by Addie Ladner and Emma Deal
This Puerto Rico native traveled the world teaching about wine and food before settling in Raleigh. Here’s why she opened her own school — and where she buys wine.
Vitis House Wine School owner Doreen Colondres has lived and worked all over the globe representing various health and hospitality brands. In the meantime, she’s filmed television shows, published books and continued learning about the wonderful world of food and wine.
“My cooking passion came from my grandparents,” says Colondres. Her grandfather on her dad’s side was a chef, while her mom’s side of the family had a passion for farming. Growing up in Puerto Rico, learning to cook with ingredients from her own backyard inspired Colondres to create her food blog, The Kitchen Doesn’t Bite, where she shares simple and healthy recipes. The goal of this blog was to give people the tools they need to cook at home more often.
Creating this blog opened the door for Colondres to appear on cooking segments and cooking shows in several countries, allowing her to travel and learn about the foods she was cooking from different regions. Colondres has experience in many types of food from other countries, including but not limited to: the United States, Italy, Greece and Latin America. “If we don’t have a chance to go visit these countries, there’s no way to understand their culture and traditions,” she says.
In addition to world-wide cooking experience, Colondres is also the best-selling author of the cookbook The Kitchen Doesn’t Bite (La Cocina No Muerde), inspired by her time as the Hispanic food and wine editor for Meredith Publishing. The first chef, woman and Latina to be hired as the ambassador of the Bordeaux Wine Council, Colondres’ hard work has named her ambassador for several prestigious brands from Fermin Iberico, a high-end pork brand, to Bumble Bee Seafood, Bush Beans and General Mills.
Colondres not only has a passion for cooking, but also for wine. Certified WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 3, Colondres is now the owner of Vitis House Wine School in Raleigh. During her travels for a cooking show, Colondres had visited Raleigh and fell in love with the city, and decide to make her home here. Shortly after, she completed her dream of opening a school though VITIS, a warm and welcoming place where she continues to work, inviting others to come learn about the art of wine and cooking. We pinged her to learn where the wine expert likes to purchase vino locally and how she came to select the Triangle as her home base.
How did you end up in Raleigh?
I’ve been a chef ambassador for Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical for more than seven years. Five years ago they took me to Raleigh to host a live cooking show for the employees of the City of Raleigh. The trip was a quick one, less than 48 hours, but it was enough to fall in love with the city even though I was living in Miami at the time. They called me again to host another event in Raleigh a month later and I was like, Yes! I’ve always wanted to open some sort of wine or cooking school, but I knew Miami wasn’t the place. I stayed here for another week, in October of 2018, and immediately said This is my place. I noticed that people were so nice and educated. There is a large appetite for wine in this area even compared to bigger cities, so I thought it was a good opportunity for me. I opened VITIS House in September 2019 and everything has gone so smoothly since then.
With Vitis House, right now you’re using space at the Loading Dock. Is the plan to have your own space? What’s next for you?
That’s the plan! I am slow cooking the concept. I want to showcase my food. The vision is for people to have fun, chill and learn about food and wine at the same time. I can’t share much more than that.
What are your favorite places to go for a glass in Raleigh?
I believe some of the best wine lists in the area are at The Umstead, Cucciolo Terraza and Kipos, including by the glass. I like to promote trying new wines; life is too short to drink the same wine over and over. The wine lists in these spots are spectacular and offer rotating and unique options. There are so many great grapes from all over the world and your wine list should reflect that. Angus Barn also has a wonderful wine list.
What are your favorite places to buy wine?
Seaboard Wine and Taylor’s Wine Shop are my favorites and now the newly opened Rocks + Acid in Chapel Hill. Seaboard and Taylor’s offer a great variety of wines, and some of them will even special order a wine for you. They are truly local wine stores with a lot of experience. When it comes to Rocks & Acid, I love that Paula is a female business owner with an impressive wine background and an exquisite taste for wines. She has the beauty to truly understand your palate and guide you through bottles. She is not afraid of bringing labels that can sound “rare” for the general consumer.
What are your favorite wines right now for entertaining?
Tempranillo is my favorite grape; it pairs well with pork and Spanish dry-cured meats. I also enjoy Super Tuscans from Italy. Most of the time they are “Bordeaux Blends” using non-indigenous grapes and sometimes blended with the grape Sangiovese that is used in the Chianti region. They are lovely. It’s wonderful for winter. I also love a grape called Xinomavro from Greece. It’s a high-acid red grape variety that also makes a great blend with a little Merlot. It’s elegant and bold. And then obviously bubbles — I enjoy bubbles from all over the world; not only the typical champagne but others like Franciacorta from Italy. Orange wines from Italy and Slovenia are also on my list. And a bottle of vintage champagne is always in my house for Valentine’s Day, along with what I call romantic reds like Nero Di Avola, Lambrusco and Vin Santo.
This article was originally published in February 2023 on waltermagazine.com