OBX: Taste of the Beach

Annual Taste of the Beach event is perfect for foodies looking for weekend filled with delicious and orginial options.

Wine pools on the slick, sticky floor in Sanctuary Vineyard's barrel room. It dribbles off the edge of the tables and trickles up my forearm. My team and I scramble to add just the right amounts of chardonnay, muscadine and peach varietals to our test tube and hope to develop the most palate-pleasing blend, never mind the mess.

"Think as a consumer," instructs winemaker John Wright, who has been doing just that for years along with his family at their Jarvisburg, N.C. vineyard.

I reflect on all the wineries I have visited throughout the years. I have tasted, toured and paired plenty of times. But I have never attempted to make my own vino—until today. This Winemaking Outer Banks Style class is part of the Taste of the Beach weekend, an annual feast of one-of-a-kind Outer Banks events geared to foodies.

After showing us around the vineyard on a brisk and damp March afternoon and teaching us about pruning, cloning and growing grapes in a coastal climate, John revealed the main mission of our visit. He would provide three of the winery's varietals for us to use in designing our own custom blend. And the best part? The winning team's wine would be released by Sanctuary later in the year.

With this exciting reward in mind, I go back and forth with my winemaking teammates about the make or break question—dry verses sweet. My husband and I want to add more chardonnay, but we keep recalling John's advice to "make what the masses will like." Considering that OBX regulars are accustomed to drinking the N.C. native muscadine grape, a super sweet species, we hesitantly add more of the fruity choices.

My team spills most of our final product but has just enough to pour into the tasting glasses for judgment time. Members of all four teams evaluate the blends for clarity, aroma, flavor and overall quality. And the winner is … not us. But I am happy that we come in at a solid second place and have enjoyed a true grapes-to-glass experience.

Distinctive food-related events like Sanctuary Vineyard's winemaking competition have been a part of the Taste of the Beach festival for more than 25 years. The Outer Banks Restaurant Association sponsors the culinary celebration that takes place throughout the OBX islands and includes wine tastings, cooking classes, special menu presentations, celebrity guest chef appearances, brewery tours, tapas crawls and much more than you can fit in four days. This year's eating extravaganza takes place March 17–20.

Like many people, I have always thought of an Outer Banks weekend as a way to quickly escape Hampton Roads and find some serenity in the sun, sand and maybe an elaborate beach house. But when I visited for Taste of the Beach 2010, the beach was there (and beautiful at that), but I was too busy eating to pay much attention. And now that I think about it, why wouldn't the Outer Banks be the ideal spot for a foodie fest? The area has plenty to entertain, endless choices for accommodations depending on your needs, and is a haven for fresh and local seafood.

Seafood is no doubt a dominating theme throughout the weekend, and I felt privileged to sample a bit of it all at events like the OBX Chowder Cook Off, the Cookin' Outer Banks Style class focusing on the region's best catch, and a mind-blowing five-course Bordeaux wine dinner at The Left Bank restaurant that had me dining alongside celebrity chef Michel Nischan, a leader in the sustainable food movement and two-time James Beard Award winner.

Beyond seafood, I delighted in uncommon events like a tour and tasting (of beer and sausage) at Weeping Radish Farm Brewery and Coffee Cupping at Front Porch Café, a java tasting session that taught me the art of roasting and distinguishing the nuances in the world's best beans. The OBX Grand Tasting, a culmination of all the festivities held on Sunday night, gave more than 400 guests the opportunity to taste samples from 20-plus of the beach's finest restaurants.

When my inaugural Taste of the Beach journey ended, I drove back towards Hampton Roads and passed Sanctuary Vineyards. Of course, I couldn't help thinking about how outstanding it would have been if the winery decided to bottle my custom blend. No winemaking legacy this time, though, but what I did leave behind was an impressive group of chefs, business owners and culinarians all working to celebrate and serve the best OBX fresh and local cuisine. Every foodie looking for tasty travels can appreciate that.

Outer Banks Taste of the Beach 2011 will be held March 17–20. To reserve your tickets, book accommodations or find out more about the event schedule, visit www.obxtasteofthebeach.com to plan your food-filled weekend getaway.


The Blue Point
Over 20 years of dining excellence on the Outer Banks, The Blue Point offers unequaled southern hospitality and dynamic southern cuisine over-looking the beautiful Currituck Sound.
1240 Duck Rd., Duck N.C. 27949,

Hilton Garden Inn
Centrally located in Kitty Hawk, between the North and South Beaches, The Hilton Garden Inn’s gorgeous design and outstanding amenities are only surpassed by endless oceanfront views!

Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar
American Bistro with seasonal, upscale innovative menus, extensive Wine and Martini list & ocean views. Live Music Fridays Late Night. Open all year. MP 2.5 on the Beach Road, Kitty Hawk, NC
(252) 261-2546.

Outer Banks Taste of the Beach March 17-20
Presented by the Outer Banks Restaurant Association. 4 Days of Food, Drink & Fun on the Outer Banks of North Carolina! A weekend you won’t want to miss!

Quality Inn Carolina Oceanfront
Centrally located on the Outer Banks of NC. Breath taking views, fresh coffee, a wonderful deluxe continental breakfast and all the amenities of home…. you just might move in.
401 N. Virginia Dare
Trail Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

Ramada Plaza Hotel
Located in Kill Devil Hills, the Ramada Plaza Resort offers a beautiful oceanfront, full-service catering/bar, an oceanview ballroom and restaurant, an indoor/outdoor pool with Jacuzzi and much more.
252-441-2151, 800-635-1824.

Sun Realty
Representing the best of the Outer Banks. Sun Realty offers the best selection of fine vacation homes on the Outer Banks. Pet friendly, luxury, short stays & more! Exclusive online specials available. 888-853-7757.

Village Realty
Exceptional homes and extraordinary service. Nearly 600 Outer Banks vacation rental homes, oceanfront to soundfront, Corolla to Nags Head.
Call 877.505.7477 or book online
at www.MyOBXBeach.com

**Look for more Outer Banks Great Getaway articles in upcoming issues and on HamptonRoadsMagazine.com**

Categories: Weekends