A Guide to Wine

Not Sure What You Like? When To Swirl? How To Sip? Some Of Our Region’s Top Wine Experts Share Both Basic And Insider Tips.

Virginia Wine Expertise

(page 1 of 4)

It’s a big wine world out there, and sometimes it doesn’t seem like a friendly one. In shops, shelves are filled with bottles of wines; in restaurants, wine lists sometimes are as thick as a telephone book. Some names are difficult to pronounce, and some don’t describe the juice inside. And prices range anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred. The most simple advice says to drink what you like, but what if you don’t know what you like—yet? We’ve asked some of Hampton Roads’ wine wizards to help answer basic questions and give some guidelines, tips and insider advice on selecting, pairing, storing and— most importantly—enjoying—vintages from albarino to zinfandel.

The Experts:
Jonathan Healy
Level 1 Sommelier
Opus 9 Steakhouse
5143 Main St. (New Town), Williamsburg
“I was lucky to start drinking good wine when I was 20 years old. I had a job at a country club in New Jersey with a general manager who had just come from The Manor in West Orange, which is well known for having one of the best wine lists in the state. He had us taste wines every day. It was a great experience. My realization that wine could be a career was at Charleston Place hotel in Charleston, S.C. I worked directly with the sommelier there, Mark Ray. He was patient with a novice, and I helped him inventory wines, and he taught me about how to structure an award-winning wine list.”

Scott Horne
Wine Director
Fin Seafood
3150 William Styron Square, 
Newport News
“I’ve been working in a fine dining environment for 9 years. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some great restaurants around Hampton Roads. I passed the level one introductory sommelier course this April in Virginia Beach and will be taking level twoin Baltimore this November. When I started out waiting tables I wanted to learn as much as I could about my craft to have credibility at the table. Selling wine has a lot to do with trust, so gaining the trust of my guests through knowledge and passion helps set a lasting impression.”

Charlie Rizzo
River Stone Chophouse
8032 Harborview Blvd., Suffolk
“I’ve been drinking wine most of my legal life, and professionally for the past 15 years. I’m self-educated, and a member of the Guild of Sommeliers and Court of Master Sommeliers. My experience ranges from the Wild Money in Norfolk to Brutti’s in Portsmouth, Swan Terrace in Virginia Beach, and Sterling’s Towne Place in Chesapeake. I’ve won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Wine Enthusiast Award of Unique Distinction, Wine Enthusiast Award of Distinction, and a Hampton Roads Magazine Stellar Cellar Award.”

Marc Sauter
Advance Master Sommelier Candidate
Zoes Steak and Seafood Restaurant
713 19th St., Virginia Beach
“I have been a sommelier for 22 years now. I am amember of the Guild of Sommeliers and an Advanced Master Sommelier Candidate. I was the recipient of the 2005 Service Professional of the year, Southeaster America from Sante Magazine and have been awarded 18 Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and four Wine Spectator Best Of Awards of Excellence in the last 22 years with six different restaurants. And I am currently the only restaurant in southern Virginia with a Best Of Award.”

Jen Saxby
Thirty 7 North Restaurant and Bar
2105 West Great Neck Rd., 
Virginia Beach
“I’ve been into wine personally since a trip to Sonoma in 2010, and professionally since 2011. I am currently studying through the Court of Master Sommeliers having already passed level one and level two. I attended the 2013 Pinot Camp in Willamette (Valley, Oregon) and have been selected as one of 30 individuals to attend Master Napa Valley September 2013. This year Thirty 7 North won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.”

Adam Steely
Blue Talon Bistro
420 Prince George St., Williamsburg
“When did I start drinking wine? Let’s put it this way—Jimmy Carter was president. I have been managing wine programs and writing wine lists since 1985. Before opening Blue Talon Bistro in 2004, I travelled to Monterey, Calif. to receive an award for the best Private Club Wine List in America from the National Restaurant Association.”

Rob Unger
Level 2 Sommelier
Aldo’s Ristorante
1860 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
“I have been into wine about 22 years. I also had a mentor named Tom Land who was instrumental in my decision into making wine my focus professionally. I have been selling wine professionally for 20 years and buying wine for the restaurant for 11 years. We have won Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence annually throughout my tenure as well as accolades from Wine Enthusiast and Hampton Roads Magazine.”