Restaurant Reviews

Wine of the Times

If you've ever tried to order wine from a Napa vintner, you know that the United States is not a free country when it comes to oenophiliacs. In Florida, wine lovers are second-class citizens, denied our God-given access to the Syrahs, Pinots, and Cabernets of our dreams. I fell in love with a terrific little sparkling wine called Étoile on vacation in California, but when I tried to ship home enough of the stuff to last me at least a couple of weeks, it was no dice. Domaine Chandon has a big map in its foyer with Florida marked in red as a no-ship state. I was on a five-bottle limit: The only way I could send more bubbly to Lake Worth was to trek back and forth to Napa and order it in person.

But by the time I got home in early August, wine enthusiasts were celebrating the end of Prohibition. A Florida federal judge had ruled our barbaric shipping laws -- which prevent consumers from ordering directly from out-of-state wineries -- unconstitutional. In theory, our favorite boutique wines will soon be just a mouse click away. Let's raise a glass to the Honorable James D. Wittemore!

Still, until the legal wrangling is sorted out, I'll be relying on the knowledge and persistence of Giancarlo de Falco and Maria Luis, a husband and wife from Buenos Aires who a year ago opened Wine Living (400 Clematis Street, 561-802-3328), a warm and handsome wine shop-cum-café, in downtown West Palm Beach. They can order just about anything my little heart desires, even the desires I don't have yet. The couple hosts wine tastings every Wednesday night for a $10 to $25 fee. The last time I went, they were offering a program of Italians, six bottles from a fruity Gavi and a nutty Pinot Grigio through a ruby-hued Chianti Classico. We had oysters, escargots, scallops, and cheese with the wine; the company, too, was delicious. There's not a hint of snobbery: You can be as dumb as a fencepost about nose and finish, and they'll only love you all the more. They also run a wine club, where for $35 you get two personally chosen boutique bottles each month -- a great initiation for those with a thing or two to learn.

Unlike most wine shops, Wine Living also serves a menu of panini and appetizers from their small kitchen. You can buy a bottle, sink into one of their comfy couches, or pull up a chair at a sidewalk table, and hang in the late evening sunshine like a ripening Zinfandel grape.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd