A Short Drive From Cary: The New Napa?

Story by Matt Young

Cary, NC – I grew up around grapes. Many of my relatives in Northeast, PA (yes, that’s the name of the town) had vineyards. When my family moved when I was a boy, I was surprised to learn that there were people that had never seen a vineyard or tasted home made wine. Standing in a vineyard is something very personal to me. I still make wine in my garage.

“We’re a short trip from the hottest wine-making region in the country and I’m going to write a story,” I told the publisher.

“You can’t expense a trip to California, Matt” he said.

“No, it’s right here in North Carolina,” I said. “An hour and a half away in the Yadkin Valley.”

North Carolina Has A Long History as Wine Country

The wine history here  in North Carolina is long.  In 1840, North Carolina was the number one wine producing state in the Union according to the U.S. Census. Over the course of a couple hundred years it was shut down and started back up for a number of reasons – some examples include The Civil War and prohibition. In the late 1990’s, land turned from tobacco to grapes. The Yadkin Valley was named as the state’s first American Viticultural Area shortly after that.

“(North Carolina) wine would be distinguished on the best tables in Europe, for its fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence.” – Thomas Jefferson

The State of North Carolina now ranks 7th in the nation in wine production. A nice history can be found at VisitNCWine.com. But the North Carolina wine and grape industry is not just muscadines, scuppernongs and sweet wines anymore. Our friends just to the west are growing the grapes and making and selling cabs, merlots, zins and chardonnays.

Making up stuff about wine. Photo by Trish Prestia.

Taking One for the Team

I planned a day-trip to Yadkin Valley – gathered up 3 other couples and my bride, we hired out a limo (about $100 a head, but it can surely be done for less). Sounds like a lot of money, but its something you may do once only every 5 years, and its what you might pay for a two-hour concert or a day at the State Fair.

Truth be told, I would have done this whether I worked with CaryCitizen or not. I chose Weathervane, Childress, Junius Lindsay, Native Vines and RayLen to visit.

Here’s the down-low in a nutshell:

Weathervane: Quaint, nice little gift shop, knowledgeable staff, informal. Tastings are $5 (you get a glass to keep).

Childress: Touristy, but great wines, huge selection and a great bistro for lunch. There was live music when we were there and a big crowd. Huge gift shop. Very knowledgable staff. Tasting are expensive at $10 and up, but you get a glass to keep. Great views.

Junius Lindsay – Small, outdoor tasting bar. Beautiful surroundings. Friendly staff. Wines feature Syrah and Viognier. Tastings are $5 (you get a glass to keep).

Native Wines – Very rustic. Down-home surroundings. Friendly, very informal staff.   They claim to be the first “American Indian Owned and Operated Winery in the US”. Tastings are $5 (no glass).

Ray-Len – This was my favorite, although all of the wineries had their own “personality.” Amazing, sensibly priced wines, huge vineyard and the staff was great. Highly recommended.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the wine. The scenery was beautiful. We had a lot of laughs as you can imagine. We were with good friends. We drank a lot of wine – a lot. But in small amounts over the course of 6 hours – we all had our wits about us on the ride home.

Yadkin Valley Wine Region Map

Here’s  Google Map of the Yadkin Valley Wine District. Rollover the dots to see the wineries.

View Larger Map

Feel free to email me at matt.young@carycitizen.com if you want some advice on planning a trip of your own or have a favorite NC winery to recommend. We are also interested in covering other “Short Drives From Cary.” Shoot me a line with your ideas!

“It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.” – Latin Proverb


2 Solar Farms (and 8 Sheep)

SAS-SolarFarm

Story and photos by Leslie Huffman

Cary, NC – Everyone in town knows at least one person who works for SAS Institute here in Cary. The company has won many awards for it’s innovative technology and family friendly work environment.

But SAS Institute is also changing the environment with the production of clean, renewable energy for our community. I was invited this week for a tour. Read more

Go Local: Harold Burt And His Music Company

 

Story by Leslie Huffman

Cary, NC – Burt Music Company is a multi-faceted enterprise run and owned by a jewel of the community, Harold Burt.  Mr. Burt has been making music in Cary since 1950, when he became Cary High School’s first band leader.  I visited Mr. Burt at his music shop where he was surrounded by a library of music, a variety of instruments and newspaper clippings of stories written about him over the years. Read more

Confessions of a Home Brewer

Story by Matt Young. Photo by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, N.C. – I made my first home brew from a “Mr. Beer Kit” my wife bought me for Christmas 5 or 6 years ago. I looked at the box and said,”What? YOU CAN DO THAT?” Admittedly, I made and bottled about 6 different beers all in the span of 6 weeks and began to read everything I could get my hands on. Read more

Shop Cary: Lochmere Pavilion

Story & pictures by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – There are so many interesting places to shop, eat and do things in Cary. As far as small shopping centers, Lochmere Pavilion is one of the most charming. Read more

Profile: Mayor Jackie Holcombe of Morrisville

Story by Matt Young. Photos by Hal Goodtree.

Morrisville, North Carolina – Here in Cary, we are fortunate to have a good neighbor in the Town of Morrisville. The folks of Morrisville are fortunate to have a Mayor who is “in it” for the good of the town she loves.

