EATS, DRINKS, TIP + TRICKS | Virginia wine tasting in celebration of Norfolk Festevent’s Harborfest [video]

By Patrick Evans-Hylton

Although the 45th Annual Norfolk Harborfest: Music, Food & Maritime Festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, the iconic festival will live in spirit this year through a series of digital content throughout the June 11-13 weekend. For more on Norfolk Festevents, visit 

Celebrate the tastes and traditions of Harborfest and the rich and history of region by raising a glass of Virginia wine (and prep your palate for Festevent’s Town Point Virginia Fall Wine Festival, October 16 & 17, 2021).

The wine was selected by our friend, sommelier Marc Sauter, who is also an owner of Zoës Steak and Seafood ( in Virginia Beach’s ViBe Creative District.  Not only does Zoës have an amazing wine list for diners at the upscale restaurant, but Marc also operates one of the finest wine shops in Coastal Virginia. You can find the wines in the video at Zoës to enjoy with a meal, or to take home. 

Want to swirl, sniff and sip like a pro? Here’s our tips:


We’ve all seen folks do it; swirl a glass of wine, stick their nose down in it, and take a delicate little sip before declaring it magnifique. Well, you don’t have to be quite that dramatic, but there are ways to swirl and sip to fully enjoy a glass of wine. Here’s how: 

1. Hold the wine glass up to light and look at it. Is it clear and clean or cloudy with sediment? 

2. Hold the wine glass up against a white background, like a sheet of paper. Is the color typical of that varietal? Start taking notes of the different hues that you see so you’ll recognize if a color is typical for that type. 

3. Keep a tasting log – either a notebook or on an app on your smartphone – and include three or four colors you see. Use terms that resonate with you, like “buttery yellow” or “bright lavender.” 

4. Swirl the wine glass around just a little bit – not much. Get some air down into the wine. Now bring the glass up to your nose and smell. Like with the color, is the aroma typical of that varietal? 

5. As with looking at the wine’s color, take notes so you’ll have a reference as to the aromas produced by different wines. In your tasting log, include three or four notes you pick up, again with terms you understand, like “ripe cherry” or “floral.” 

6. Swirl the wine glass around again and take a small sip. Hold it on your tongue a minute. Consider the body of the wine. Is it appropriate for the varietal type? 

7. When thinking about body, consider these guidelines: a light bodied wine feels in your mouth a bit like skim milk does – that same weight. Likewise, a medium bodied wine can mimic the body of whole milk, while a full-bodied wine is reminiscent of the weight of heavy cream in the mouth. Take note in your tasting journal as to the wine’s body. 

8. Swirl slightly again and take another small sip, breathing in as you do. Notice the flavors, and if the wine is pleasant. Take note in your tasting log, and write down three or four tastes you pick up with words and phrases that mean something to you, like “smoky” or “lemon zest.” 

9. After swirling again, have another sip. Think about the taste of the wine after you’ve swallowed it. Did the flavor linger, or taper off? Did the finish end abruptly. Was there any harshness or off flavors? Write down your observations in your tasting log. 

10. As you finish the wine, make notes about your overall impressions then, while they are fresh in your mind. Did you enjoy it, or not? And why? How would you serve the wine – with food or perhaps out by the pool on its on? If you poured it with a meal, what dishes do you think would go with it?


Keeping some sort of notes, whether on a smartphone app or jotting them down in a journal, is essential in learning more about wine. 

Take these notes for every glass tasted and soon you’ll have a great wine notebook that you can reference when looking for that perfect vintage to recommend to a friend, serve at home, give as a gift. 

1. Today’s Date 

2. Winery Name 

3. Wine Name 

4. Varietal/Grapes 

5. Vintage Year 

6. Retail Price 

7. Tasting Elements – See (clarity? color?) – Sniff (floral? fruity? herbal? earthy?) – Sip (sweet? dry? acidic? crisp? lingering? weight?) 

8. Food Pairing Thoughts 

9. Your Rating ( grade from A to F) 

10. Any Miscellaneous Notes/Thought

If you’d like our Top 10 Tips on Pairing Food + Wine PLUS our template for starting your own wine journal, email with “Wine Tips and Journal” as the subject.


Looking for some information about the wines in today’s video? Here are some notes from the winemakers and other experts.

Michael Shaps Chardonnay

From Michael Shaps: “Grown on our exclusive site in Purcellville, situated in Loudon County, this chardonnay has consistently been one of the best chardonnays in Virginia. The vineyard is situated on a south-east slope with light soils in a cool climate growing condition. The chardonnay grapes at this vineyard ripen two weeks later than the chardonnay around the Charlottesville area, which allows the ripening to occur in late September, which comes with cooler night time temperatures helping the vines preserve the acidity inside the grapes. This chardonnay has a lovely taste combination of pear, apple, lemon with the integrated nuance of vanilla and toast. The contact from the yeast provides a nice yeasty bread-like component as well. The nice acidity from this site helps the wine age, and it needs about two years in bottle before it starts to show itself.”

Michael Shaps Petit Manseng

From Michael Shaps: “In the Jurançon region of France where it originates from, the grape is more acidic so it is mainly used to create sweeter wines or dessert wines, which balances nicely with the acidity. However, Michael has been making his in a dry style. The grape is up-and-coming in Charlottesville and more wineries are creating a dry Petit Manseng as it ripens here with less acidity. This wine is our heaviest white and is structured like a Chardonnay.  It transmits a grilled flavor, hinting of grilled pineapple and mango.  It is very aromatic, with a bright, tropical and pleasant acid on the finish that balances out the up front weight.  Pairs well with heavy shellfish and chicken dishes.”

White Hall Vineyards 2017 Viognier

From the Virginia Wine Marketing Office  ( “Outside of a few appellations in France, Viogner was an obscure character in most wine traditions that has found new ways to thrive in Virginia. It expresses itself wonderfully here, and quickly developed a reputation as one of the Commonwealth’s signature varietials. Internationally, Virginia Viognier has consistently earned praise for its high quality. Viognier typically has intense, complex aromas of stone fruit with tropical notes such as pineapple and orange blossoms which suggest a sweet wine, but it is usually made in a dry style. It accompanies rich dishes such as lobster, veal, cheeses and pork well, and particularly shines when paired with a rich sauce.”

From White Hall Vineyards: “Wonderfully aromatic with white peaches and apricot. Wonderful floral finish.”


Patrick Evans-Hylton is Norfolk Festevents’ culinary advisor, a Johnson & Wales-trained chef and an award-winning food journalist covering tasty trends since 1995 in print, broadcast and electronic media. He is publisher of 

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