Venues for vino? Check out Orlando's outstanding options for oenophiles



Full disclosure: whittling this list to 10 was very, very challenging, but if you're ready to pop a cork? In Orlando, the wine-centric venues are many and range in atmosphere from "bring your dog" (literally) to "bring your boss."  Take Park Avenue's lovely Wine Room, for example. Its automat-style machines allow guests to sample a 1-oz. pours or full glasses. Staffers make it educational; the wine card and dispensers make it fun! Out in Oviedo, the rustic vibe of DeVine Wine Bar & Grill awaits oenophiles interesting in a decidedly different atmosphere one might expect in an East Orlando shopping center. Downtown, the Eola Wine Company boasts an impressive selection of wines by glass, bottle or flight, along with some divine flatbreads, and if you're looking to go even more "local" with your selections, the Quantum Leap Winery may be just the thing. While the grapes are pressed in their respective, well-known wine regions, the juice becomes vino here in the 407. It's an urban winery in the heart of the City Beautiful. 



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Downtown Celebration is a charming, walkable little burg made more so by unique, local joints like Imperium Food & Wine. As the name implies, vino is Imperium's signature beverage. An extensive selection and knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you make a choice. Live music, weekend specials and al fresco seating up the romance factor for sure, but Imperium Food & Wine makes just as nice a venue for unwinding with friends. And if you're hungry...? Fusion is the word for Imperium's menu, which features a nice array of appetizers – Asian to Cajun to French, salads, wraps, sliders and some very unique flatbreads.


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East Orlando dining and drinking scene has been heating up the past year, and when it opened, DeVine Wine Bar & Grill was a decided culinary uptick amid its strip mall brethren (which includes a pancake house and a wing joint). DeVine offers creative, seasonal small plates for sharing alongside its expansive collection of wines. Most of these are dispensed via Enomatic machine, which means self-service (great fun for groups in particular), but it's nice to choose the amount of one's pour without having to commit. Those less interested in the grape will find a full bar and expansive cocktail menu to their liking.


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Top-shelf live jazz and blues – nightly – set the tone for the Vines Grille & Wine Bar experience, creating atmosphere that speaks to romance, relaxation, sophistication and, if you take advantage of the stellar wine selection a modicum of inebriation. Live music starts every night at seven, marking the end of happy hour and the beginning of the dinner hour (Vines is also an upscale dining venue and wine shop). Let staffers steer you toward the perfect drink selection. Music plays in the bar, but an open layout lets everyone enjoy the vibe, whether the band is playing hot or cool.


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Yes. Really. An urban winery in Orlando. Unlikely? Perhaps, but it's the real deal. Located in the Mills50 area of town, Quantum Leap Winery is the brainchild of two wine lovers who paired their shared interest and respective professional experience and made their dream, creating high-quality wine from the world's premier growing regions, a reality in a state that is far from said real estate. The secret? They bring the juice, culled from South Africa, Napa, and a host of heavenly vineyards from around the globe, to Orlando and finish the wine here. The tasting room is open three days a week and their lovely facility is available for all manner of private events. Check the calendar; wine-and-cheese nights, wine-down happy hours, classes and other events abound.


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At Swirlery, guests can pop in for a bottle (an on-staff sommelier is happy to assist you in choosing wines and pairings), an education (come if for a community class and learn) or, best of all, a taste of its wares; which include wines from all over the world and a host of local beers, as well. Movie nights make tastings even more fun and the pairings could include anything from cheese to gourmet popcorn. Brunch comes around on Sundays with local food trucks offering all kinds of fresh-made fare to pair with your selection. Friendly, casual, knowledgeable, fun. Stop in.


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Fabulous wine and craft beer and a tantalizing food menu (Yes, actual food; not just bar bites and tapas!) make the Parkview an excellent selection when you're in the mood for a comfortable drinking venue, but wouldn't say no to lunch or dinner if the opportunity presented itself. Warm woods and exposed brick make for a chic but comfortable setting; and tasty, reasonably-priced fare to accompany your wine selection up the ante. Kale Caesar salad, goat cheese quiche, house-cured pastrami and many more mouthwatering selections are on tap along with the beer. Feeling brunchy? Pop by on Sundays for a mimosa flight. The Parkview is as good a choice for a family lunch as a Friday date night.


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Eola Wine Company's downtown location, just a couple of blocks from Thornton Park and practically on top of Lake Eola Park, is resplendent. Inside, rich woods and exposed brick warm patrons like a robust red. Outside, the bright views of downtown engage, like a crisp white. Of course, you're welcome to a flight of bubbly if neither of those pique your palate. In addition to its extensive grape stock, Eola Wine proffers a delightful menu of light bites, wraps, tacos and flatbreads to pair with your vino selection. Craft beer enthusiasts will find a nice selection of these, as well.


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The Tuscan-styled Wine Room makes use of a system of self-serve, portion-controlled Enomatic wine dispensers to facilitate service. And seriously? It's fantastic. Staffers here are not only passionate about wines, they are more than happy to spend time sharing their knowledge. With a little effort, they'll guide you to an $8 cabernet that rivals the most expensive bottle in the joint. The "automat" style makes sampling fun. Put some money on their debit-like wine card, and sample as many of the 150+ bottles as you want by plugging your card into each dispenser. Great for date nights, special occasions, friendly nights out.


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Disney Springs ®


 

The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service, And Disney Springs is home to the only Master-Sommelier led restaurant in Florida: Wine Bar George. With more than 130 wines by the glass, bottle and ounce, and a food selection including small plates and larger, family-style offerings that serve 2-4 guests, WBG is expansive, with two bars, a dining area and lovely patio seating on the second level (as Disney Springs views are loveliest with fine wine in hand). Knowledgeable staffers are happy to point you in the direction of the perfect glass or bottle.


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The Imperial at Washburn Imports (Orlando)
Photo courtesy of The Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden


 

Located amid Orange Avenue's burgeoning "hip strip" of Ivanhoe Village, the Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden should really be on everyone's list. Why? If you've ever pondered the potential joys of having a bar inside your favorite store, you won't ask. This unique haunt, nestled inside Washburn Imports (a phenomenal home furnishings showcase with pieces from the far-flung corners of the world) seems decorated for Bacchus himself. And yes, everything is for sale. Pull up a stool fashioned from centuries-old railroad ties or some such thing and enjoy the wine and microbrews. The Imperial's menu provides excellent pairings for hungry patrons. And let's face it: Ii you're going take anything home against your better judgment while under the influence, it may as well be a gorgeous $1,500 reclaimed-wood bookcase. Check out their sister venue in Sanford and keep an eye out for a new Winter Park venue to open in 2019!


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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