I think I am in love, not with a person, with a wine store. “We’re not a wine store,” says the girl behind the counter, “we’re classified as a bar.” The words spill out of her mouth fast and she is very bubbly in her mannerisms – she then apologizes for her rapid-fire speech, blaming the coffee and a little bit of over-tiredness. But she’s enthusiastic about the place, and after a brief look around, so am I.
I find myself in Winter Park, Florida (just north of Orlando) at a place called The Wine Room on Park Avenue, whose tagline is “By the Glass. Buy the Bottle”. The Wine Room has installed a number of ‘Enomatic Wine Serving Systems’, which allow a bottle to be stored in a stand up position with a hose inserted, as wine is emptied from the bottle it is replaced with an inert gas to keep the wine fresh for a period of up to 30 days.
Your visit starts when The Wine Room issues you a credit card style chip card, a cost of $3, which you can fill up in $5 increments (I got $20 worth). You then circulate through “the bar”, sliding your card in the appropriate slot(s) (a digital screen tells you how many dollars are left when you insert your card), then you select the wine you want to try or drink. I would say there are well over 70 wines to choose from and hundreds to buy. Bottles on for sampling change every 30 days or so, some popular wines are permanently on for tasting while about 50% of the samplers are changed Drink sizes range from 1, 2½ and 5 ounce servings from line-up machines, while circular ones are programmed for a 1 oz pour, though you can pour as many as you like, depending on the balance on your chip card. Prices per sample/pour depend on the price of the bottle. An ounce of Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel was $3.50 for a one-ounce squirt while an Antinori Tignanello was $20 for the same amount. Each and every bottle, whether samplable or not, was for sale.
Enhancing your experience were the cushy lounge chairs, bar stools, low rider coffee table and high-stand tables. There was also a cheese display at the back and a bar, complete with stools where you could order a beer or spirit-based drink (these are cash purchases only, the chip card is only for wine).
I took a variety of pictures but the place has to be experienced to be believed. This is the kind of place I would love to have in Ontario. Big thanks to Archie Hood for advising me to visit.