From dating to dinner parties, wine is a nearly inescapable part of adulthood. Knowing just a little about one's own preferences can help make any number of social and dining experiences smoother and more enjoyable. That's what makes specialty wine retailers so important. But some Cleveland area shops go the extra mile by offering shoppers a place to sit and enjoy that purchase with a little something to eat.
Situated in a Broadview Heights strip mall, Cantine Bottle Shop (1100 West Royalton Rd., 440-877-9399, cantinebottleshop.com) strives for the Ohio City, industrial-chic aesthetic. The wine selection, housed on tall shelves arranged by style, country and region, is impressive. The high bar stools and loud rock soundtrack don't scream "wine bar," because Cantine isn't one in the classic sense. A full liquor license and a more-than-respectable beer selection make it more of a hopping suburban bar that happens to sell wine.
"There's no theme here," says manager Frank Kulman. "It's just cool. If you build something cool, people will come."
Grab a bottle and enjoy it with some nibbles from a nice selection of starters, sharable platters, and even some modest entrees. On Mondays, they even waive the corkage fee. Dine on some house-baked focaccia, spice-dusted calamari or a bowl of steamed mussels with crispy fries.
With its train station architectural motif, Olmsted Falls is one of the quainter small towns in Northeast Ohio. Just a short walk off the main drag, The Olde Wine Cellar Bistro and Bottle Shop (7932 Main St., 440-427-1222, oldewinecellar.com) eschews the dominant old-timey kitsch without losing the small-town charm or beautiful scenery.
Mike Jacobs, a lifetime Olmsted Falls resident, owned the shop for seven years when it was just a wine store. He sums up his corporate philosophy as "Just be nice," which is reflected in the Cellar's attentive service and your-neighbor's-cabin feel.
Last September, the Cellar moved down the road to its current, larger digs. The most significant part of the move was the addition of a kitchen, which is headed by young chef (and pro snowboarder) George Gazdick. At 26, the chef already has earned acclaim as a consulting chef at Nora in Little Italy. At the Cellar, he's able to fully spread his wings with dishes like baby lamb ribs over caramelized purple cabbage or the obscenely addictive Brussels sprouts.
"I like having control over a dish," says Gazdick. "It's why I'm working out here and not with 400 people downtown."
But you don't have to go all the way to the outer 'burbs for a great wine retailer experience. The Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights (2271 Lee Rd., 216-342-3623, thewinespotonline.com) strikes a nice compromise between the loud now-ness of Cantine and the down-home feel of The Olde Cellar. "It's a good place to go if you're not looking for a sports bar," says Elan Hoenig, the bar's events director. They pride themselves on being an approachable venue for the wine-curious of all (legal) ages: "We like to take the mystery out of wine."
Just down the street from the Cedar Lee Theatre, the Wine Spot presents a fresh, minimalistic space that keeps the focus on its bottle selection. Like Cantine, the Spot has a full liquor license, but its wine selection will appeal to true aficionados. Near weekly wine tastings offer deep dives into various regions.
While the food leans more toward traditional "wine bar" offerings like olives and nuts, meat and cheese boards, and other finger foods, the fare pairs splendidly with the by-the-glass pours or bottles.
Out west, in Detroit Shoreway, Banter (7320 Detroit Rd., 216-801-0305, bantercleveland.com) offers a curated selection of wines by the bottle, including chilled whites, bubbles and rose. Sure, you can pay for those bottles and run, but consider grabbing a seat, pulling that cork, and enjoying that bottle alongside a heaping platter of poutine.