When Wine Shoe owners Nora and Shannon Wiley started planning the shop's design, they wanted something that would blend their worldly travels with the historic culture of the surrounding Castleberry Hill neighborhood. The result was promptly recognized by Atlanta magazine, which compared Wine Shoe to a "private wine cellar in France stocked with wines from all over the world."
Today, the facility's floor-to-ceiling wine wall stands as a new challenge to rock climbers and as a stunning backdrop to an assortment of wine-related activities, including classes that drew more than 3,000 total students during 2011. Many of those students gathered around Wine Shoe's 12-foot rustic table, where, sitting beneath a glistening bronze and crystal chandelier, they paired sips with scrumptious hunks of education.
The shop carries more than 150 different wines, the majority of which come from small producers. It also keeps its door open to pooches, as Nora and Shannon's security dog, Beeren, is always looking for new buddies with whom to discuss the nuanced flavors of rawhide bones.
Grainy wood surfaces mingle with clean brushed metals at Condesa Coffee, forming a warmly urban setting in which steamy drinks can confidently let their direct-trade aromas out to play. Highly trained baristas fill cups with Intelligentsia-roasted espresso and coffee drinks, whose beans are grown by individual farmers throughout the world, roasted in Chicago, and raised to always eat their spinach. Lattes ($3.50–$4; $0.50/flavor shot) and macchiatos ($3) mix steamed milk with Intelligentsia's Black Cat espresso—a blend of single-origin beans—and even classic cups of joe get special attention as baristas utilize a manual pour-over method to reap the best flavors ($3–$3.75). Tea is also available to claim manifest destiny over mugs, with options such as the Blend 333 tea ($2.75), which unleashes waves of peppermint, chamomile, and rose hips as patrons enjoy views of the Atlanta skyline. Customers may use up to two punches per visit, and additional shots of espresso are an extra cost.
The cozy, laid-back, two-story wine and coffee house's large windows and ceiling fans encourage lingering and long talks about the meaning of life and the proper pronunciation of Sartre. Your wine flight will consist of five 2.5-ounce pours from JavaVino's wine list, which, like foliage and fashions, changes seasonally. The pared-down menu favors boutique vineyards from around the globe over the more well-known monster grape-crushing conglomerates. Sample a glass of the slightly sweet Washington State Kiona Reisling ($6 a glass) before moving on to the blackberry-hinted Three Winds Pinot Noir ($8 a glass) from France, or the organic Santa Julia Argentine Cabernet ($6), with notes of black cherry and currant. Included in the flight is your choice of either JavaVino's signature mixed cheese plate ($7.75) with five artisan cheeses, chorizo, mixed olives, and crackers; the vegan hummus plate ($6.95); or any of JavaVino's desserts. Taste the signature untraditional chocolate cobbler, which melts a half-pound brownie, chocolate cake, and chocolate syrup into a warm dessert pile and tops it with whipped cream and raspberry sauce ($5), or Ryan’s Grandma’s tri-layered, cream-cheese-frosted carrot cake ($5).
Inseparable even in past lives when they were a crime-solving orangutan-golden retriever duo, the Grape's Master Sommelier Jay James and Executive Chef Paul Agnelli aim to match a perfectly-chosen wine with each item on their fresh, seasonal menu. Every dish is made with wine-friendly gourmet ingredients. Settle into The Grape's outdoor patio and start by coupling sharable tasters like the chipotle-shrimp flatbread with cilantro-lime dressing ($10) with a robust red like the Layer Cake's Italian Primitivo ($10/glass), or artfully offset a mezze platter of roasted-garlic hummus, house-marinated olives, and cashew- and goat-cheese-stuffed peppadews ($9) with the crispier Sauvignon Blanc from Joel Gott's Napa vineyard ($7/glass). Likewise, dozens of chardonnays, pinot noirs, aromatic whites, champagnes, Italian wines, and more can make a leggy tango partner to entrées such as the grilled-mahi tacos with jalapeno slaw ($12), the pulled pork with pepper-jack cheese on fire-roasted corn flatbread with kettle chips ($9), or the double-cut New–Zealand lamb chops with portobello cream-cheese mashed potatoes and raspberry-balsamic honey ($24). If you're not fluent in wine jargon or simply overwhelmed by the options, The Grape's winesperienced staff is always eager to offer recommendations and advice regarding your meal or tax problems. Cap off an evening of tattoo comparisons and flirtatious arm-wrestling with a glass of fruity-sweet Muscat Blanc from Italy's Piedmont region ($13).
In spite of its name, Cellar 56 features more than 56 wines from grape-growing regions throughout the world. The emphasis is on accessibility, though; the bar helpfully sells a number of wines by the half glass, allowing guests to sample a variety of wines for a fraction of the price of a bottle. To make the selection even more accessible, reds and whites are divided into small groups by style. That means that tracking down anything from a crisp, grapefruit-tinged New Zealand sauvignon blanc to a spicy Italian primitivo is as simple as scanning the list. The seasonal food menu of tapas-style small plates demonstrates a similarly eclectic approach. Old-World flavors meet New World comfort in dishes such as the truffle-scented wild-mushroom finger sandwiches on toasted french baguettes. Guinness-braised short rib with whipped potatoes evokes memories of a home-cooked stew and the pan-seared salmon demonstrates a bit more refinement with its coriander-caper glaze. Cellar 56's main seating area seems more like a den than a dining room. Bottles fill the three racks that adorn one wall, presenting diners with a neatly arranged display of wines that stretches from the top of the booths to the ceiling. Dark wooden accents, earthen tiles, and warm lighting contribute to the inviting atmosphere at what CBS Atlanta called one of the Best Wine Bars in Atlanta in 2011.