Fill it with a favorite bottle of wine and use it for the gift bag.  The Koolbag becomes part of the gift – and there is a place for a gift card to slide right in (where you see the gray “Koolbag” card inserted on this one)  – or a business card if this is a busness or promotional gift.  You can even have your own brand or logo put on the bag!  Businesses can order in bulk to get special discounts – some orders may even qualify for free shipping.

The bag appears very durable – made from lightweight flexible PVC with heat-pressed handles to hold the weight of a full bottle of wine and ice.  The bag I have shown in the picture holds a regular 750ml bottle of wine, but it is also available in a smaller size for the 375ml bottles.  AND rumor has it that they are coming out with a bag that holds a 6-pack of beer.  How kool is that???

On a Robert Parker scale, I would give the Koolbag 99 points and recommend that everybody own at least 2!


Grapes & Small Plates – A Winston Salem Food & Wine Event

Grapes & Small Plates bursts onto the scene in April to showcase the tastes of Winston Salem at almost 20 area restaurants.  On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s during April, participating, independently owned and operated restaurants will tempt patrons with signature small plates and optional wine selections from the grapes of Carmel Road winery.

Grapes & Small Plates, co-founded by Kyle Agha of New Town Bistro, John Milner of Milner’s American Southern Cuisine, and John Fulp of Noble’s Grille in partnership with Wildfire, LLC, will kickoff its inaugural event on Tuesday, April 3rd at these restaurants:  1703, Bernardin’s Fine Dining, Bleu Restaurant & Bar, The Carriage House Restaurant, Cimarron, Diamondback Grill, Chef Dion Sprenkle, The District Rooftop Bar & Grille, Downtown Thai & Sushi, Full Moon Oyster Bar & Seafood Kitchen, J. Pepper’s Southern Grille, King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar, Lucky Blue, Milner’s American Cuisine, Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro, New Town Bistro, Noble’s Grille, Outwest Steakhouse, River Birch Lodge, Village Tavern at Hanes Mall, Village Tavern at Reynolda Village and Willow’s Bistro.

Each week participating restaurants will offer affordable, signature small plates plus an optional Carmel Road wine suggestion to enhance the small plate.  Imagine Large NC fried oysters over a bed of fresh Tega Hills lola rosa and mouthwatering bacon balsamic aioli, or Boguete Mountain coffee-encrusted Heritage Farms braised pork belly with Sea Island red peas and crispy pork chips, paired with a glass of rich, oak-aged Carmel Road Pinot Noir, whispering flavors of red berries, warm spice, earth, chocolate with a long, silky finish.

Noble’s Grille certainly imagines such pairings, in a warm and inviting atmosphere. “It’s really something fun to promote all restaurants in our area and give customers an affordable option to dine,” says John Fulp.

On April 26th, the last Grapes & Small Plates date, all the restaurants will feature North Carolina ingredient inspired small plates and the wines of the Yadkin Valley (YAPA).

Participating customers will have the opportunity to enter into drawings each time they dine for Grapes & Small Plates.  A drawing of all entered guests will be held at the end of the month, with winners receiving prizes including gift cards to participating restaurants and donated items like a brand new chef’s knife set.

“The idea is to give people a chance to taste the flavors of our area restaurants.  We hope that a small plate offering will entice diners who may not otherwise come in because of a pricey perception to come enjoy the various tastes around town.  It’s one way they can support the local restaurant community, have a meal full of variety and as a bonus, maybe they will win something” says Kyle Agha.

 Additional restaurants will be permitted to join in as the event continues to develop.

“If our first attempt is successful, we may plan to do again later in the year. We really want this to grow into something the community looks forward to, that builds better relations with wineries and increases awareness on the many tastes and flavors the Winston area has to offer…affordably” says John Milner.

PepsiCo and Carmel Road Winery are the presenting sponsors of the event.  Eastern Foods is a prize sponsor for the event.


About Grapes & Small Plates

Grapes & Small Plates is a new event that was the brain child of three local restaurant owners and brought to life by Wildfire, a local marketing communications company.  For more information on Grapes & Small Plates, please visit

About Wildfire, LLC

Wildfire is an advertising and marketing agency located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Since its founding in 2002, the company has expanded to nearly 50 full-time employees and is the Triad’s third largest marketing-communications firm. In 2007, the company relocated to its current location, a renovated scrap metal warehouse at 709 N. Main Street. Ranked no. 51 in 2009 out of the Top 100 North Carolina Small Businesses in Triad Business Leader, Wildfire represents Hanesbrands, Inc, BB&T, Lowe’s, Wake Forest Athletics, Carolina West Wireless, The Army National Guard, Dixie Classic Fair, among others. In addition, the agency is active with various community organizations including AARF and the North Carolina Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. To learn more about Wildfire and see more creative work, visit

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Doesn’t this sound like the most delicious Brunch entrée!?!?!  I’m thinking either Champagne or a Sparkling Wine to pair with this – and of course, eating outside in the morning breeze!

