You guys know that I love my wine. It’s a staple in my life, and in my household, wherever in the world I am. I like to categorize myself as a “wine explorer,” which according to The Washington Post is one who “care[s] less about a wine’s pedigree than about it’s character. We demand value — a quality that is not synonymous with cheapness — but we don’t define it in terms of point scores or name recognition. We relish a handcrafted local cabernet franc and celebrate an over-performing pinot grigio from Slovenia.”
I’ve been in Miami longer than expected, thanks to COVID-19. And one thing that has benefitted immensely is my wine palate. Since the pandemic broke out, I’ve been stocking up more than ever– consumed faster than I expected though– and have explored and tried so many new varieties I’ve not had been able to before.
Here are my favorite places to purchase and experience wine in Miami:
MEDIUM WINE SHOP
In the light of Covid-19, NIU Kitchen, one of my favorite restaurants in Miami with the kitchen led by James Beard-nominated Deme Lomas, has pivoted to Medium Wine Shop— a pop-up repository of natural wine curated by Miami’s natural wine queen Karina Iglesias. From reds, whites and rosés to pét-nats and skin contact, Karina has something for everyone. I say it all the time, I trust Karina’s– who I first met through my friend Evan Benn, former editor-in-chief of INDULGE, and currently, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Director of Special Projects and Editorial Events– tastes and recommendations 10000%. They are open daily from 2-8PM or you can also order online at www.winemedium.com — although the full selection is in-store!
Karina has also put together an initiative to give out free books to anyone who strolls by downtown, so if you have old books you don’t need anymore, please do drop them off outside NIU.
Some of my favorite wines from Medium: Sébastien Riffault Akmeniné 2016, Bichi Rosa, Cirelli Wines of Anarchy pét-nat, Controvento Onda Anomala, Controvento Moby Dick, Airén Pampaneo 2019, Clos Lentiscus Gentlemant pét-nat
LUCIO WINE SHOP
I wrote a story about Lucio for Wine Traveler not too long ago, as Miami’s go-to natural wine store. To quote [myself] in the article, “Looking for natural wine in Miami? Chances are a friend or a friend of a friend (or someone on Instagram) will instantly recommend Lucio Wine Shop, complete with a ‘He’s the best!’ in reference to owner Lucio Bueno.
Located in the Little River neighborhood, Lucio, previously a wine and charcuterie store, has quickly become a haven for natural and low-intervention wines in Miami, owing to its expansive selection and Bueno’s hospitality and congeniality. It is not uncommon to find natty wine fans posting their latest purchases on Instagram, tagging Lucio, and in return, having the friendly owner repost it on the store’s account. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lucio offered complimentary wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays, but has since been strictly observing CDCP/FDA rules. Bueno has rearranged the shelves so customers do not touch the bottles, all of which have been disinfected. No more than two customers at a time can enter, and everyone must wear a mask.’
Some of my favorite wines from Lucio: Las Jaras Super Bloom, Subject to Change Lune Juice, Pretty Boy Deliquente 2019, Lo-Fi Cabernet Franc 2018, Valentina Passalacqua Calcarius Orange, Martha Stoumen Post Flirtation
GRAPE CRUSH BY NATTY TIMES
Grape Crush is a social wine club by Macarena Carrillo (Fooq’s Miami resident sommelier) and Mariel Dalmau, aka Maca and Mari, under their Natty Times, a natural wine club offering events for people to learn about the different wine-growing regions, grapes and styles. While previously, they had events at various restaurants around the city, since COVID-19, they’ve launched Cyber Crush (Stay @ Home Grape Crush), where patrons, who pick up their monthly Mystery Juice Box– a package of 3 natural wines– where they can Zoom with Maca, Mari, along with other customers to discuss the wines on-hand.
Some of my favorite wines from Grape Crush: Moussamoussettes pét-nat rosé, Occhipinti SP68 2016, Txampian Txakoli Rosé, Orsi Posca Bianca, Zum Martin Sepp Zweigelt 2017
I first heard of Florida-based wine subscription Vinya from my friend, wine writer Jacqueline Coleman. I signed up for their monthly Vinya Box ($95/ month) immediately when quarantine began in March, and I loved how each box of four bottles were expertly curated by sommelier Allegra Angelo, and they all came with really pretty note cards, describing each wine, its winemaker, its properties and what it pairs best with. Through Vinya, I learned about Godello, Arneis and Fumin grapes, among many others. They also have an online store, and the Vinya Vault— where every Tuesday and Sunday, they feature a special deal on a wine which lasts for only 24 hours, kinda like a flash sale. (Delivery is free in Miami for orders $45 and up.) Also, every Wednesday at 7:30PM, Allegra hosts “Sip with a Somm” on the Vinya Instagram page, where they taste a bottle (which you can order in advance to join), along with a mystery wine.
Some of my favorite wines from Vinya: Murua Rioja Reserva 2010, Arling Blaze Hope Dies Last 2015 & 2016, Bodegas Godeval Godello, Broc Cellars Love Red 2017, Abadia de San Campio Albarino 2018, Claude Riffault Sancerre Rosé “La Noue” 2015, Empire Estate Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2017, Haden Fig Pinot Noir 2017, Maison Jessiaume Bourgogne Chardonnay 2017
HAPPY WINE CALLE OCHO
Happy Wine Calle Ocho is one of those places in Miami that you go to… and end up leaving happy. Husband-and-wife JC Restrepo and Joanna Fajardo (both originally from Colombia) have been running the retail wine store / wine bar for over 14 years. And you wouldn’t think that with their incredible hospitality and sunny dispositions that JC underwent a kidney transplant last year— a life-changing experience (they had to sell their Coconut Grove branch) which he now looks back at with gratitude (for the chance to live, and for his wife). I am not a creature of habit and love exploring and trying new things, and loved hearing JC’s and Joanna’s recommendations.
In these times, Happy Wine is offering 10% off their entire food & wine for takeout, and 30% off for medical workers/ first responders. They are also open for outdoor dining. Also, I LOVE chistorra!
Some of my favorite wines from Happy Wine Calle Ocho: Bee Hunter Grenache 2014, Bee Hunter Semillon 2015, Arling Blaze Hope Dies Last 2016, Truchon Cellars’ Vossage Reserve Red Wine 2015, Caliza Kissin’ Cousins 2018
*AZUL WINES & SPIRITS
Azul is the closest wine shop to where I stay, and Carlos and Sophie, who run the store, are always super friendly, and open to recommend bottles, based on your preference or price point. (They are also open to phone owner Adela for her recos should they be unable to answer them.)
Some of my favorite wines from Azul: La Fête du Rosé, Sancerre, Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc