Bottles & Bites

Food And Wine Pairing Class Offers Education and Camaraderie

“I like to think of wine as much of a food as anything,” our instructor and guide for our foray into food and wine pairings for the evening said.

Sixteen of us had gathered at TASTE Unlimited at Hilltop in Virginia Beach to sniff, swirl, sip and savor Sensational Summer Sips, the second themed class in a series of Bottles & Bites, a joint offering between TASTE and Chef Patrick Evans-Hylton, executive editor of Virginia Wine Lover magazine and HRM senior editor of food and wine. The series seeks to educate guests on what to look for when tasting a wine, as well as how to successfully pair wines with food.

We began with a brief review on how to evaluate wines. Evans-Hylton passed out wine evaluation forms that included criterion such as clarity, color, bouquet, total acidity, sweetness, body/texture, flavor/taste, bitterness, finish and quality. We were to use these evaluation forms as we tried the evening’s five pours and considered why they had been paired with their respective dishes.

Evans-Hylton also imparted a few key food and wine pairing principles, such as pairing simpleflavored wines with complex flavors in food and vice versa; “if it grows there, it goes there”; and the wine and milk body metaphor (i.e., skim milk is light bodied, whole milk is medium bodied and cream is heavy bodied, but they’re all still milk—same goes for wine!).

Then came the food—all hand-selected by Evans-Hylton prior to the event as the perfect complements to our bottles and prepared fresh by the TASTE team that evening.

First up was a delicate, bright shrimp salad with cucumber on Italian Flatbread. As I guessed correctly based on the earlier tutorial, this was paired with subtle white wine—the Chenin Blanc from Michael Picard Vouray. The wine had a sweet quality to it, derived from hints of apricot and peach, that was counterbalanced by a high level of acidity. It worked well with the sweetness of the shrimp and cut through the binding mayonnaise, making it a delightfully light pairing.

Subsequent pairings included: TASTE’s Inlet Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, tomato, fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette with Louis Latour’s Pinot Noir; the seasonal Grilled Asian chicken Salad with Chow Mein noodles and R Wines’ Bitch Grenache; a Chef’s Monthly Feature, the Southern Brisket Sandwich with roasted beef brisket, sassy southern Pimiento cheese cole slaw and peach BBQ sauce with Jefferson Vineyards’ Petit Verdot; and finally, my favorite, the grown-up ice cream float of my dreams—a summer berry sparkler constructed of a dollop of Rowena’s raspberry curd and a scoop of raspberry gelato topped off with a sparkling Bitch Bubbly from R Wines.

What I appreciated most, however, was the overall atmosphere of the evening. Acknowledging that there were different experience levels in the room, Evans-Hylton encouraged “audience participation” and talked us through our evaluation sheets, assuring us that everyone’s palate and senses were different, and that our wine experiences might be different from one another. This created a pleasant environment where we could speak freely and interact with one another, as the group became noticeably much more sociable throughout the night. Of course, the stars of the evening—the wine—helped, too.

Bottles & Bites will be offered quarterly, with more events in August and November 2013. For store hours, more information or to shop online, visit You can also find TASTE at

Categories: Restaurants & Food