Sunday, June 24, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: At Cuvée 103, eat drink and get schooled in wine

Cuvée 103 Bistro

It's always a bit of an adventure when I visit wine bars. Give me the most extensive beer or whiskey menu you've got and I'll navigate it like a seasoned pro. Wine? I might need a little help.

I'm aware that I probably look more lost than the average customer when selecting wines. It's not because I know nothing about the stuff, it's that I'm generally searching through an online database to find wines that have been clarified without the use of animal-based fining agents in addition to reading the menu. It's really no trouble, it just takes a minute or two, which can be awkward when a bartender is lurking nearby, wondering why I'm on my phone instead of ordering something.

Cuvée 103 Bistro bartender and resident expert, Certified Specialist of Wine Jacqui Man, noticed that I was hard at work perusing the wine list and offered to help. Normally, I'd just ask for another second to make my pick, but this time I simply mentioned what I was up to.

Surprisingly, she quickly produced a large binder and started combing through producer-supplied tech sheets in the improbable task of finding a wine that provided information about its fining agents in the details.

Moments later, I was enjoying a bottle of 2013 Bordeaux from Château Lamothe de Haux: a blend (or cuvée) of Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle grapes, produced in a 19th century vineyard with grapes planted back in 1982. The wine is fined with bentonite clay, a vegan-friendly fining agent. Who knew these tech sheets could be so informative?

Here's the important part, though: I learned a heck of a lot about this particular wine, as well as the style, and not just because I read the tech sheet. Jacqui was eager to explain what makes this wine significantly different from, say, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, as well as why its short fermentation in stainless steel without additional aging in oak barrels — I told her to go full-technical on me — produced a wine that was crisp and mildly fruity, but not tart. It was an enjoyable and educational wine experience.

I've said it before, but one major thing that sets great wine bars apart from good ones is a knowledgeable staff. Cuvée 103 has that part under control. The other factor is environment, and Cuvée 103 nails that, too.

A bar and bistro serving an extensive selection of wines, craft and imported beers, and gourmet dishes — the latter courtesy of Chef Michael Carr, previously executive chef at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa — is a tall order for a small, strip mall unit straddling the line between Safety Harbor and Clearwater. Cuvée 103 Bistro is smartly designed and decorated to maximize its space, creating a sleek, intimate setting perfect for the fare it offers.

The color scheme is red and white (either a clever pick or a happy coincidence, given the focus on wine), with black ceiling tiles and cool, cutaway globe lights providing light to the bar. The majority of the interior is dining space, with a small area near the front for live music on the weekends.

It's cool, chilled out, and a great setting for a meal or even just a glass or two. And if you want to boost your wine knowledge in the process, you'll likely find an opportunity to do so here. That's a two-out-of-two in the things I look for in a wine bar. Your list may be different, but I'd suspect Cuvée 103 would do well in any case — it's the real deal.

— Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG

Comments
See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

When Alicia Wolding joined Datz as the new executive pastry chef last year her hair was rainbow — pretty much the whole ROY G BIV spectrum in cascading tresses. More recently, it’s bright purple, somewhere between iris and lilac. This is the color yo...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Last year’s St. Pete Pride went smoothly, despite some behind-the-scenes drama involving the decision to relocate the parade to the downtown waterfront, rather than the Grand Central District, where it had traditionally been held. After all, the Gran...
Published: 06/21/18
Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

"Hooray, it’s summer!" exclaimed no Floridians. But if it’s summer proper and not just the usual year-round weather, you might as well embrace the heat and humidity with a trip to the beach, accompanied by some suitably refreshing beers. While you’r...
Published: 06/21/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

It started with jugs of olive oil and cans of tuna, lots of it, which my husband hauled in one day and plunked on the counter. "That’s my lunch!"That was about three months ago, and every day since there has been a new entity in our house to consider...
Published: 06/20/18
Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

More than 50,000 people are estimated to attend Pride weekend in St. Petersburg, which runs Friday to Sunday. (June is LGBTQ Pride Month.) Whether you plan to march in the parade or host your own smaller gathering, we’ve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18