Wine Tasting & Strawberry Picking

En route to Chapel Hill, home of many UNC grads like my dear friend Jessica, we stopped at Straw Valley Cafe & Wine Shop in Durham for a California wine tasting.  The Cafe is set along a busy intersection and only the facade is visible from the road.  When we pulled up a gravel drive to park, I kept wondering where in the world the wine tasting was. I had very low expectations.  Soon, I reprimanded myself for judging the book by its cover.

We entered the wine shop to pay our $8 tasting fee and then exited out of the back door, wine glasses in hand.  We walked through a beautifully tiled alley by the Straw Valley Craft House that is part of the cafe.  According to Jess, it was a prohibition era home that was built on land once used as a dairy farm. The home was used as both a studio and a shop by a pair of craftsmen who also displayed artwork in the outdoor courtyard.  Today, as part of the Straw Valley Cafe and adjoined Once & Again Consignment Shop, all of the furniture and art adorning the walls are for sale.  I liked how they juxtaposed a very dark, farmhouse with modern furniture and accents.

We walked through the house and out to the enormous courtyard for the tasting.  It had been a few too many hours since I’d eaten lunch, so my tummy was rumbling as the gentleman poured my first sample.  And I use the termsample loosely as it was actually an entire glass of wine.  I then helped myself to free bread and cheese they had on the hors d’oeuvre table.  You know how I love cheese, so many more visits to the food table ensued.

After a while it started raining, so we claimed a couch indoors and continued our sampling.  After we’d finished, the owner walked through and told us the tasting was over but they had an extra bottle of wine if we wanted it.  We responded with a resounding “Yes, please!”  Unfortunately, as we were enjoying that bottle, I proceeded to get so enthralled telling a story about nothing that I sloshed some of the very dark red Meritage out of my glass and onto my bright blue maxi skirt.  Welcome to a typical evening in the life of a clutz.

After we finished off the bottle, we went to a Members Only bar on Franklin Street downtown.  I don’t know how they get any members, because there is only a sketchy door stenciled in paint with 100A.  You have to knock and then they let you in and ask for your name.  One of Jess’s friends that we were with was a member so she got us in.  It was a small, dark space with a bar across one wall and then a long hightop table in the center of the room.  The was one piece of artwork on the wall and it was a very detailed sketch of a woman nude.  I had an overpriced extra dirty gin martini (go figure). They have a fairly short, limited menu of drinks and appetizers.  Typically, you pick out a liquor and chaser and you mix it to your liking.  Jess got a Jack and Coke, which translated to a tall glass of ice, half filled with Jack and a can of Coke.  The drinks were simple but expensive for the area.  If I lived there, I would not become a member, no matter how cool and elitist they are.

One overpriced drink later, we headed to a college dive for “dinner”.  It was 10 o’clock and we all got a beer and split a basket of fries and nachos.  I felt like I was back in college, unhealthy habits and all.  The food was delicious though. 😉

The next morning, Jess was very excited to take me strawberry picking. It was going to be my first berry picking experience.  I was starving for some breakfast, but she insisted we walk to the strawberry farm just down the road and pick strawberries to bring back because she was planning to make strawberry and chocolate crepes with her new crepe griddle.  I acquiesced, only because she claimed it was just down the road and she promised coffee on the way.  We leashed her pup Sir Charles, or Charlie, and began walking.  Half a mile later I grabbed a to-go cup of coffee for the road, which was a terrible idea as it constantly spilled out of the lid and onto my feet and it was about 90 degrees outside so hot coffee was not the way to go.  Oh, and what was just down the road was actually 3 miles along a busy road without a sidewalk then down an abandoned BFV road then a dirt drive.  What seemed like three hours later, grumpy and hungry, we arrived at the strawberry field.

I grabbed a bucket from the elderly and very country couple who own the farm and headed to the field.  It was a lot of fun picking big, juicy berries and I began to look forward to enjoying them in a gigantic crepe.  After I filled up my entire bucket and paid $5 for about a gallon of strawberries, we walked the long road back to Jess’s townhouse.  Fortunately, the crepes were well worth it.

After enjoying a crepe and a half, I loaded up my car once again for my next adventure.  Onwards and upwards to our Nation’s Capital!

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