Wine Tasting in Passaic

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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.

213 US Highway 46
Elmwood Park,
NJ
US

Whether culled from California's Napa Valley region in the fall or from Chile and Argentina in the spring, every bundle of red and white grapes winds up beneath a patron's stomping feet. Eight months later—after a pressing session and half-hour racking—each red, white, or rosé batch makes the transition from barrel to bottle. Clients then fill, cork, seal, and adorn the bottle with their own label before gently kissing it to remove any curses. For visitors more eager to imbibe wine than concoct it, The WineMakers Cellar accommodates guests with dinners and wine and cheese pairings in its bistro. Handcrafted wine continues to flow at cooking demonstrations, courses, and private parties held within the facility.

1050 Goffle Rd
Hawthorne,
NJ
US

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.

299 Paramus Rd
Paramus,
NJ
US

For Sam Mickail, food is autobiographical. Born in Cairo, the first spices he smelled were hearty Mediterranean blends. He then spent most of his childhood in France surrounded by the cooking of world-class chefs, eventually leaving for Switzerland to turn his love of food into a bona fide culinary craft. Now, in America, he channels all of these influences and global experiences into cooking, lending his talents to numerous restaurants and further exploring all the cooking styles that inspired him throughout his life. This surfaces most clearly in Sam Mickail’s CUT Steak House, where he’s free to put international twists on the time-honored tradition of cooking delicious steaks.

Sam coats his filet mignons and porterhouses in delicious béarnaise, au poivre, or perigourdine sauces, according to his customers’ wishes. He also serves fresh oysters at his raw bar, slathers lobster tails in butter, and batters escargot with a champagne crust, a creation he calls drunken snails for their complete inability to slither in a straight line.

466 Prospect Ave.
West Orange,
NJ
US

Fast Eddie’s Billiards Cafe takes playing pool and drinking beer to the next level. Sure, the standard domestics are available, but besides the expected lagers and neon signs, Fast Eddie’s boasts an impressive menu of craft brews. More than 50 choices include Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Allagash White, and Smuttynose Robust porter. Imported beer, wine, and premium liquor are also available to add entertainment to billiards tournaments.

46 Old State Rd
New Milford,
CT
US

Perhaps it’s the slow, bluesy chords flowing from the guitarist in the corner that compel the customer to put down her drink, pick up a stick of chalk, and scrawl a wistful message on the bar. Or perhaps it’s the flicker of candles––their golden halos staving off the city night––that has inspired this misty-eyed inscription. Far from being annoyed at the graffiti now adorning his workspace, the bartender leans over to read the patron’s message, smiling knowingly at the freshly penned late-night bulletin. With a grin and a poured glass of wine, he coaxes a smile from her as she swipes her words from the board.

Such intimate, inviting evenings are a regular occurrence at Sweet Grapes Wine Bar, where a vast collection of vinous libations and snacks keep guests chatting and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. The chalkboard-topped bar affords customers a blank expanse to fill with favorite quotes or high-school locker combinations, while an ever-changing lineup of musicians floods the space with live tunes on a regular basis.

39 Essex St
New York,
NY
US