Above the back row of coolers at Heights Beer & Wine Emporium, a long mural depicts pastoral farmland, its fields covered in rows of grapevines. This mural serves as a panoramic reminder of the origins of each of the emporium's fine wines. Bottles line the shelves like extremely fragile bowling pins, their labels declaring their heritage. In another section, there's a huge selection of beer from all kinds of craft breweries. The table at the shop's fore is often staffed by visitors from local wineries and breweries, offering tastes of their wares and as many free corks as you can fit in your pockets.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
Strategically coupled with delectable nibbles from Nisi in Englewood, Quench's assortment of exquisite international wines challenge and soothe palates of discerning aficionados and novices imbibers alike. As waves of whites and reds lap against taste buds, certified sommeliers detail flavor sensations and ways to tell when a grape is about to explode. Specialty varietals break up sip-based monotony, with sparkling wine bubbling on tongues, rosé wine flushing patrons’ cheeks, and dessert wine topping tongues with sweetness. Tasty Nisi treats plant a solid grub foundation for sips or gulps of each libation. Quench hosts tastings on Sunday and Monday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., permitting a minimum of 6 and maximum of 10 guests or statues built of discarded corks to each sampling.
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Small, sharable, Italian-style tapas inspire adventurous experiments in first-daters and longstanding partners. Baked veal meatball crostini, seared yellowfin tuna, or prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella pair well with wine selected from an Italian-only wine list.
At Biagio’s Ristorante, chef Jimmy Perides bakes individual pans of housemade lasagna and tosses imported and gluten-free pastas that earned the restaurant its Zagat rating. He puts his own mark on the menu with the steak ala chef, a new york sirloin steak crowned with cherry peppers, roasted garlic, and shitake mushrooms. Servers deliver wines from a selection of 50 handpicked bottles, which are often uncorked at seasonal tastings or splashed around at annual “wine fights.” The restaurant’s robust wine collection won it a 2010 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. A gurgling rock fountain stands at the entrance of the restaurant, welcoming patrons into the main dining area and adjacent wine room, and a flickering fireplace casts a warm glow over terracotta walls.