The Grape Escape

'Tis the season to totally lose it. Some people crash and burn on sugar cookies. Others max out their credit on flat-screen TVs. But if you're like Jay Simpson, your weakness is for $200 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne.

Simpson and his partner, Cindy White, are hoping a lot of other people are just as bullish on the bubbly. A couple of weeks ago, they opened Dolce Vita wine shop and bar (9 N. "J" St., Lake Worth, 561-493-3330), stocking up on cases of Roederer (the Roederer Estate rosé sells for a reasonable $30), Veuve Cliquot, Italian sparkling prosecco, and other champagnes in the $18-to-$30 range. They're also recommending a Tolosa pinot noir ($33) for holiday banquets, which Simpson says "goes across the board. It'll compliment anything from beef to turkey." For dessert? Try a rather strange sweet fortified wine from Uruguay called Alcyone ($25) — think chocolate syrup mixed with vanilla extract. It would make a terrific gift for an adventurous hostess. "Bring me your holiday menu and I'll match it with wines," Simpson promises. "We've got at least one red and one white from every wine-producing country in the world."

Simpson and White bought Dolce Vita last summer; the previous owners were too busy to make a go of it. With the help of Cindy's husband, Loy, and their son, Asher, they remodeled the small space to make room for a bar. They'll offer daily winetastings and serve 30 wines by the glass, ranging in price from $6 to $25, plus wine flights. You could, for example, request a flight of Argentinean or Chilean wines or a flight of pinot noirs or sauvignon blancs from three different countries.

Both Simpson and White come from foodie backgrounds: White ran the gourmet shop C'est Si Bon in Palm Beach for years, where she learned everything there is to know about great French cheeses. She brings that knowledge to Dolce Vita, starting with a French raclette, served as an hors d'oeuvre warmed over prosciutto and pearl onions. She also sells patés, chocolates, and holiday gift baskets made to order.

Simpson traveled the world with ABC and CBS television, lived for a while in France, and partnered with White in a catering business. He says that he's ready to settle down and that Lake Worth seemed like a good place to do it. "Living out of a suitcase finally caught up with me," he says. Sounds like good news for local oenophiles. Dolce Vita is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

 
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