Occupying two old homes dating back to 1902 (they were joined by Peter Pulitzer for his long-time fishing buddy, Fingers O'Bannon, in the early 1970s), for years the Veranda has provided a charming atmosphere as well as consistently good cuisine. The Veranda's lounge is dimly lit, a bit romantic and a favorite with the downtown for happy hour. The manager has a fantastic wine palate, loves to locate older vintages and those bottles of wine that are produced in small lots. You'll often find live music here, the type one might expect from a sophisticated establishment. A favorite special occasion place for both wine and food.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: A historic downtown spot with an enviable wine collection, a sophisticated vibe that makes you feel like you've arrived someplace special.
Gina's expert tip: Street parking is free later in the evening
Regulars refer to the restaurant as 'Gloria's', after the chef/owner Gloria Jordan. She is passionate about food, wine, music and life in general; this passion is evident in her establishment. She is seen more often on the floor these days, than in the kitchen, working the room in sassy high heels and fashionable dresses. Her tapas and wine bar can fill up quickly on the weekends, where you will often find live music and spontaneous dancing. The wine choices are eclectic, with lots of European and South American selections; more than fifty bottles to choose from with special selections that change every month. The wine selections pair perfectly with her flavorful tapas.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Regulars come here not only for the tapas and wine, but also to socialize with the spirited Cuban owner.
Gina's expert tip: Spot this small strip mall by its orange awnings
"Southern Sophistication" has been the long running theme at Fancy's, for both food and decor. Busting at the seams, owners expanded at the end of 2013, adding a rustic wine bar with soft, chic accents. A small loft above the bar is just big enough for acoustic musicians to entertain you on the weekends. Offering more than 100 selections by the bottle and about thirty by the glass, you can get special pricing at the happy hour, which begins nice and early, at 3pm. The bar also hosts monthly wine tastings, highlighting features and favorites. If you want to try the authentic southern cuisine, ordering at the wine bar is often limited later in the evening as the kitchen turns it focus on the main dining room.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: This popular restaurant added a shabby chic wine bar five years ago and it has been a hit with dozens of selections by the glass.
Gina's expert tip: Food service in the wine bar is put on hold during crunch time in the restaurant
Gather has a cool vide no matter what time of day or night you choose to drink and or dine here. With modern lighting and tasteful graffiti the lounge area takes center stage with couches and throw pillows. The low tables are just right for drinks and appetizers and there is a comfortable bar as well. The wine list is anything but ordinary. Weekly Wine Wednesday specials include half price bottles, and special wine tastings are scheduled for the last Wednesday of every month. This event also offers a chance for consumers to meet wine professionals and learn more about what is in their glass. Found at the Tarpon Point Marina, the deep-water harbor is surrounded by nature and offers beautiful sunsets.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Overlooking a nature preserve at Tarpon Point Marina, Gather has fun with wine and wine education, and sports an impressive craft cocktail list to boot.
Gina's expert tip: Garage parking is free
You almost expect a good steakhouse to have an outstanding wine program, and Chop's in Bonita Springs certainly delivers. A longtime favorite local establishment, the large bar is perfect for glass sampling or enjoying one of the more than 400 worldly bottles. Chop's is known for having great specials during the summer, for happy hour and for the so-called "early birds," all of which involve discounted wine. You will find selections here in just about all price ranges and vintages. In addition, the staff on hand almost always knows in what direction to point you if you want to veer off your same ole same ole course.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: This popular steakhouse is also known for a having a wine list that pleases the palate at its large bar.
Gina's expert tip: Open for dinner only
Il Cielo means "the sky" and the stars seem to always shine at this Sanibel Island spot. The bar is dimly lit and stocked with unique spirits as well as wines from around the world. While California vintners make up most of the list, you'll be happy to find a nice selection from Italy and other parts of Europe as well as South America. Choose from some thirty selections by the glass. The glasses are polished, there are linens on the tables, the staff is courteous and knowledgalbe, and the soft piano music each night is the icing on the top to the welcoming ambiance. The menu has a big focus on seafood with both Mediterranean and Asian touches. However the steaks are quite special as well.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: The bar not only has some thirty wines by the glass and bottles from around the world, but also unique spirits to sip.
Gina's expert tip: Check the website for special food and wine events.
South Fork is located in the popular Coconut Point, an outdoor shopping mall. It is a perfect place to relax with a glass after a long day of shopping, or to recharge for more. Open for both lunch and dinner, South Fork is best known for its extensive and varied wine selection; some 80 by the glass and well over 100 by the bottle. Here you will find choices from well-known producers to small growers, organic bottling's and everything in between. One of the best parts about drinking by the glass here are the reasonable prices; ranging from six to twelve dollars. South Fork is also open late and provides live music, encouraging you linger a little longer over your libations.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: This wine bar has a great collection of longtime favorites as well as eclectic selections, with affordable prices.
Gina's expert tip: South Fork serves late
Twisted Vine Bistro sits right across from the renovated riverfront in downtown Fort Myers. Known for many years as a wine bar, the selection and quality of the fermented juice still rivals any in the Downtown River District with some thirty selections by the glass and more than 150 by the bottle. Almost every major grape growing region is represented, along with verticals of some of your longtime favorites. The owners get new bottles all the time so don't be afraid to ask if there is something exciting that is perhaps not listed yet. Live music and a fantastic menu full of mouthwatering selections help to make your sipping that much better. Twisted Vine also hosts a number of wine dinners and networking events where wine tasting features prominently.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: This trendy restaurant offers some of the best selections of fine wines in the downtown area, along with great food and atmosphere.
Gina's expert tip: Check out the Women's Wine and networking events the first Monday of the month.
C Level is a small, laid back wine bar in an unassuming stretch of Bonita Beach Road, not too far from the Gulf of Mexico. Dark and comfortable, a big screen plays live concert videos from cool jazz and folk artists, among other genres. C Level's by the glass list has an impressive forty selections and many are high end. Find more than 150 bottle choices from well-known producers as well as smaller boutique wineries, and many old world offerings. Owners are constantly in search of unique varieties to tempt your taste buds. The food offerings here are small but delicious.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: You'll find unique selections from small producers as well as a few from the big boys, all served in a laid back cool vibe.
Gina's expert tip: The only spirits served here are beer and wine
Angelina's is more than a premiere Italian dining establishment; patrons also come here for the award winning wine selection. You can't help but notice the thirty foot wine tower in the center of the restaurant, filled with about 4000 bottles. The extensive list includes, popular labels, boutique selections and highly sought-after vintages; one reason why the restaurant has won national and local accolades. Although the focus is on Italian producers, the wine program has selections that span the globe. The cozy, classy bar offers more than twenty five glass selections and more than five hundred by the bottle. A good thing to note about this posh place, not every bottle will break the bank; some fifty percent of the selections are less than $100. While sipping by the glass in the lounge, you can also enjoy tasteful piano music.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Angelina's is a well established Italian dining destination known for outstanding food and a nationally acclaimed wine program.
Gina's expert tip: Ask about the discounted bottle selections during the summer months and for happy hour