More than 325 bottles of international wine fill Zambrano Wine Cellar’s shelves and its climate-controlled wine cellar, arranged by chef, wine enthusiast, and owner Cef Zambrano. When not hobnobbing with celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Nolan Ryan, and Katie Couric, Zambrano coordinates a menu of bistro fare to harmonize with his library of wine selections, which received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2009. Zambrano presents updated takes on Mediterranean favorites, crafting small plates of escargot broiled in garlic butter and shallots, as well as four types of bruschetta topped with tomato, chicken, duck, or fillet tips. Diners can dive into shared nibbles with custom plates of international meats and cheeses or pizzas topped margherita-style or with signature spanish ham.
Zambrano’s prized glass wine cellar sits behind a smooth stone bar, inlaid with variegated amethyst that glows as it catches the light better than an outfielder with a magnifying glass. While perched at its high-backed leather banquettes, diners can sip from the 50-plus list of wines by the glass while gazing at a flat-screen TV in the corner or admiring the custom art on the dining room’s exposed-brick walls. In the front of the dining room, gauzy orange curtains frame sheets of sunlight that illuminate simple wooden tables, each adorned with a single flower that provides color and an amuse-bouche for hungrier guests. A sidewalk patio offers al fresco dining and bustling sights of Sundance Square.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.
During A Piece of Work’s interactive classes, amateur artists receive the supplies they’ll need before relaxing at an easel with a bottle of wine. Background music fills the air and eclectic paintings splash color across the walls in the studio. A local artist demonstrates how to paint a copy of a masterpiece while the class of students follows along, unleashing their creativity and filling canvases with elegant reproductions of works such as impressionist paintings by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Kids' camps introduce young artists to the famous works of their forebears and impart crucial techniques, while paint-your-pet nights help students re-identify with man’s best friend.
Pop's Safari Room dishes out succulent, straightforward creations in a chic and exotically bedecked space. The simple dinner menu helps famished patrons muffle grumbling stomachs with sound-dampening appetizers such as bacon-wrapped scallops soaked in teriyaki glaze ($12), a classic lump-crab cake ($14), and grilled boar sausage served with blackberry sauce ($13). Burger buffs explore the flavorful evolution of bun-based species with sizzling patties made out of sirloin ($8.50), buffalo ($10), and ostrich ($11) meat.
The culinary ideology behind MAX's Wine Dive lies in a simple slogan: "Why the hell not?" With the gourmand irreverence to unite fried chicken with champagne, chili dogs with an Australian shiraz, and grilled cheese with a French sauvignon blanc, Executive Chef Patrick Russell's menu of eclectic dishes has earned MAX's Dallas location several OpenTable Diner Choice awards, including Hot Spot and Notable Wine List.
Though the cuisine evokes the flavors of a rustic diner, the ingredients are all gourmet—chefs spangle dishes with fresh seasonal produce, piquant cheeses, and unique sauces such as chipotle aioli and housemade crème fraiche. Meanwhile, an extensive inventory of world wines pours regularly, sending selections to tables by the glass even when the menu lists a varietal as bottle-only, thanks to the restaurant's two-glass commitment policy. Friday through Sunday, brunch bravely blends chicken fried steak and waffles, and the signature MAX 'n cheese puts a twist on an original in a more critic-friendly manner than editing a high-speed chase into Casablanca. Housing a private event space, MAX's Wine Dive can accommodate large groups of nearly 60 people.
In 1847, William Rahr brought his passion for beer from Rhineland, Germany—where his ancestors had been stirring hops for years—to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where he opened his own brewery and, later, a malt house. William's passion passed through the generations, eventually inspiring his great-great-grandson Fritz Rahr to open his own brewery with his wife, Erin, in 2004.
Today Rahr & Sons Brewing Company—whose Iron Thistle brew was named a National Grand Champion at the United States Beer Tasting Championships in 2009—pours more than 5,000 barrels each year. Encompassing amber lagers, bocks, IPAs, and more, Rahr's lineup of year-round and seasonal brews take their names from weather systems, homely dogs, buffalo hindquarters, and the storm clouds William saw on his voyage to America. The 20,000-square-foot facility welcomes visitors on popular Saturday and Wednesday tours, where fans can watch grain swirl and bob before it ships off to local farms and bakeries as a special treat for cattle and unique ingredient in artisanal bread.