Bob Curttright knew that wine tasted better when it's enjoyed in a scenic setting. That's why he set out on a search for the perfect setting before opening his winery, Whiskey Run Creek. He found the setting he dreamed of in a century-old barn owned by Julius Bergmann and moved the historic structure?which was built from oak and walnut beams without a single nail?more than 18 miles to a creekside property.
Now owned by Ron and Sherry Heskett, they fill visitors' glasses with wine made from Nebraska-grown ingredients. In addition to varietals, such as Chambourcin and Edelweiss, their winery produces seasonal fruit wines made with apples and cherries from local farms. Guests can relax with their wine on an expansive deck or explore renovated brick caves built in 1866.
One autumn day, 13-year-old Shanita McAfee wandered through her local apple orchard, plucking the ripest, plumpest apples. She had done this for years with her dad and siblings, but this year was different. Instead of giving the apples to her mom for apple pies, Shanita decided to take on the challenge herself. She loved her mom's pies, but didn't understand why her mom would use a store-bought crust if she was going to put in the effort to make everything else from scratch. So, Shanita started experimenting with various homemade-crust recipes, and her passion for cooking was born.
Though Shanita?s repertoire has expanded to include savory dishes, such as New Orleans?style shrimp and pan-seared seafood, her cooking philosophy remains the same: fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared with love. Magnolia?s chef has also made it her mission to challenge people to "experience traditional Southern ingredients and food in a different way." That's why she creates things such as braised oxtail lasagna and Grown Up grilled cheese?toasted farm-to-market challah bread with smoked gouda and Tillamook cheddar served with bacon horseradish dip and a 401K pamphlet.
Each of the wines on the shelf in Cellar Rat has been vetted by the staff?nothing is sold to the public unless the staff would drink it or use it as a substitute for milk in cereal. The resulting more than 800 wines, 70% of which are less than $20, make for tasty everyday and special-occasion beverages, as do the number of premium spirits and handcrafted brews stocked alongside the wine.
Cellar Rat?s vino experts do more than just discern the difference between good and bad wine; they also teach others how to do so during wine classes that delve into the intricacies of tasting. They even make pairing suggestions for the artisan cheeses, gourmet cured meats, and pate also sold in the boutique shop.
Nestled in the Crossroads Arts District, Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen sates sophisticated palates with seasonal, contemporary-American cuisine and an eclectic selection of voluptuous vinos from around the world. Midday grape guzzlers can indulge taste buds with a lunch menu boasting a savory selection of gourmet portobello, pork, and strip-steak sandwiches ($8–$11). For dinner, indulge in a selection of pre-meal cheeses that include drunken goat, port-salut, and jokes told by the waiter's uncle on Christmas ($6/individual, $15/choice of three). Diners can savor the aromatics rising from a piping plate of seared ahi tuna served with wasabi mashed potatoes and tempura asparagus ($26), or sink knives into a grilled pork chop served with a three-veggie succotash and golden-potato hash ($23). A stalwart array of cutlery helps guests plot the epic four-course tasting menu that can be paired with a selection of wines or a tiny pair of wind-up chattering teeth ($38/person).
Cellar and Loft—which happens to be owned by former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison—doesn't just pour its visitors glasses of wine or beer and leave it at that. Instead, it keeps a staff of experts on hand to enlighten sippers on the nuances of their chosen drinks, such as the grapes involved in a citrus-tinged sauvignon blanc or the types of malts that flavor an imperial IPA. Age is a much-respected quality in the world of wine, and Cellar and Loft even infuses that truism into their ambience—it's housed a building that's 140 years old and has enough exposed-brick charm to attract an 18th-century masonry guild. In addition to making visitors feel welcome in the tasting rooms, the staff also invites them to travel on wine trips or join wine, beer, cheese, or scotch clubs. These groups indulge members in monthly bottles of a chosen beverage, a newsletter subscription, and weekend tastings with the California Raisins.
The brainchild of New York–native Joseph Palladino, Coal Vines Restaurant centers its Italian-inspired menu around thin-crust pizzas crisped inside a coal-fired oven. Chef T.J. Stack applies his years of culinary expertise working at the landmark Savoy Grill to Coal Vine Restaurant’s menu, which pairs its retinue of cheesy pies, pastas, and sandwiches with an extensive assortment of merlots, cabernets, and chardonnays freshly squeezed from the grape’s udder. The omelet and pancake stations erected during Sunday brunch augment the eatery’s Italian offerings with classic midday fare washed down with seasonal mimosas served by flute or carafe. Daily grinders can unwind during weekday Winedowns, which offer select glasses of wine for $5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.Wine bottles nestle inside Coal Vines Restaurant’s every nook and cranny, flanking floor-to-ceiling doors that give way to a breezy patio stationed between potted plants and black fencing. In the dining room, floors burnished to a shimmering mocha hue reflect the bright red cushioned chairs that surround each table, and at night, candles illuminate the shiny marble bar laden with vino harvested from an on-site wine vault.