Wine & Spirits: Hyatt Chesapeake Wine Dinners

Escape to the Eastern Shore this winter for wine, inspired cuisine and more.
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Water's Edge Grill at the Hyatt Chesapeake is the site of a three-part wine dinner series this winter.

If you are impatiently waiting for the warmer weather to head across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore, you might want to rethink that decision and instead opt for some instant gratification. The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, on the waterfront in Cambridge, Maryland, is smack dab in the middle of a wine dinner series this winter. The resort, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and is offering Saturday evening wine dinners this weekend and in March.

Diners at the recent Wente wine dinner sampled five of the winery's offerings, including the Reliz Creek Pinot Noir from Monterey, CA.

Each dinner begins at 6:45 PM with a “meet and greet” of winemakers and reps, along with light appetizers and wine, followed by a four-course wine pairing dinner in the resort’s main restaurant, Water’s Edge Grill. February 11’s dinner will be hosted by of Guy Saget Winery in France’s Loire Valley, a winery recognized for its racy, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. On March 24, from Frederick Wildman and Sons Importers will enlighten guests about Northern Italian wineries, and each featured wine will be paired with a dish inspired by the region in which it’s produced. The price for each dinner is $125 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. You can reserve a spot by calling 410.901.6400.

Though it’s sublime in the summertime, the Hyatt Chesapeake has activities for the entire family in the colder months too. You can swim and watch double feature dive-in movies in the glass-enclosed heating pool in the resort’s “winter garden”, make your own s’mores by the fire pit, and send the kids to the structured, supervised activities of Camp Hyatt at Pirate’s Cove. The hotel’s current wine dinner series is a great excuse for a mid-winter weekend sojourn.

Back in January, my husband, two children and I headed out to the Hyatt Chesapeake on a Saturday for a little overnight getaway. Our plan was for the four of us to splash around the winter garden pool for a few hours, and then drop off the kids at Camp Hyatt so the two of us could head to the kickoff wine dinner featuring California’s Wente Vineyards.

We arranged for a family petite suite with bunk beds, which gave the kids their own space (and TV), while still keeping them close at hand. We really dug the winter garden pool area. The water was uber warm, but even cooler than that (not technically…) was the hot tub, which was split between the inside and the outside. (You could access the outside part either by swimming underneath the wall, or walking outside….so invigorating to be in there with the wind whipping the cold rain in our faces.)

If you are planning on dropping off your kids at Camp Hyatt to enjoy one of the wine dinners or some other kind of date night out, be advised that spots require advance registration. For the cost of $50 per child including dinner, kids get to enjoy arts and crafts, bikes and ride-on toys, games and movies. The Saturday evening session of Camp Hyatt runs from 6 to 9 PM—plenty of time to take in the wine dinner, or have a romantic dinner and drinks by the fire in Michener’s Library, the hotel’s cozy bar.

California’s Wente Vineyards is the United States’ oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in

Diners got to Skype with winemaker during the dinner.

1883.Today, Wente is run by fifth generation winemakers: sister and brother Christine and Karl D. Wente. Wines in the estate grown series are made from grapes on the winery’s properties in Livermore Valley near San Francisco Bay, and in Arroyo Seco, southeast of Monterey, and have unique names that relate to the history of the winery.

The Wente wine dinner was held in a private dining room adjacent to the main dining room of Water’s Edge Grill. About twenty guests were able to “chat” with Karl D. Wente via Skype, who kicked off the dinner by giving us a brief history of the winery before walking us through the wines we were going to be tasting that evening.

My favorite course of the evening was the entrée, in which short ribs were slow braised until they fell off the bone, and coated with a sweet yet tangy sauce. It was joined by a perfectly seared scallop, whipped parsnips and a watercress salad. The recommended wine pairing was Wente’s Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon, a well-strucutured Cab with classic aromas of cassis, coffee and blackberry. (Unfortunately, it’s in limited supply, and sold mostly to wine club members.) I also found myself sipping the Reliz Creek Pinot Noir with the short ribs. The cherry, vanilla and hint of spice paired nicely with the meat’s sauce. Another menu standout was pan roasted rockfish fillet topped with brussels sprouts, shallots and pancetta.

Pan roasted rockfish with brussels sprouts and pancetta was a menu standout.

With the current Winter Escape package available until March 31, 2012, you can get a double occupancy rate (and a s’mores kit!) for $119 from Sunday to Thursday evenings, and $169 on Friday and Saturday nights, not including tax and the resort fee. Request offer code WINTER if you book online.

Splash around in the heated pool of the Hyatt's winter garden when it's tool cold to head outside.

(Spa lovers should note that the current Stillwater Spa & Salon is going through a major renovation, and will reopen in March as the Sago Salon and Spa (named for a type of grass found on the banks of the Choptank River that the resort overlooks). The spa is undergoing over a million dollars in extensive physical renovations, and will feature fourteen treatment rooms and a new menu of treatments and products from Naturopathica and Thalgo. Definitely a reason to go back…) For more information, click here.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.

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