It's always worth a reminder that there is free, food-related fun to be had. Nearly every area wine store hosts a wine tasting every weekend, all year long. And they're free.
There's free wine, of course, but also free education. The wine guys/ gals often organize the tasting around a grape, region or food pairing. Sometimes the winemaker or importer is there to answer questions.
Here are some dos and don'ts for free tastings: Do ask questions. Don't be embarrassed. Chances are, the person next to you doesn't know what "grapefruit on the nose" means, either. But, especially if it's crowded, don't monopolize the person leading the tasting. Everyone else is there to learn, too.
Do taste all the wines. Don't pick and choose among what you already know you like. Do try something new; you never know. Don't be afraid to spit out the wine (into the proper container, of course) if you'd prefer to not ingest alcohol. At wine tastings, spitting is perfectly acceptable.
Here are some stores that have regular free wine tastings. Call and verify the events scheduled for the week. Even Web sites can be out of date or don't include events.
The Chapel Hill Wine Co. (2809 Homestead Road, 968-1884) and its partner store, the Hillsborough Wine Co. (118 S. Churton St., 732-4343) host tastings from 1 to 5 p.m. every Saturday. On July 19, the Chapel Hill store will feature both red and white wines of Germany. The Hillsborough store features "surf and turf"—wines to accompany your favorite seafood and steaks.
Wine Authorities (2501 University Drive, Durham, 489-2884, www.wineauthorities.com) holds a free "Try Before You Buy" event from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The owners usually send an e-mail Wednesday (visit the Web site to subscribe) detailing what's pouring on Saturday.
Whet your palate at Great Grapes (1237 Kildaire Farm Road, 468-9088, www.greatgrapesonline.com) from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday. These are the summer hours; beginning shortly after Labor Day, the store will also have a Friday tasting.
Seaboard Wine (802 Semart Drive, Suite 118, Raleigh, 831-0850, www.seaboardwine.com) offers samplings from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday.
All five Total Wine stores in the Triangle—one each in Cary and Durham, three in Raleigh—host tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. on Fridays and then feature the same wines from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. See www.totalwine.com for addresses, store hours and contact information.
Did I miss any? Please let me know about any other free (or almost free) wine tastings, or any other wine-related events, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know about a fun food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at email@example.com.