In Miami, wine gives you gas. In Hollywood, wine comes with pearls of morbier. In Fort Lauderdale, wine comes with quality, grape jabber. This may not be wine country, but Miami and South Florida offer imaginative wine adventures for patrons who range from those poised to drink white Zinfandel for life to those who roam promiscuously from one bottle to the next. (Click here to check out a photo gallery of our favorite wine bars.)
El Carajo International Tapas and Wines
2465 SW 17th Ave., Miami; 305-856-2424.
Pull into the BP gas station on US-1 off of Southwest 17th Avenue, and you’re in for a surprise. Walk into the food and deli service bodega and squeezed between the croquettas and condoms are boxes of wine. Not Wente magnums, but good stuff -Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Numanthia and Duval-Leroy Brut. Walk a little further and you’re in Spain. On the left, you’ll find romantic murals that paint a scene far away from Swiss rolls and energy boosters. There, you can dine on wrought iron and wood chairs and tables while sampling the Spanish tapas list that includes everything from chorizo al vino (sausage in wine sauce) for $7.50 to Suprema de Bacalo a la Vizcaína (Supreme Codfish Biscayne Style) for $20. A gorgeous, solid wood tasting table takes center stage in front of a wine wall that has fun offerings like the half bottle of 2007 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau for $34.99. A tiny cold room sits on the right, securing all the baller wines like a Grand Cru Bordeaux and vintage Champagnes. And you just wanted to buy gas.
For more info: elcarajointernationaltapasandwines.com
La Lupa Di Roma
610 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-532-6657.
It’s easy to miss La Lupa Di Roma (The Wolf of Rome). And Wolf and Owner Rosanna Nisti likes it that way. The morsel-sized Lincoln Road space feels like grandma’s kitchen where she is ruler whether you liked the lasagna or not. But instead of “Bless this Home” signs everywhere, these wine labeled walls boast everything from Pio Cesare to a 1978 Chateau Léoville Poyferr. Choose from over 600 wine selections (mostly Italian). The wine menu includes super Tuscan bottles like the 1997 Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Sassicaia for $1,900 and glasses of Vernaccia di San Giminiano (much cheaper). Other red wine glasses include everyday Italian selections: Dolcetto, Barbera and Nero d'Avola (all $9) or the occasional Brunello. The menu is Roman - sweet peas and mushrooms sautéed with bacon olive oil and crab meat salad. And there’s array of pastas, fish and meat dishes. But, no wolf. Sorry.
For more info: lalupadiroma.com
The Cellar Club at the Biltmore
1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1926.
If you prefer demure, cigar room trappings over thonged Champagne flutes, The Biltmore Coral Gables Cellar Club is for you. The Biltmore is a gorgeous body adorned with luscious landscape and an old money vibe. The hotel is currently restructuring their Cellar Club membership offerings, but in the meantime, you can enjoy their monthly wine dinners. On Wednesday, June 30, there will be a French Sud-Ouest Wine Dinner ($89 for Cellar Club Members, $109 for Resort Guests). On Saturday, July 10, there will be a Roederer Champagne luncheon and interactive culinary demonstration with Talula Chefs Andrea and Frank Randazzo ($52 for Cellar Club Members, $65 for Resort Guests). On Wednesday, July 14, there will be a Bastille Day Wine Dinner ($89 for Cellar Club Members, $109 for Resort Guests). On Wednesday, July 28, there will be a California Wine Dinner ($79 for Cellar Club Members, $99 for Resort Guests). Check out the website for more monthly event listings
For more info: thecellarclub.com
Eno's Winebar Cafe and Restaurant
920 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-695-1119.
Long live the enomatic machine! That’s the lure at Eno's Winebar Cafe and Restaurant. The process: First, you put money on a card (Think Kinko’s). Then you get a wine glass. Next, put the card in a wine dispensing machine (the enomatic machine) where you choose the amount of wine you want by pressing a button - 1, 3 and 5 ounces ($2 per ounce). Then the wine is dispensed directly into your glass. This is a great opportunity for wine lovers to try all the expensive stuff - chunky-priced Barolos, Barbarescos, Rhone wines, Bordeaux, White and Red Burgundy. The eats are typical wine munchy food - gourmet cheeses, bread, etc. Join Eno’s e-mail list to learn about special events like Tuesday’s Lady’s Night when you buy one glass and get the other free with complimentary tapas. But the real fun is that if you put $20 on a card, you can enjoy a mini wine tour right on Lincoln Road while gazing at the shiny, bikini waxed Chihuahuas and their matching owners.
