A pinot grigio from Ohio. A Spanish still wine that sparkles. An Italian white that complements branzino. A Bordeaux in the back of a gas station. INDULGE takes you on a wine tour of Coconut Grove’s top dining destinations:
Wines from Spain flow freely at Alma, the new Grove restaurant named for the Spanish word for soul. Imbuing palates with her exquisitely focused wine list, co-owner Maria Polanco, originally from Dominican Republic, operates the restaurant with her husband, co-owner and chef Sergio Chamizo, who was born in Barcelona and raised in Madrid.
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Among the atypical finds is the 2015 Ameztoi Txakoli de Bizkaia Hondarrabi Zuri ($45). Defined by an illusive carbonated zest, this still white smells like a dewy, summer South Beach morning. Its heavy lime and lemon rind flavors make it a divine pairing with Chamizo’s roasted beets, smoked sour cream, salmon roe and dill or his ajo blanco — a gorgeous gazpacho with seared Japanese mackerel and grapefruit granite.
3206 Grand Avenue; 786-502-2155; almagrove.com.
As a 15-year-old exchange student in Saint-Étienne, France, Ariete co-owner and native Canadian Michael Falsetto sipped wine for breakfast. Falsetto eventually grew to love big and robust American wines, so the restaurant’s wine list offers standouts from lesser-known regions — like Ohio.
The 2016 Ferrante Signature Series Pinot Grigio Grand River Valley ($46, $12/glass), for example, offers mamey and cantaloupe notes with a lovely mineral epilogue. Looking for a rich pairing for chef Michael Beltran’s signature smoked short rib? With its Christmas fruit-cake nuances and Amarone-style body, the 2015 Scout’s Honor Napa Valley Red ($94) is a favorite of INDULGE Editor in Chief Evan Benn.
3540 Main Highway; 305-640-5862; arietemiami.com.
SAPORE DI MARE
The harmonic dissonance of food, wine and language clangs through the lunch rush at this rustic Italian stunner. The mostly Italian wine menu reflects the country’s amazing value — many bottles are less than $50, with the higher-end barolo and brunello bottles at reasonable markups.
The 2016 Terre Stregate Svelato Falanghina ($38, $10/glass) from owner Giorgia Calabrese’s home region of Campania is a lovely detour for sauvignon blanc purists. Its granny smith apple and grapefruit notes and salty, bacalao-esque finish are an ideal pairing for Sapore’s thinly sliced carpaccio di branzino, green apples, arugula and lemon dressing.
3111 Grand Avenue; 305-476-8292; saporedimaremiami.com.
Like a tattoo on Coconut Grove’s nape, wine has many meanings at El Carajo. This bodega/gas station/tapas bar offers sake and Sutter Home side by side, Champagne near the Doritos, and scattered Ken Wright pinot noir bottles close to the croquetas. In the back, a family-style wooden table sits on wine barrels as families devour piles of ribs among endless menu options. Find familiar and unfamiliar labels on the international wine wall.
Among them, the 2014 Domaine de la Côte Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($35) offers sophisticated California quality with its cherry, wild raspberry, Parisian thyme, nutmeg shell and Jamaican cacao notes. The wine cellar has celebrated Bordeaux bottles, including the 2008 Château Pavi ($388). High-end sweet wines are venturesome pairings for the drippy, sticky, bacon-wrapped stuffed dates, an ambrosial end to a grape grove beginning.
2465 Southwest 17th Avenue; 305-856-2424; el-carajo.com.