On a typical Monday night in February, The Buttery restaurant in Lewes might serve 35 dinners. But with a little help from the reds and whites, Buttery Owner John Donato can easily double that.
The Buttery (102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755) started holding multi-course dinners that pair food with wine 13 years ago. The idea is still going strong—and it has taken off elsewhere as other restaurant owners discover that wine dinners and tastings mean business during the off-season.
It also gives food-and-wine lovers something to do after they’ve bought their share of Kate Spade and Under Armour gifts at the outlets.
Most restaurants promote the wine dinners on their Websites and through an email newsletter. Diners can expect between four and six courses and pay between $50 to $100. Some restaurants might focus on a particular region, say, France or Argentina, or they may take the opportunity to introduce guests to wines they may not normally buy.
“We like working with small producers,” Donato says. “We like to promote new and unusual wines.”
The events typically feature a wine expert from a distributor or winery who can talk about the vintages. During a wine dinner at Nage (19730 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037), a vineyard representative may talk about how the wine is made. The restaurant holds wine dinners year round.
Eden (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330) typically holds its once-a-month wine dinners on Friday nights. The restaurant sometimes highlights varietals from a particular winery. At other times it features wines from a specific country. Expect a celebration of Italian wines this fall, says director of operations Danielle Panarello. The restaurant also hosts a popular New Year’s Day wine dinner.
A dismal economy prompted Back Porch Café (59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674) to suspend its wine dinners for two seasons, manager Keith Fitzgerald says. “People were going more for daily specials,” he says. But with more people digging into their wallets this the summer, Fitzgerald expects the wine dinners to make a comeback in the fall. “People are spending more money,” Fitzgerald says. The four-to five-course dinners cost $70.
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Sedona Restaurant (26 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 539-1200) usually holds a wine dinner every six to eight weeks, owner Marian Parrott says. Winery representatives typically talk about different wines during the event. Before the dinner, guests get to mingle while tasting a starter wine and enjoying hors d’oeuvres.
Women who are looking for a fun night out should head to Lupo di Mare Cucina Italiano (247 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2240). The restaurant’s women and wine club has exploded in popularity since it launched January 2009, says events coordinator Molly King.
Its first wine dinner drew 50. Now, the sell-out event draws 100 women. The monthly dinners feature door prizes from local boutiques, such as Made Ya Look! Salon & Spa. The dinners are usually held the first or second Tuesday of each month, with a break during summer. Past wine dinners have featured wines from different parts of Italy. In the fall, the Lupo di Mare dinners will feature two red wines and two white wines.
If you’re up for a challenge, consider a blind wine tasting at Italian restaurant DiFebo’s (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4550). Guests are blindfolded while they eat a six-course meal and sip seven different wines for $60 per person.
Blindfolding guests enhances the culinary experience, says owner Jeff Osias. “When you take away one sense, other senses get heightened,” he says.
A spring event was so popular that the restaurant will hold another this fall.
Restaurants aren’t the only places at the beach where you can sample Chardonnays and Chablis. If you want to get your vino fix for less, attend a wine tasting or sample wine flights at the bar.
Manager Meghan Lee of Porcini House Bistro and Treetop Lounge (210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6494) wants to revamp the restaurant’s wine list and host more events in the fall. If you act quickly, you can still take advantage of the summer special: four wines for $10 on Sunday evenings on the deck through September. Munch on flatbread or bruschetta appetizers while sipping the varietals selected by Laura Lamprecht, of Specialty Wines Inc. in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The tastings start at 5:30 p.m. and last one hour.
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On Fridays, Kindle (111 Bank St., Lewes, 645-7887) offers three wine flights for $10. The deal runs all night, starting at 5 p.m. Partner Ian Crandall says he meets with wine representatives every week to come up with a theme. The restaurant might feature, say, three different regions of Argentina or three Cabernet Sauvignons.
Head to the wine and liquor stores for more wine events. Several hold regular tastings—usually free—and wine classes.
Teller Wines (1201 Savannah Road, Lewes, 644-2566) offers a Wine Tasting 101 that lasts two to three hours and costs around $25 per person. Shop owner Steve Kogler holds the classes at neighboring Annabella’s Italian Restaurant (645-1980) and in private homes. Guests can also visit the store on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to sample the staff’s wine picks of the week. Every October and January, Teller Wines holds a Zinfandel celebration, with tastings of 25 wines for $50 at a local restaurant.
Bin 66 Fine Wine & Spirits holds one of the most popular wine tastings at the beach, drawing as many as 250 a night during peak months to its two Rehoboth Beach stores, owner Tom Poor says. Friday nights, its downtown Rehoboth store (301 Rehoboth Ave., 227-6966) hosts the tastings. Head to its flagship store (20673 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth, 227-6161) on Saturday evenings. Tastings are held from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m. Nibbles from local restaurants are served.
The shop also teams up with a local chef to hold free weekend wine classes.
Outlet Liquors (19724 Coastal Hwy. Rehoboth, 227-7700) offers daily wine tastings from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. year-round. Between sips, guests kick back on overstuffed arm chairs and watch one of four flat-screen TVs. On Wednesdays, ladies get special treatment with a ladies’ night wine tasting from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The event draws 60 women in the off-season and as many as 100 during the busy summer months, manager Sue Cassidy says.