For more info: enos-sobe.com
The Cheese Course
3451 NE 1 Ave., #100, Midtown Miami; 786-220-6681.
In the wine world, if don’t stank, it ain’t right. And in Midtown, it stinks good thanks to The Cheese Course, which offers a mélange of cheeses, some you can pronounce and some that are so good, who cares if you can’t pronounce them. The venue offers up to 40 wine labels to enjoy high budget sandwiches like the warm applewood bacon with goat gouda, tomatoes, avocado, rosemary aioli and greens served on a toasted wheat baguette - a fragrant ode to all that is sweet, creamy and decadent ($7.62). Sandwiches are approximately $8 to $9 and wine glasses are $7.45. The whimsical, Cognac-meets-Greenwich country vibe is captured by the simple, wood tables, water container centerpieces, homemade cookies, cheese funk aromas and sporadic rotation of wines. Most bottles can be opened and poured by the glass (except for the pricier bottles). Enjoy your favorite Riesling or Monastrell while taking in the cute chutney bottles, Wynwood mall, stroller divas, broke, wine-cheese sophisticates and their stank, bill-paying friends.
For more info: thecheesecourse.com
W Wine Bistro
3622 NE 2nd Ave., Design District; 305-576-7775.
Despite the I-95 canopy, W Wine Bistro is undeniably French with its chalkboard menu, its bistro-esque décor and the owners’ drippy, French accents that transport me to a little countryside restaurant in Bordeaux. Owner Jean-Jacques Chiche took over the venue six months ago eliminating the venue’s once indelible duck parmentier, but maintaining French dishes like tarte Provençale, country terrine and charcuterie platters - dishes to pair up with the venue’s French dominated wine list - 100 labels by the bottle and up to 20 labels available by the glass (There’s a $5 corkage fee). This summer, they’ll be Thursday evening wine tastings - and hopefully, by then, we’ll get to ride that French duck again.
For more info: winebarmiami.com
2035 Harrison St., Hollywood; 954-922-2910.
Steven Krakow is not down with the “bastardizing of wine brands,” he says. The Hollywood Vine Owner just wants to sell delicious wines in a cool, unprepossessing space. And that’s what he’s doing, though at first glance, the chic, boutique-y space has a hefty-price tag vibe. Not so. Every bottle I picked up was under $30 - 2007 Domaine Charvin à côté for $19, 2008 M. Cosentino Franc for $18 and 2008 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay for $28. Bottles start at $7 and there are free wine tastings on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. But the pièce de résistance is the cheap, sample size gourmet bits - $2.66 for a truffle mouse duck pâté, $2 for Point Reyes blue cheese and $4.50 for morbier. And there’s an assortment of cured meats. Krakow also sells other spirits like rum and vodka, so you can get an occasional Cosmo at the bar, but the Marlborough-breathed, grape defender has a true wine spirit and so does Hollywood Vine.
For more info: hvine.com
The Grateful Palate
817 SE 17th St., Ft. Lauderdale; 954-467-1998.
The Grateful Palate is another one of those diamond-in-the-plaza finds where not only does it offer over 400 different wine labels, but its Wine Steward, Grace Abel, is a California Polytechnic State University Journalism graduate who minored in Wine and Viticulture. And she’s serious about wine. There are 30 wines available by the glass ($8 to $25), and Abel says the venue uses a wine preservation system that pumps nitrogen gas into bottle tops to keep open bottles fresh longer, usually 7 days or more. The Grateful Palate is defined by its open kitchen, dark wood interior and boutique wine offerings. There is also yacht-provisioning and ship chandelery. Events include cooking classes and competitions. This summer, there will be a chef war where customers will judge the culinary joust.
For more: gratefulpalate.net