A while back, around Halloween maybe, I mentioned our Cheers group, a bunch of friendly, wine-loving folks who get together about once a month to share wine, food and friendship. I promised to tell the story of how we all came together. I think it was late in the year 2004, a small wine shop called Carolina Winesellers opened in Lewisville, NC and they specialized in North Carolina wines. That wasn't all they sold, but it was their primary focus. This came at a time when, although there were local wineries that had been around for some years, the bulk of the North Carolina wines were just arriving on the scene. As with most wine regions, it takes a while to get started. The vines need some maturity before they produce grapes that make good wine. We tasted a lot of local wines over the next two years, much of which we found utterly lacking when compared to more mature areas such as Napa, and Europe. Now, we wanted to support our local wine industry, but the price point was far above the quality of wine being produced at that time. That, I am happy to say, is changing. There are now a number of fine wines being produced around the area.
Anyway, back to the wine shop. On most Saturdays there would be a tasting at the wine shop. The owners are great folks and have become friends, We would go quite often on Saturday afternoons and hang out around the tasting bar meeting people and talking about wine or whatever else was on our minds. Unlike most retail shops, occasionally they would host wine dinners, and/or have other entertainment such as live music or movie night. I think one night they showed Sideways (we'd already seen that, and while we enjoyed it, we didn't feel compelled to see it again).
I guess I should really get to the point. After about 2 1/2 years they determined that they really weren't "making it". The shop was essentially breaking even or paying for itself, but not contributing to the family income. Since they had two boys still in school and were looking at college, they decided to sell the business or close up shop if they found no buyer. They sold wine by the glass and people started gathering there on Friday evenings. During their last month or so of operation, they decided to have potlucks each Friday night. Folks would bring appetizers, and buy wine. We would sit around and get to know each other over wine and food. Food always brings people together, and add a little wine (or more) since you always got your money's worth at Carolina.
As the days counted down to the close of the shop, we were filled with sadness because we had all come to love the shop and had made friends there. Memorial weekend in 2007 was the last days of business, and on Memorial Monday, we all got together at the shop for a farewell cookout with hotdogs, hamburgers and everything imaginable to go along side, plus all the wine you could drink (within reason and legal limits of course). It was on this day that we decided we wanted to stay together as a group. This was just too good to give up, so we passed around a paper to collect e-mail addresses, and thus our group was born. I don't know exactly who to credit with giving us our name, but several people remarked that we were like that group on the TV series Cheers. It stuck! Our get togethers are referred to Friday Night Cheers, although many times now it's held on Saturdays which is more convenient for some of us.
Tonight was one of those nights. Everyone (or couple) brings a bottle of wine and something to eat, either savory or sweet. It is like the box of chocolates right out of Forrest Gump, because you never know what you're going to get, or who you're going to see. Not everyone can come every time, but we are die hards and are there pretty much whenever the call goes out. Tonight there was a selection of dips and crackers, smoked turkey (from Honky Tonk Pig on Jonestown Road), ham, rolls, a broccoli & cheese cornbread, shrimp, chips and salsa, and pecan pie. I took pecan pie mini muffins that I made from a recipe I found on southernplate.com. These were a hit, and I brought home an empty plate - always a good sign. Wine wise, our theme for tonight was Pinot Noir and Gewurtzaminer (is it possible I spelled that correctly?) There were a lot of Pinots, but I think only one Gewurtz. There was a tasty Albarino. Not holding with the theme, but very good nonetheless. There is no right or wrong at Cheers...it's all good! As always, a good time was had by all, and that is how we came to be.
Edited to correct spelling - it was a late night!