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At Wine Madonna, even novices can get into the groove

A confession: I'm no expert on wine. In all of my years learning about and sampling craft beers, fine spirits and exotic cordials, I never spent much time getting a firm grasp on perhaps the most popular — and certainly the oldest — alcoholic beverage known to man.

Sure, I can tell you that a cabernet is typically more dry than a merlot, or that a port is a Portuguese wine fortified with aguardente, but I'm afraid that my insight doesn't reach far beyond that. I've even spent some time in Napa Valley, but I have a long way to go before I could be remotely considered a connoisseur.

But, just as I encourage drinkers to always try something new, I will occasionally take the opportunity to sample a few different wines in an attempt to gain a higher level of appreciation for the craft. A new wine bar in downtown St. Pete had recently popped up on my radar, so I thought it would be a good idea to investigate.

In my experience, wine people are very passionate about their beverage. Whenever I've stopped into specialty wine shops, I've always been greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic staff, eager to point me in the direction of a nice wine, and never rolling their eyes at my ignorance. It's not surprising, really — go into a craft beer shop and you'll usually receive the same treatment.

I was hoping that Wine Madonna would be similar, and it was.

Wine Madonna is a wine lounge in downtown St. Pete, one of the new tenants of the recently-reanimated Plaza Tower and Courtyard Shops. It's positioned directly next to the Ale and the Witch, which is an extremely convenient arrangement, as the two bars share a large outdoor courtyard, allowing the beer and wine crowds to co-mingle while accommodating the tastes of each.

The interior to Wine Madonna is small but not cramped, just the kind of place you'd want a wine bar to be like. The room is populated by several small tables and a bar in the corner, stocked with a few dozen premium wines of frequently changing variety. The room itself is fairly dark, illuminated by small lamps hanging from the ceiling. Aside from the courtyard, there are café tables directly outside, providing an extension of the relaxed atmosphere of the interior.

As a wine novice, I appreciated the highly descriptive wine list, which breaks the selection down by type, such as specific grapes (sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, for example), sweet and dessert wines, red wine blends, ports, and specialty wines, which are available by the bottle only. The menu copy could only have been written by a true enthusiast, with wines described in colorful prose, no doubt owing to the literary background of Wine Madonna's owners, Madonna and Kris, who both have publishing experience (Kris even has several published novels).

The ploy worked — I couldn't resist trying this one: "Dusty, loamy soil notes are intermixed with notions of pepper, black cherries and flowers. This is a gutsy glass of wow."

The Plaza Tower complex is growing rapidly, and I, for one, am happy to see it thriving. First there was the Ale and the Witch and the Lettuce Eat Healthy hot dog cart; now we're seeing the opening of several new restaurants, such as Sab Café and the upcoming Rollbotto sushi and El Metate Mexican Grill. Wine Madonna is a perfect addition to this scene, providing a casual and friendly lounge for long-time connoisseurs and hopeless amateurs alike.

— jg@saintbeat.com

Wine Madonna

111 Second Ave. NE No. 102, St. Petersburg. (727) 289-7257, winemadonna.com.

The vibe: A small and intimate wine bar, run by — and for — true wine lovers.

Booze: Beer, $3-$4; wine, $7-$13 by the glass and $24-$132 by the bottle.

Specialty: Would you believe me if I told you they specialized in wine? The wine list changes regularly and includes dessert wines, ports, and even wine smoothies.

Hours: Open daily at 3 p.m. Closing hours vary, but it's usually open late, especially on weekends.

At Wine Madonna, even novices can get into the groove 10/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:13pm]

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