The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2015

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42  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2015 I t takes more than just a separate entrance to make a non-hotel guest feel at home in a hotel restaurant, but the Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro in the Westin Hotel in Reston, Virginia is not your typical hotel restaurant and bar. The management, staff and culinary crew have found an appealing blend in award- winning chef John-Michael Hamlet and talented Sommelier Nicole Bernard. Like any great food and wine pairing, these two gifted professionals complement each other and take the entire dining experience to a sophisticated level of enjoyment. The moment you walk in to the lounge area, fronted with a glass-enclosed tower of wine, there is a warm and inviting vibe. From the outdoor patio lined with cozy fire pits to the sleek-looking private wine room, Vinifera has created an environment that welcomes wine-enthusiastic locals who live in and around the affluent community, as well as guests just passing through. Chef Hamlet started his cooking career over 25 years ago in his hometown of Vienna, Virginia. In addition to his classical training at the Culinary Institute of America, John-Michael has worked with some of the top chefs in the industry, owned his own project in New York and, in 2010, appeared on Food Network's Chopped. Luckily for dining aficionados, he and his wife returned to their local roots to raise their three children. Since taking over the kitchen a couple of years ago, Chef Hamlet has transformed the menu of locally sourced products to include savory single bites, a dozen or so small plates and larger entrees, provid- ing a wide variety of dining options and pairing opportunities. Assistant Restaurant Manager and Certified Sommelier Nicole Bernard deliv- ers on the wine-side of the equation. In addition to her extensive, hand-picked wine selections—currently more than 300 choices and counting—Bernard also offers over 20 wines by the glass. She has a loyal following that benefits from her extensive wine travels and education, recently earning her Level Two certification from the Court of Sommeliers. Ms. Bernard is also a mentor to her staff. She conducts monthly wine seminars and is very proud of the two staff members who have passed their Level One certification. Together, Hamlet and Bernard offer special wine-themed dinners on a regular basis and sprinkle in portfolio tastings and special events throughout the year. The combination of inspired cooking and thoughtful pairings has elevated Vinifera from a hotel restaurant into destination dining. Hearth and Home VINIFERA WINE BAR & BISTRO IN RESTON, VIRGINIA STRIKES A PERFECT BALANCE Chef John-Michael Hamlet uses locally sourced products to make guests feel at home. Assistant Restaurant Manager and Certified Sommelier Nicole Bernard's wine list includes 300 bottles and over 20 by-the- glass selections. PHOTO COURTESY OF VINIFERA PHOTO COURTESY OF VINIFERA by Scott Greenberg HOT PROPERTY

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