McCrorie – who earned the nickname “Burly Bear” while playing football at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory – detailed how his 2012 cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, California, paired nicely with a classic coq au vin entree. Before that, he poured an oaky 2015 chardonnay with notes of toffee, clove and apricot to accompany pan-seared scallops, butternut squash and white bean succotash (and let’s not forget the garlic cream sauce).
The four-course Burly tasting event was one of many orchestrated by Foxcroft, according to Liz Saintsing. She is the marketing director, private events coordinator and assistant general manager at Charlotte’s Foxcroft Wine Co., with locations in South Park and Dilworth. For more than 14 years, Foxcroft Wine Co.’s flagship location at South Park has offered tastings, pop-up dinners and pairings.
“Winemakers and winery representatives come to Charlotte a lot throughout the year to work the market,” Saintsing said. “Partnering with them seemed like a no-brainer. Doing these events evolved naturally. And now, they have become so well-received that they sell out in just a few days.”
It’s not just about the food or just about the wine, Saintsing said. It’s about the experience.
“Giving our guests first-hand knowledge and the ability to meet winemakers is pretty remarkable,” she said. “Not everyone in town can say that.”
If it seems like there’s an increase in these types of events, Saintsing pointed out that they are a natural fit for the wine industry.
“This has been embraced for quite some time now," she said. "Wine is meant to pair with food. Creating a special menu based on specific wines allows our talented chefs to be inventive, and gives our guests the opportunity to try wines they might not necessarily gravitate to – get them outside the box and shake things up a bit.
“We hope people leave each event with full bellies, gaining a bit more knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of different wine regions, varietals, and styles of winemaking. We see ourselves as educators, all passionate about wine and drinkers of the juice. With these events, we like to transport each guest to a particular place in the world, as if you were drinking wine there with the natives.”
While the wines for the tastings hail from California, Washington and other regions known for stellar production, the food is locally sourced.
“We use Uno Alla Volta cheeses, Tega Hill Farms, Wild Turkey Farms and Rock Stone seafood,” Saintsing said. “We make a ton of things in-house, like our slider and burger buns, doughnuts, flatbreads, and lavash for our cheese and meat boards. A lot of care and pride goes into making the food."
Wine, chocolate and cheese pairings
While there’s certainly room for argument, if there’s one thing better than a pairing of wine and chocolate, it’s wine and cheese. And Rob Jacik, who owns Seaboard Taproom & Wine Bar, Carolina Beer Temple and Temple Mojo Growler Shop in Matthews, has tapped into his customers’ love of these particular pairings to offer multiple events throughout the year.
“Right now, we’re doing wine and cheese and wine and chocolate pairings at Seaboard and customers seem to love it,” Jacik said. “It takes the wine experience to another level. It allows you to try and explore new cheeses – some of which you may not have ever even heard of.”
At Jacik’s other locations, he has embraced what could be described as the original pop-up restaurant: the food truck.
“Food trucks come out two to three nights a week and set up shop,” he said. “At Temple Mojo, we just recently began partnering with a local food truck – but there’s no truck. They set up shop behind the bar three nights a week and operate their business. I make zero money off what they’re making for customers, but it’s a symbiotic relationship.
“I do the same with an arts and crafts pop-up market on Saturdays," Jacik continued. "We have a big, grassy yard and we invite local vendors to come out from 9 a.m. to noon. Right now, we’re not charging anything for vendors to participate. We’re hoping to continue all year, as long as the weather holds up.”
Wine & Tapas Week
The way people consume wine and food is changing and one Charlotte group is embracing the challenge.
Steven Caldwell, president of Elevate Lifestyle, said fewer people are visiting their favorite restaurants for a multiple-course, sit-down dinner experience. Instead, they’re now more likely to gravitate to a tapas-inspired event or pop-up pairing. To meet this changing demand, Elevate Lifestyle launched Charlotte’s inaugural Wine & Tapas Week last spring. The fall version, which features more than 30 restaurants throughout the Queen City, wraps up Oct. 22.
“It’s an opportunity to try new places,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got an influx of brand new restaurants, and this gives restaurants the opportunity to get in front of new people, and it allows people to try something they’ve never had before.”