For three years running—2011, 2012, and 2013—Columbia Metropolitan magazine has declared Gervais & Vine's wine list the city's best. What earned it the distinction is simple: globe-spanning variety. Its menu hosts everything from California's 2011 J. Lohr pinot noir to South Africa's Spice Route “Chakalaka” and Germany's Dr. L Riesling, which completed medical school during its fermentation. All told, more than 40 wines by the glass fill the list, complementing the Mediterranean-inspired tapas of head chef Jason Holowacz.
When crafting his entrees, Holowacz focuses on pairing. Dishes range from the Spanish flavors of grilled shrimp to Italian favorites such as pizza with goat cheese and herb-infused olive oil, allowing guests to experiment with their white or red selections. For pointers, periodic winemaker dinners and wine tastings cover different varietals and their best edible matches. And while guests sip and sup, inside or on the outdoor patio, Gervais & Vine entertains their ears every Wednesday and Thursday night with live jazz.
Beneath the shade of oak trees bearing Spanish moss, Irvin~House Vineyards' owners Jim and Ann Irvin concoct five award-winning wines from four varieties of muscadine grape grown and harvested on their 48-acre property. Each batch fills bottles adorned with labels crafted by local Charleston artists before visitors sample their muscadine-rich flavors during tastings and tours. In addition to weekly winery sessions, the Irvins enthrall community members and wine connoisseurs alike with varied events, such as bluegrass and grape-stomping festivals, held on land that shelters a renovated party barn, flower and vegetable garden, chicken coop, and outdoor picnic area. The Irvins' acreage also accommodates Firefly Distillery, which supplies tastings of its Firefly vodka and Sea Island rum to curious visitors and marooned pirates bemoaning their empty flasks.
Friends for more than a decade, Michael Biondi, Steve McCauley, and Joey Siconolfi share a love of board games, the outdoors, and, perhaps most importantly, brewing beer. At their Charleston nanobrewery, Frothy Beard Brewing Co, the trio draws on local ingredients to craft an eclectic lineup of flagship, seasonal, and specialty pours. Along with mainstays, including a ginger-flavored pale ale, Frothy Beard's 1.5-barrel system yields everything from coconut-milk stouts to peppermint porters. Pints and flights flow freely in the brewery's taproom, where bartenders also fill take-home growlers or the cupped-together hands of especially thirsty patrons.
Boasting a huge, award-winning selection of wines and a sample-friendly WineStation, Wine Awhile provides convenient one-stop shopping for all fermentable needs. Swing by to nosh on delectable small plates, and stock up on palatable brews such as a half-gallon growler of Sierra Nevada Wet Hop ($12) and a six-pack of Victory Hop Devil ($11.99). A knowledgeable staff assists shoppers in picking out delicious varieties like the Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($17.99), Manu Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99), and Wishing Tree Shiraz ($12.99) while dishing out handy tips for pairing them with savory, fresh-baked knock-knock jokes.
The wine pours freely and the beer bubbles over frosty pint glasses at Grape and Grains, a family-operated homebrew and wine retailer that couples an appreciation for fine craftsmanship with a DIY approach. Owners Kenny and Janel Anderson—enthusiastic experts in hops and wine, respectively—have combined their passions into an enterprise that is one part supply shop and one part educational hub. As Janel presides over the wine bar and teaches classes in wine making, Kenny leads excursions into the complex world of home brewing, showing off the various hop varieties of IPAs and the tears of ousted MPs that give English ales their signature bitterness. The couple share their zeal for spirits with all comers at least 21 years of age, granting members of Grape and Grains' beer and wine club a 10% discount and military vets a 20% discount on products and classes.
The Red Pepper is a single Italian eatery with rich roots. The owner first learned the ropes of the restaurant business at his grandmother's Italian restaurant in Rochester, New York. As he developed his skills, he and his family began opening their own eateries across the country, each time granting the locals with their own Italian cuisine. Eventually, the family settled in Summerville and The Red Pepper was born. There, red umbrellas and baskets of flowers dot an outdoor patio, drawing diners into the fresh air for alfresco meals composed of classic Italian cuisine including pizza, panini, and cold and hot hoagies. In the kitchen, chefs craft savories from ingredients such as tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella. The dinner menu abounds with seafood and pasta dishes, and for dessert, the owner’s wife handcrafts treats from Old-World recipes his family has cherished for generations.