Sunday, June 14, 2015

Miami Mich Review: Uvaggio Wine Bar

Note: I originally posted this article on MIABites. More great stories here.
Most people in Miami love wine. But how much do they really know about it? My guess is probably not that much. And I’m the first one to admit it: I know very little about wine. 
Sure, I can tell between a dry and a sweet wine, and what bottle to bring to a dinner party. But I’ve always secretly wished I knew more…  The history of the grapes, the aromas, the food pairings, all pending educational items in my culinary bucket list. In an effort to kick start my wine education, last week I decided to take my novice palate to Uvaggio, a popular wine bar in Coral Gables.
Uvaggio is a blend between an American wine bar and a European cafe, resulting in a casual place with fine wine and food, sans the hefty price tag. “I like this already”, I thought as I sat at one of their communal tables. 
My surprise came, though, upon looking at the wine list. “No Cabernet from Napa? And where’s the Malbec form Argentina? I don’t know any of these wines… Help!”. And that’s when Uvaggio’s owner, Craig DeWald, came to the rescue. 
The thing about Uvaggio, he explained, is that it offers high quality wines from smaller producers, most of which people don’t readily recognize. And, come to think about it, that’s a good thing. Just in Coral Gables there are at least 20 different places that offer your usual French Sauvignon Blanc. But a Casamaro Verdejo from Spain? Not so many. So even though they may not carry your go-to wine, most likely they’ll have an option with a similar grape profile that you can try and enjoy.
So don't be shy and ask for help in selecting what you will like.
According to Craig, it took some time for Miamians to understand the concept of the place. In fact, most people in the industry advised him against it, saying that he would never make it with such an unusual wine list. “After one year, I’m glad that I didn't listen to them, as Miami has truly come to embrace Uvaggio. It’s exciting to see how people that were initially shy or nervous about wine, ended up coming back week over week excited to see what’s new.
Another thing that has changed over the past year is the type of people that frequent Uvaggio. In addition to the typical Coral Gables residents and wine connoisseurs, on any given Saturday you’ll find more of the younger, 20-something crowd, who, like me, come to the wine tastings open to try something different. The great thing is that everyone that works on the floor is also a sommelier, so they can talk about the wine and the food in an educational, unpretentious way, so that people feel comfortable about learning.
While the wine is definitely the star at Uvaggio, this place has also built a reputation for its food menu. Their secret? A process called “tasting backwards”, through which the team sits down to understand the aromas, flavors, and textures of their wines, and creates dishes that embody them.
Charcuterie platter with pork rilette terrine
The end goal being that the wine elevates the food, and the food elevates the wine, and overall, makes all the flavors pop. The menu, like the wines, changes with the seasons, and as we move into the summer months and start going for lighter, crisper wines, Uvaggio’s food menu will also reflect that, as well as some additions by new chef in command, Chef Tanner Gill, who will be adding new dishes influenced by his Texas background.
As for me, the most important lesson from my visit to Uvaggio is that you don't need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a fine wine.  You just need to explore your taste to find which bottle of wine (or two or three!) you're going to take home.
House-made Yogurt Naan Bread – Goat cheese hummus, smoked baba ghanoush, green olive tapenade
Handmade Potato Gnocchi - Sicilian caponata, fennel purée, fennel top gremolata
Octopus “Naranja Agria” – Aji Amarillo, papas bravas, Spanish paprika, jicama
Salt cod croquettes with garlic aioli

Uvaggio is located at 70 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.


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