When you’re faced with meeting a group of people for the first time, even as an extrovert, you’re never sure what to expect and that can leave you a bit nervous. I drove to the Grapefull Sisters Vineyard in Tabor City Saturday for my first blogger meet & greet with Carolina Blogging members. I was unexpectedly anxious. Will I fit in? What will they think of me?
Now, I’m no shrinking violet, so my anxiety was unusual – and completely unjustified. Arriving early, I drove down the winding drive into the vineyard and parked my car. Almost immediately I met Sarah and Melissa, the Carolina Blogging admins. We hugged our hellos: it was as if I had known them for ages although this was our first meeting. It put me at ease and I realized my nervousness was silly.
I took a few moments to walk the grounds. The resident geese and ducks greeted me with quacks and honks and the newly opened petals of the daffodils welcomed me with sunny smiles. I strolled along the dormant grapevines. The afternoon was sunny which, when standing still, helped warm the chill in air. The quiet of the country can never be beat; it’s remarkably peaceful.
The Inn d’Vine looks much like the tobacco barns that dot the landscape in eastern North Carolina, only it’s much grander. Raised on stilts, framed with a large wrap-around porch and a cherry red roof with a cherry red double-door to match, this tasting room and inn stands as the rustic backdrop to the vines lining the front yard. Inside, the vineyard tasting room is on the first floor and the two room Inn d’Vine is located on the second story.
The proprietors, Amy and Sheila, greet you with well-known Southern charm. Their wines are made from muscadine’s, a native grape found throughout the South. Muscadine grapes are suited to sandy soils and heat, both of which are prominent in this part of the state.
The Carolina Blogging group was started by Sarah and another blogger. Now she and Melissa are the group admins. Each has their own blog, and Sarah made many delicious treats for the gathering Saturday.
I met so many wonderful women and a few supportive husbands yesterday! We laughed and got to know each other before the guest speaker, John Choquette of Raleigh, the young adult author of the Burlwood Forest trilogy spoke about his books and his experiences publishing.
The Burlwood Forest trilogy is about the adventures of eleven year old Michael Pumpernickel. Choquette discussed his creation of the characters and how he has come to identify with them since their development. Drawing inspiration from Harry Potter and the story of author J. K. Rowling, and Winnie the Pooh, Choquette has created a fantasy world around a lonely little boy and his many escapades. His zest for life is contagious, and his supportive, amazing wife Anna is his number one fan.
Rejection is never fun, but Choquette’s enthusiastic perspective and go-get-it approach helped me realize that the only thing stopping me is me. Sure I may not have a degree in journalism, but why should I let that keep me from pursuing my goal to write for Our State magazine? My desire to savor all that North Carolina has to offer and then share that fondness and my discoveries with others embodies the Our State mission.
The Our State mission is “to reflect the beauty of North Carolina, to tell the stories of its amazing people and its remarkable history, and to suggest wonderful places to visit. We are unabashedly in love with the Tar Heel State, and every page is designed to be a tribute to where we live.” I feel like they wrote this mission statement for me. I not only believe in this state, I want to share what I learn with others.
Choquette is a positive individual! He inspired me to just do it: go and pursue my dream of being a writer/photographer for Our State Magazine. Rejection is part of the process. The difference between success and failure is attitude and persistence.
Read more about Choquette in the Raleigh News & Observer here.
Once Choquette finished speaking and answering questions, we gathered ’round the bar to taste the wine. I’m not particularly fond of muscadine grapes as a fruit, even though I love the way they smell. Their leathery skin is strange and the gelatinous inside of the fruit is rather slimy. I didn’t know what to expect of the wine.
We started off with a more dry wine and progressed towards sweeter wines as we went along; eight in total. Amy, muscadine wine connoisseur and owner, was knowledgeable and funny. She made the tasting fun for us all.
Once it was said and done I had a favorite: the Tabor’s Choice, a sweet blend of muscadine grape varieties. The Waccamaw Red, a traditional red muscadine wine, ran a close second.
When it came time for door prizes, I won a bottle of the Tabor’s Choice. I never win anything, so I took this as a sign that today was meant to be! As we wrapped up the afternoon we had one last parting gift. Swag bags filled with goodies from Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and Aquarium, the North Carolina Aquarium, Medieval Times, the Battleship NC, the city of Wilmington, and the Wilmington Azalea Festival were give to each of us at the meet & greet. How did they know that I have a thing for chapstick?!
I met new friends on Saturday, fellow bloggers from different places across North and South Carolina, and I’m happy that I went. There was a camaraderie and unexpected familiarity with people I’ve only messaged with on Facebook until that point. I’m excited to connect with them online and at our next event. Until then check out their blogs….
John Choquette: The Burlwood Forest
Sarah: The Hot Mess Kitchen
Melissa: Adventures of Frugal Mom
Jen: Jab’s Plethora
Janice: An Open Suitcase
Brittany: Brittany’s Pantry
Caroline: Pinch Me, I’m Eating