We were greeted warmly by Mayor Holcombe in Morrisville’s beautiful Council Chambers on Thursday of last week. Read more

Gardening: Dry Season Plants

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree

Cary, NC – Driving around town, it’s easy to see what’s going on in our gardens this month: baking heat.

But several types of low-moisture plants love the hot, dry weather and make a nice addition to the summer garden.

Sedum, the King of Succulents

Sedum comes in many sizes and likes it hot and dry.

Succulents are plants that store moisture in the leaves. For Cary gardens, nothing beats Sedum for thriving in a hot, dry spell. Also called Stonecrop, I must have six or seven varieties around the yard.

There are tall, leggy varieties that make a good show of odd and interesting flowers. And there are small varieties that never seem to flower at all.

All of them love the dry heat of midsummer.

Sedum propagates easily. Just break off a leaf or a stem, let it dry overnight and stick the calloused end in the dirt.

Hens & Chicks

hens_chicks

Hens & chicks in a 6" pot

Sempervivum to garden enthusiasts, or “Hens and Chicks” makes a nice ground cover or potted plant.

It comes in a variety of colors and rosette shapes. According to Wikipedia, Hens and Chicks “grow close to the ground with leaves formed around each other in a rosette, and propagating by offsets. The ‘hen’ is the main plant, and the ‘chicks’ are the offspring, which start as tiny buds on the main plant and soon sprout their own roots, taking up residence close to the mother plant.”

Grasses

While my lawn is half-dead, many varieties of taller grasses do well in the heat and need little care.

From Black Mondo Grass (just 6″ tall) to giant Pampas Grass (over 9′ tall), I seldom (if ever) drag the hose over to give them a drink. Many taller varieties like Zebra Grass add an exotic twist to Cary gardens.

Zebra Grass grows about 5' tall by 3' wide

Also worth mentioning, Liriope is a hardy, happy grass-like plant of medium height. It’s great for edging. Sedge also works well, but can be invasive and, to my eye, is not as pretty.

Other Dry Season Stalwarts

Prickly Pear is another heat-lover, a large cactus growing to shrub-like proportions with interesting flowers and fruit.

Ivy comes in many varieties – small leaf and large leaf, dark green, bright green and almost white – and it will grow in sun or shade, wet or dry. It makes a great ground cover or pot plant, but it has to be clipped back every year to keep it from over-running the neighborhood.

Nandina is a small-leafed shrub. It comes in several varieties and sizes, all with interesting seasonal colors and brightly colored berries. It’s another plant that’s hard to kill and is making a nice show in gardens across Cary during this hot July weather.

Flowering Plants for Heat

French marigolds flower until frost.

A lot of plants just “go to sleep” during the hot weather, but a few flowering plants actually look their best at this time of year.

Geraniums like it really hot and don’t need a lot of water. Ditto Begonias. Marigolds are happy in the heat and have modest water needs. Coneflower gets a little stressed in the summer, but continues to produce flowers through July and August while providing food for the birds.

Plants in Pots

Another way to beat the heat in the garden is to locate a collection of potted plants near a hose. We have a little container garden outside our kitchen window on the back deck.

Cheery Tomatoes in a 3 gallon pot

Small-fruited cherry and grape tomatoes do well in a pot. Fig trees can be kept to a manageable size and produce tasty fruits during the height of summer in Cary.

Pansies like it hot (as long as their feet stay wet) and come in a rainbow of flower colors. Zinnias are happy and prolific in a pot. Sunflowers come in some smaller varieties and look good in mid-summer.

Impatiens add a tropical flair to your container garden but need moist soil.

Almost all the flowering plants benefit from a little liquid fertilizer on a regular basis. I use the dry-crystals in a big bucket (or wheel barrow) full of water and immerse the plants completely.

This article provided courtesy of Whole Foods Market of Cary, Sponsor of the CaryCitizen Scavenger Hunt on Saturday July 24!

Profile: Former Cary Mayor Koka Booth

Story: Matt Young. Photos: Hal Goodtree

Cary, NC – We drove up to a neatly trimmed golf course cul-de-sac where every modest house had a American flag hanging from it, in the exact same spot next to the garage. I was early and waiting next to my car with Hal Goodtree, the publisher of the CC. Out of an open garage came Koka Booth waving us in.

We shook hands and he told us with a wink that we needed to get in the house quickly because “Blanche will fuss at me for letting you in the garage”.

I had never seen a garage quite like this. No garden tools, no grease stains, clean as a whistle.  Its walls were covered with mementos of Mr. Booth’s 40-year role as a key “founder” of our town as it is today and our Mayor from 1987-1999.

Coming to Cary

It was 1971. The town’s population was 7,640. Cary’s park system consisted of a ball park. The concept of Planned Urban Development (PUD) had just been conceived for Cary to accommodate new people moving here for RTP “mostly from IBM” .

Koka (his wife, Blanche calls him “Kokie”) told me, “There was no sewer or water, Kildaire Farm was really a farm on a two lane road. We had two traffic lights. If you needed anything you went to Raleigh…I loved it. But I had seen the town I was from go downhill from lack of progress and I didn’t want that to happen to my new home.”

