What’s in a label?
February 1, 2023
Sommelier Anthony Wesley launches a wine school for beginners and beyond.
by Michelle Boudin
When people leave reviews for the McNinch House, one of Charlotte’s most beloved and respected restaurants, they often mention the wine director, Anthony “Wes” Wesley and his “unmatched selections.” In the 21 years he’s been at the AAA Four Diamond restaurant, Wesley has curated an award-winning program that’s regularly recognized by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Now he’s making his expertise available to the public with the launch of the New School for Wine.
“For years, a lot of my guests have been telling me, ‘You’re teaching us so much about wines from different regions, you should teach classes.’ I also like to give the background of wines when I make a suggestion and talk about the winemaker so that when you look at the glass, you see the story behind the wine and it makes you appreciate it more. My classes will talk about all of that.”
Wesley says there will be beginner and intermediate classes that will cover everything from how to read a label to pairings and proper storage.
Wesley learned about wine on the job when he unexpectedly discovered a second career path after moving from New York City to Charlotte in 1987. A Liberia native and graduate of Rutgers University, Wesley relocated here to work in private banking but also took a temporary job as a maitre d’ at The Lamplighter, one of Charlotte’s first fine-dining restaurants, and quickly grew to love the environment.
“I used to host lunch and then dinner, and I started to really enjoy it — it blew me away,” he says. “When I started working there, they were shooting Matlock, and Andy Griffith came in. Lots of notables came in and at the same time I started to develop an interest in wine. I wasn’t even a big drinker — I didn’t even drink wine.”
The restaurant sent him to classes at New York’s Windows on the World, and over the years he grew to love the stories behind the wine as much as the taste. He developed his own approach to pairing different selections with food.
“When I’m pairing food with wine at a restaurant, I have to taste the food first, so I do it the reverse of most food critics. I taste the food and the sauces, and in my mind I think what wine it might go with. What determines the wine is the sauces.”
Pairings will be a key focus of the classes. “We’ll teach you how to read a wine label, what to look for on the label, the difference between Old World and New World vintage — what it means, why it matters, all those little things.”
Intermediate-level classes will focus on the different wine-producing regions. The classes will be held at The Market at 7th Street, but Wesley is also open to conducting in-home classes for book clubs and other groups, as well as corporate events.
“I enjoy wines, and I see people have a passion for wines. And I like to bring knowledge to them, because there aren’t a lot of places to learn more about wine and they won’t always be in the restaurant … This makes it easier. The more they know, the more they will like wine.”
Local shops, restaurants and sommeliers offering wine classes:
The New School for Wine hosts classes Saturdays at 11 a.m. (Winetalk 101) and Mondays at 5 p.m. (Winetalk 202). Classes cost $25; register at newschoolforwine.com
Arthur’s Wine Shop has themed wine classes on Sundays from 6 – 7:30 p.m. February offerings include Tour of Italy and Pacific Northwest. Classes are $30. arthursofcharlotte.com
Harper’s SouthPark hosts Walter’s Wine School, a casual wine tasting with a sommelier every other Wednesday evening. The cost is $25 and includes food pairings. Reservations recommended at resy.com.
DTR SouthPark offers private group tastings with sommelier Marc Aisenstark for four to 20 people starting at $100 per person. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations
Foxcroft Wine Co. offers monthly tastings for wine club members. foxcroftwine.com SP