Helping Others to Make “Pour” Decisions

04 Jul 2024

What Cape Fear Food & Wine Club sommelier Mike Summerlin wants you to know


If you're looking for an opportunity to enjoy and learn more about wines from around the world with like-minded folks, then the Cape Fear Food + Wine Club (CFFWC) on Market Street in Wilmington has what you're looking for. 

Located inside the Seasoned Gourmet at 5500 Market Street and founded in 2011, the CFFWC is a not-for-profit club offering trial, monthly, and annual memberships and myriad member-only events led by nationally renowned chefs and wine experts.

Heading up the wine portion of the club is Mike Summerlin, a certified sommelier, who leads a busy wine-centric life as owner of Thrive Wine Education and Consulting, culinary instructor at Glow Academy of Wilmington, and sommelier and beverage purchaser for Ruth's Chris Steak House on North Water Street.

Although he studied criminal justice at North Carolina State, his knowledge and love for wines led him to improve the wine storage methods and list at a four-star restaurant in Virginia Beach where he worked after graduating college. “That kind of launched my wine career,” he says.

As for where this expertise stems, Summerlin grew up around fine wines, thanks to his dad who he describes as a huge fan of European wines. Being a part of a military family allowed Summerlin to live in many places for short stints, including Italy where he lived for three and a half years as a teenager, developing an appreciation for wines from the Tuscany region, among others.

Members of CFFWC can opt to attend Summerlin-led, first-Tuesday-of-the-month wine education during which six to eight wines from a premier region, such as Southern France, are featured and paired with cheeses in an informal setting. Summerlin discusses the wines' flavor profiles, structural elements, and region information. Best of all, you don't have to be a wine expert to have a good time.

“Anyone and everyone can feel comfortable at these events,” Summerlin says. “We have new people dropping in all the time. Perhaps best of all, the wine events, as are all of the club's events, are great date-night alternatives.” 

The July class will feature wines of Italy, including those from the Tuscany, Piedmont, Delle Venezie, Latium, Sicily, and Basilicata regions. August will showcase a mix of Old World and New World summer wines. Old World wines include Western European and Mediterranean wines from countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal while New World wines include those from the United States and Southern Hemisphere (Australia, Chile and Argentina).

The classes are designed to expose people to the cultures behind the wines and to provide them with the tools necessary for breaking free from static notions like “red wines should be Cabernets and white wines should be Chardonnays.” The classes introduce members to such whites as Alvariños (Spain, Portugal and now Charlottesville, Virginia) and Grüner Veltliners (Austria) and reds such as Cru Beaujolais and Petite Sirah.


What about North Carolina wines? 

“Right now, when it comes to quality wines, the industry is in the beginning stages,” Summerlin says, noting the potential of the Hendersonville and Yadkin Valley wineries. “As the wines evolve, we may look at adding a 'wines of North Carolina event.'” 

Stay tuned wine fans. 

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