Food & Drink

Around the world in wine: New dinner series kicks off

The Nittany Lion Inn hosts Tastes of the World wine dinners throughout the year. A new Wine Maker Dinner series will kick off March 23.
The Nittany Lion Inn hosts Tastes of the World wine dinners throughout the year. A new Wine Maker Dinner series will kick off March 23. Photo provided

A new wine experience is coming to Centre County and the Nittany Lion Inn. On March 23, the Wine Maker Dinner series will kick off by featuring a tasting of Australia’s Two Hands Wines.

The Wine Spectator-acclaimed winery is co-owned by Penn State alum Tim Hower, who will be in attendance at the event, ready to share his years of experience and love for the business with curious wine aficionados from around the region.

The meeting between Hower and Nittany Lion Inn sommelier Sean Caviston was pure kismet — Hower and his wife stopped into the Nittany Lion Inn during football season and noticed Two Hands Wines on the menu. The couple expressed their appreciation, sparking a conversation and, later, a partnership, that would lead to the new dinner series.

After settling on a date and event style, Caviston and his crew whittled away the selection of available wines until they had picked their favorites. Next, the culinary team came onto the scene to create a perfectly suited five-course dinner. The resulting menu certainly doesn’t disappoint, from the lovely Two Hands Rosé to start, to the Gnarly Dudes Shiraz served alongside a beet-cured, peppercorn-dusted salmon, all the way to the Brilliant Disguise Moscato and frangipane cake.

Unlike the previous Tastes of the World dinner series, held in the more intimate dining room, the inaugural Wine Maker Dinner will be hosted in the Inn’s ballroom. Caviston said that the space will be elegantly transformed into the perfect setting, whisking visitors away to a completely extraordinary experience.

“The best compliment I’ve recently received from a table,” he said, “was how when they were done with their dining experience, the guest looked at me at the end of the dinner and said, ‘I can’t believe I’m in Central Pennsylvania ...’ And that’s really what I want these wine dinners to be ... people have to walk into that ballroom that night and not believe that they’re anywhere in State College, in Central Pennsylvania; you’ve got to take them somewhere else.”

The goal, Caviston said, is for the Nittany Lion Inn to continue to become a wine destination, regionally and throughout the state.

“I think Tim Hower even helps put us on a larger map, even nationally,” he said.

Of course, the Inn is well on its way to national recognition, receiving Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence last year for its extensive wine selection.

As luxurious as the event sounds, Caviston said that wine novices shouldn’t be scared off.

“The whole wine program grew out of an educational purpose ... the wine dinners (were) all about demystifying wine, and sharing along the way.”

Similar wine events are in the works for early summer, with Caviston’s aim being three Tastes of the World and three Wine Maker dinners each year. Additionally, early April will see the introduction of the Inn’s Wines-days, with tapas and small plates in Whiskers Bar, with select bottles of wine discounted up to half off. Also in April comes Steakhouse Saturdays, with tempting dinner features and, again, specially chosen wines.

A one-hour reception precedes the event, held in the Atrium. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The cost for both the reception and the five-course dinner, along with five wine pairings, is $95 per person, including tax and gratuity.

To reserve your spot for the first Tastes of the World dinner on March 23, contact Caviston at 865-8590.

Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at