Thursday, May 24, 2018
Features and More

Drink in the atmosphere at the Wine Cellar (while you still can)

I sometimes joke about the "Barfly curse," an imaginary (I hope!) phenomenon involving the closure of bars shortly after I visit. In one case, a bar that I wrote about threw in the towel within 24 hours of my story being published.

This week, my plan was to avoid the Barfly curse by visiting the Wine Cellar — a long-running restaurant and bar in North Redington Beach that may close soon to make way for a Sweetbay supermarket.

Naturally, I hate to see small businesses call it a day, especially when they have a history as rich as the Wine Cellar, which has been in its current location since 1976. It's even worse when the place in question is as singular as the Wine Cellar, an old-school fine-dining establishment with, yes, a cellar of high-end wines, ranging from affordable glasses from California wineries all the way to a 26-year-old Bordeaux that can set you back a cool $800. It's a restaurant from a different era.

I wanted to check it out before the supermarket takes its place. You can't blame this one on the Barfly curse.

Stepping inside the Wine Cellar, it feels as if you've been transported back in time. While the décor can seem dated, it also gives the Wine Cellar a dose of old-school charm. The place is large; as far as I could tell, there are three separate main dining areas, each with a completely different vibe, as well as a ballroom, all put together with some French, Italian or German influence — one that extends directly to the menu (both food and wine). Bricks, wood, wine-barrel façades, classical paintings and stained glass make up the primary visual components, with other areas decorated with winemaking relics and various other antiques, such as an old wooden phone booth.

The hallway between the dining area containing the bar and a rear ballroom is dotted with newspaper articles, accolades, and photographs that illustrate the Wine Cellar's long history on the beach. One of my favorites is a series of photographs from 1985, when the Wine Cellar catered the set of the film Summer Rental, starring John Candy.

For such an elaborate and spread-out setting, the actual bar is quite small and simple. Most of the bar business, unsurprisingly, comes from diners enjoying a pre- or post-dinner libation. To that end, the Wine Cellar has a wide variety of cordials and rich spirits, such as Scotch and Cognac, that make for a nice drink after a big meal — and this is the kind of place where people eat big meals.

Of course, it's all about the wine here, whether it's a simple pinot noir with your dinner or a bottle of any number of high-end vintages on the menu to celebrate a special occasion. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, so if you have any trepidation about dropping $100 or more on a bottle, feel free to ask for input.

When I asked our bartender about the Sweetbay situation, he informed me that the zoning permit was denied a day earlier, so the Wine Cellar will stick around at least until March, when the next zoning hearing is scheduled. What happens from that point on is anyone's guess.

The Wine Cellar is probably not casual enough to be an everyday drinking destination for most, but for a special night out, an interesting change of pace, or simply to experience a part of Redington Beach history while it's still here, the Wine Cellar is truly one-of-a-kind.

Comments
Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

It’s where former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams had lunch with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.It’s where University of South Florida fans often gathered to watch the program’s biggest road games.It’s where folks showed up in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women have accused actor Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior on-set, at his production company, and during press junkets, according to a report.CNN reports that 16 people have spoken out against Freeman’s alleged misco...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

TAMPA — The Ballet Nacional de Cuba performed Giselle, its signature ballet, on Wednesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Fifty-four dancers charmed a packed house, culminating in about two hours an effort that took more tha...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Lakeland’s a little out of the way, but I’m always eager to check out the bar scene there when passing through or attending an event. Every place I’ve visited just seems so pleasant.I regret missing the boat on the city’s first brewery, Lakeland Brew...
Updated: 3 hours ago
tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

The saga of Barley Mow Brewing Company and its eventual offshoot/successor Sea Drift Ales & Lagers is a complicated one. The most interesting part is how the latter came to be as a result of brewery-distributor tensions, in which Barley Mow pulled an...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Caladesi Island’s "crystalline quartz" sand and "sparkling clear" water left an impression on Dr. Beach, who ranked it in his annual list of the country’s top 10 beaches.Dr. Beach, or Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is a professor and director for the Lab...
Updated: 5 hours ago
In New York City, following in David Bowie’s footsteps

In New York City, following in David Bowie’s footsteps

NEW YORKThere are few artists who merit a true pilgrimage — a concerted attempt to walk in the footsteps of greatness — but if there’s one luminary worth traveling for, it’s David Bowie.With the final stop of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s experien...
Published: 05/24/18
9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

It’s hard not to think of the Forrest Gump line: "One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months." If you are looking for something to do while the current deluge continues, we have some suggestions. There are obvious choices, like ma...
Published: 05/24/18
Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in June.Employ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 10 hours ago