These pancakes were pretty darn delicious.  If you are willing to spend some extra time making these, its well worth it.  They have oats and greek yogurt in them!  I wouldn’t call these healthy….  but different!  This recipe is from the lovely cookbook, The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland.  You can find ithere .  Also check out Sarah’s amazing blog here

Blackberry Crush

  • 2 cups of fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup


  • 1 + 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 + 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 heaping tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 sea salt
  • 1 cup greek yogurt, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 4 tbs unsalted buter, melted, plus more for the griddle/pan
  • 2 large eggs

To Make The Blackberry Crush Topping:

In a large enough bowl, combine the berries and sugar and crush them…

View original post 179 more words


This is a special invitation from me (and the good folks at Grove Winery) to come join us Friday at 6 pm for a tweet-up and a new wine release!!!  Max and the gang will be releasing their new Cabernet Franc and all you have to do is show up to get free tastings!!!

But that’s not all – we are going to have a REAL party!  Light appetizers will be served along with your free tasting of the new Cab Franc and you will get 20% off bottle purchases; only $3 for glass purchases.  AND you will be entered into a drawing for tickets to the opening concert at Lake Cabernet on April 20.

The 2012 concert series starts off with Jon Shain who will be promoting his new The Kress Sessions album.   The concert series will run from April through October. Grove’s Lake Cabernet stage was voted runner-up as Best Outdoor Music Space in the Triad by the readers of the Greensboro News-Record in 2011. Two other winners in this Best of the Triad vote were Lauren Light  and Hanging Thread who will be making appearances this year at Grove on 6/15 and 7/20 respectively. We will also be featuring three large festivals this year. To see the complete lineup of artists, click here.

 What: Open invitation for wine, food and fun

Where: Grove Winery

When: April 13, 2012, starting at 6pm

They Called Him,”Boom, Boom”

I am going to side step for this post.  It isn’t wine related; it is very personal.  My brother lost his son a week ago and our hearts are so full of grief and sadness that I am compelled to write about what a wonderful kid he was.

Richard “Boomer” Smith – he was only 20 – and had so much living yet to do.  I know we hear all the time when anyone dies what a great person they were and how everyone loved them, how they had no enemies.  Well, from the more than 2,000 people who showed up at the funeral home March 27, 2012, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Boomer was THAT person; the one who is so loved.  He lived in small town USA – Monterey, TN and the whole town was heartbroken.  Heartbroken because we/they lost him and heartbroken for my brother, Richard, and for Boomer’s other siblings, Anthony, Mercedes, Philip.

Boomer excelled at everything he did.  He graduated high school with honors having straight A’s through all 4 years.  He played football and was MVP in both his junior year and senior year.  He had 8 (yes, “8”) full ride scholarships laid in front of him when he started his senior year.  He was the #2 college recruit for football in the state of Tennessee in 2010.  But all of this is nothing compared to the heart of this kid.  None of this went to his head.  He was humble and appreciative.  If he saw anybody on the street or at church who looked like they needed a helping hand, Boomer was the first one to hold out his hand to help.

Boomer was artistic and creative.  My brother has a house full of trophies and accolades Boomer won or was acknowledged for.  He has a book where he saved poetry Boomer wrote and pictures he drew as well as letter from recruiters.  How could any one person have so much talent and so much love in his heart?  Is that why he was taken from us – he was too good for this earth???

The night of his funeral, the football team showed up in their jerseys to show their respect and love for Boomer.  His brother, Philip, wore Boomer’s old shirt with the #10 emblazoned on the front.  The entire graduating class of 2010 showed up, each with a single rose to drop off for him.  The minister started the funeral by commenting on Boomer’s “Goofy grin” and then choked, not able to go on for several seconds.  We all miss you Boomer Smith – you were not long on this earth, but you touched a lot of lives.  Thank you for touching mine!

Boomer wrote the following poem when he was only 14:

Where I Am From

I am from swimming at the pool

Softball on Saturdays

And going to School

I am from a home of laughs

From telling jokes

To passing gas.

I am from George W. Bush

to Dale Earnhardt’s grave

To going golfing at the range.

I am from Dollar Store

To Save-A-Lot

From going home to eat a lot

Marijuana and Meth

All of the above

Kills the people and

Kills the love.

I am from Monterey

And the people who loved him most, the kids he hung around with – they called him, “Boom, Boom!”

( footnote to this post:  The death certificate came back with “blunt force trauma to the head – homicide” as the cause of death.  The grand jury has pressed charges against the young man who did this and now 2 families have had their lives destroyed because of it.  Boomer’s Law – please sign this petition.)

Following up on this post.  My brother has struggled unbelievably over the last year.  He has alienated his other two children.  He has done things that are so far out of character for him, that you would never believe that it is him doing these things.

I didn’t go back to Tennessee for the trial yesterday, but my heart ached all day.  The young man who killed Boomer went to court.  It was a sad and heart breaking day for everyone.  My brother and his other two kids had decided before the trial that they would agree to a diversion – in other words, they would not seek to have Jesse imprisoned.  They requested an eight-year probation.  Tears filled the courtroom from both sides of the aisle.  The judge honored their request.  This means that Jesse will have to walk the straight and narrow for the next 8 years.  I hope he can, I truly hope he can.  My brother told him that if he did, he will stand beside him as he goes back to court to request that his record be expunged.

We are really close to getting Boomer’s Law passed in the State of Tennessee.  Please see the link above to sign the petition.

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