Mayor Booth went on to tell us that he was a coal miner in Kenova, West Virginia  as a young man. He had watched the town go from 120,000 people down to 49,000.  Ultimately he had bought an interest in the coal mines and sold his share at a handsome profit.

One of the reasons he and Blanche decided to come to Cary was the Cary High School Band’s reputation (for their son).  He was told about Cary by a “dear friend”.  After moving here the family soon became active in the Cary High School band and in the Town of Cary itself.  Jimmy Burns – the CHS Band Director – “soon had them  performing at the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Peach Bowl and 140 other events”.

With development of Research Triangle Park in the 1960s, Cary began to grow as a bedroom community for the park from a quiet town of a few thousand people. Growth escalated during the 1970s, with the population nearly tripling to 21,763. The population doubled during the 1980s, and doubled again during the 1990s.
– From the TOC web site.

The New Mayor and New Cary

Koka soon was a member of the Town Council and was elected Mayor of Cary in 1987. Research Triangle Park was booming. IBM was hiring. Firetrol came here. American Airlines and Container Graphics came here.  Then Hunter Industries. SAS came to Cary in 1980. The tax base was quickly going from residential to industrial.

He welcomed this growth, taking advantage of it to clean up and develop downtown and adopting a new sign ordinance.  Water treatment facilities were built along with new roads, sidewalks, neighborhoods, parks and recreation facilities.

The Mayor recruited people to work on the new Cary. He told me the story of developer Jeff Sugg. Koka wanted him to join him in Cary politics. Mr. Sugg was resistant. “Koka I’ll do it if you kiss a pig,” he said. Jim Graham, who passed away in 2003, was Agricultural Commissioner at the time. “Well Jim brought in the cutest little pink pig. Kokie kissed it. It was in all the papers. Jeff kept his word,” Blanche said.

“We came up with the concept and consummated the Bond Park idea, for example, in a meeting at a motel.  There was nothing there. Nothing on High House at all. That was a deal that was a great one for us. And it was a bargain.”  Blanche was nodding her head. The Mayor’s eyes were twinkling.

The Booths Today

Their house is filled with awards, and pictures with celebrities and other memories of his service to our town. There’s a montage picture of Koka and Tipper Gore laughing. As the photographer snapped the picture Booth made the “bunny ears” gesture behind her head. In the next shot she is doing it to him.  It is signed “I don’t know who started this, Tipper”. “Kokie’s a Republican,” Blanche told us laughing.

These days Mayor Booth is recovering from a stroke he had in August of 2004, when he was 74. Mrs. Booth commented that he keeps busy these days with the yard. “When there is a task to be done, he must always do it ‘right now’,” Blanche told us.

I looked at the player piano in their living room and commented on it. True to form and on cue, Koka ran upstairs and brought down a paper roll and inserted it into the 1903 antique. “THAT is his pride and joy,” Blanche said. “We had hours of fun with that in the old days.” Soon he was furiously pumping the foot pedals as it played some old tune.

Hal and I had to try it. And we did. We were all laughing like old friends. He began reminiscing about N.C. native Kay Kyser concerts in Rocky Mount, his coaching his church’s basketball team, his stint in public relations with SAS, and his love of his wife and his two sons.

Legacy

I asked him if he had any regrets as we ended our interview.

“I’d like to just pass them by. Know what I mean? We made a difference.” He soon got serious, and began sounding like “The Mayor” again. “Look, please don’t give me credit in your article for anything. I was just here. I loved Cary then and I love it now. I am happy with what our town has become. Any credit goes not to me but to a lot of amazing people that selflessly worked on the vision to make Cary a great place to work and raise a family.”

A Lasting Image

One of the items on the wall in the garage was an ink & paper sketch of Page Walker with some text. The words are reproduced below.

“Greetings family and friends. This year I decided to do a pen-and-ink of a significant landmark in the history of Cary, North Carolina – the newly restored Page-Walker Hotel which will be dedicated this evening and become the center for visual and performing arts. As I sat across the tracks and sketched this morning a man with a broom and a leaf blower drove up and began diligently tidying porch and walks for the ceremony. It turned out to be our mayor. Does this tell you something about the spirit of our town?  Tonight after the dedication the first art exhibit in the beautiful new gallery will be opened to the public. I hope each of you will have a wonderful holiday with loved ones. Pete Turner”   – Holiday Letter to Friends from Artist Pete Turner 1994

If you look carefully, you can see Koka on the porch with a broom.

Profile: Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht

Cary, NC – I can’t say I’ve ever been convinced that a politician was simply in politics to do the “right thing” until I met Mayor Weinbrecht.

He’s like the other people in your neighborhood.  He works a full-time job as a programmer (at SAS), is devoted to his family and his church, volunteers for activities in the community and loves Cary.

When talking with him, his sincerity is obvious: he just wants Cary to thrive.  His words aren’t contrived, there are no “talking points” and he is forthcoming with his opinions. The Mayor responded to my e-mail request to interview him in 11 minutes. Read more