Muscadine 101

Guest: “I am a connoisseur of wine.”
Myself: “Excellent, and what are your favorites?”
Guest: “I am a connoisseur of Muscadine wine.”
Myself: (Broad smile.)
This may seem like an oxymoron, and I did have to stifle a chuckle when he answered “connoisseur of Muscadine,” but I’ve been in this business over two decades and I gave up much of my wine snobbery years ago. If you look up the term “connoisseur” the first definition is “expert,” and he was most certainly an expert in this category, even if the foxy character of most Vitis labrusca doesn’t appeal to most Vitis vinifera fans. Over 150 years ago the most popular wine in the United States was Virginia Dare, from North Carolina, made of the Scuppernong grape. It was named after the first European child born to the lost colony of Roanoke and was very popular for nearly a hundred years. Has our palate changed so much?

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Ray Lewis and Gary Sheffield

These two gentlemen are definitely legends in their respective sports and now are becoming legends in cigars! Our partners at Rocky Patel cigars have teamed up with these two legends to create some very distinctive cigars. These are definitely not novelty cigars that are simply highlighting these great athlete’s names, but these are true premium cigars that are well worth their price and are both outstanding smokes.

Our cigar team first met Gary Sheffield back in 2012 when his cigar was initially introduced at the IPCPR event in Orlando. We thought about bringing in this cigar that year but with our track record on trying to build new brands back in those years not being overly successful we decided to pass. This was the HR500 series commemorating Gary’s great home run achievement. We finally made the leap at the 2014 IPCPR event and this cigar has proven to be a successful collaboration between a cigar master and a baseball legend. We’ve developed a great relationship with Gary Sheffield over the past few years and have been honored with his presence at several cigar events and he recently spoke at our annual Leadership Summit.


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Belle Meade Bourbon

Andy Nelson Green_Brier_081 (1).jpgThe man is Andy Nelson, founder of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. The bourbon is Belle Meade and you’re invited to come sample it and meet Andy (he’ll even sign your bottle).

He’ll be in Treasure Island on September 29 from 6-8 and Orlando on September 30 from 5-7.

Read on to soak up some of the history behind the delicious liquid!

Andy Nelson was barely of legal drinking age when he and his younger brother Charlie embarked on their life’s mission to revive their historic family distilling business. Andy claims the role of Head Distiller, devoting his energy to the creation of classic spirits worthy of the family legacy, including Belle Meade Bourbon and Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish.

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Junk food + wine

In the depths of every human heart lies a deep-seated adoration for junk food. Some hearts even have a compartment like this for wine as well. While Chef Boyardee is hardly the Italian cuisine you’d want to pour expensive wine for—or even box wine, for that matter, there exists some incredible junk food pairings that are not to be missed.

Ray Isle, Food & Wine’s executive wine editor, wrote an entire article for on the best wines to pair with doughnuts and Slim Jims. If you don’t trust us, trust this guy. His first recommendation is the ever- elegant combination of Champagne and French fries. We know, it might be a far cry from oysters and caviar, but believe me: after your first introduction, you’ll never want to eat beef jerky without red wine again.



Photo courtesy of Marie Claire


Popcorn + Sparkling wine

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Jean-Philippe Janoueix – Doing It His Way

I met Jean-Philippe Janoueix about 12 years ago when a négociant told me there was something new and interesting I should see. He took me to Château Croix Mouton for a dinner with Jean-Philippe. What he wanted me to see was a vineyard planted in 20,000 vines per hectare, super density for Bordeaux and untried by anyone else. All of the work has to be done by hand as there is no room for machinery between the vines. The vines were a small 1.4 hectare parcel in the vineyard of Château Croix Mouton.  Croix Mouton is a Bordeaux Superieur and hardly the kind of place most people would do expensive experimentation.  I knew this was a man who was going to do some novel things.

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