Destination: Miami

Destination: Miami

The word has long been out about Miami’s wild beaches and premier nightlife. But as its wine bar scene is picking up—evolving to tickle the most stringent of palates—the so-called “American capital of Latin America” is on its way to becoming a fantasy land for the wine-minded, too. Wine bar hopping is alive and well throughout Miami’s neighborhoods, and provides a great way to soak up the unique melding of Latin and Mediterranean cultures. If you are a wine lover with a passion for social atmospheres and beautiful crowds, add this vibrant destination to your list. Miami’s energetic spin on wine might just help you discover your inner Latino.

A favorite among locals, Eno’s (920 Lincoln Road) is a serve-yourself wine bar that offers a laid-back sipping and savoring atmosphere in the heart of the South Beach—a world-famous party scene with trendy hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. The Enomatic preservation systems feature a rotating selection of 64 labels, from the New World to Old, available by the bottle or tastes dispersed with the swipe of a tasting card. Grab a seat on one of the 17th-century Venetian-inspired chairs, or sit outside to watch the eclectic crowd of locals and tourists. Small bites at $15 include caviar, salads and genuine Italian antipasti, complemented beautifully by the wine. Browse through the tutorials and product fact sheets or have a lively chat with Italian-born owner and sommelier Michele Merlo about what to order next.

Before strolling down the expanding roster of galleries and showrooms in Miami’s Design District, swing by the W Wine Bistro (3622 NE 2nd Ave), famous for its hip wine list and homemade pastries. The sound, yet eclectic selection includes 2006 Glen Carlou Chardonnay from South Africa, a 2006 Dr. Loosen Riesling from Germany and 200 other labels from around the world. The warm brick walled atmosphere is enhanced by Parisian owner Marie France, known to greet you at your table and help with pairings.

Set against authentic Cuban cigar factories, fruit stands and a cafeteria, QueBueno! Wine and Gourmet (6421 SW Eighth Street) is an offbeat wine bar and shop in Little Havana that boasts the best prices in town. The 2,000-bottle inventory ranges from $700 vintage to inexpensive, obscure offerings from Slovenia. The charming casual ambiance features walls with customer-created graffiti and seating made from casks, barrels and columns of wine cartons. A pour of the wine du jour is $2.50, which could be a sample of an $8.99 Dragon Seal Cabernet Sauvignon from China or a $274 Spanish Vega Sicilia. The menu consists of $3.99 tapas and delicious pami sandwiches—French baguettes pressed the Cuban way. Patrons “bring down the house” every evening, when live Latin live music is featured. 

Business casual is the dress code at Novecento(1414 Brickell Avenue), a landmark Argentine restaurant and scenester hangout in Miami’s financial district. Enjoy the elegant outdoor seating among futuristic skyscrapers or the polished wood accents of the lively dining room. Sommelier Paula Costa’s monthly wine list brims with a “window of the world” selection; here you’ll try Argentine Malbecs from Patagonia to the Northern province of Salta. For a true taste of Buenos Aires, order the Novecento salad with beef; the lomo, or the juicy empanadas.

Part social club, part wine shop, La Bottega Enoteca Sociale (3540 Main Highway) in Coconut Grove is a favorite among Miami’s wine-drinking elite. While it offers a variety of vinos (along with premium charcuterie and cheese plates) in the sleek wood space, a wine club membership (starting at $200 per month) entitles customers to a wine locker in the private, luxurious stone-walled wine cellar lounge (called La Cava), outfitted with leather sofas and comfy chairs. The membership fee includes invites to exclusive weekly tastings and wine classes. Live jazz can be heard monthly. Vibrant, evolving and infinitely suitable for both the emerging and the sophisticated vinophile, Miami should be considered as one of America’s premium destinations for learning about, and enjoying, great wine.

Published on August 11, 2010