Oenophiles, take note! Cru Cellars is a Tampa gem, a wine-lovers haven, a mecca of sorts... to which you need to make your own personal wine exodus. And soon.
Part wine store, part wine & craft beer bar/restaurant, there's a sophisticated, metropolitan atmosphere here that makes it seem like the type of place you'd be more likely to find in NYC or Chicago. Everything about Cru Cellars from the wine list to the ambiance is the brainchild of the proprietor, Jen Bingham.
Photo courtesy Cru Cellars
She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and she has been featured in Wine Spectator magazine, among others. Prior to starting Cru Cellars, she lived and worked in Illinois and was the wine director at the super upscale wine tasting room, ENO, on Chicago's Michigan Ave.
The night we visited, we enjoyed a tasting of some of the items on Cru's dinner menu created by Chef Josh Burton. First up was Roasted Mushroom Orzo with roasted grape tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. This is a great dish for sharing as it is large and the flavor was very rich.
The spice-rubbed lamb was cooked perfectly and was so tasty. These are made with chimmichurri made of fresh mint and parsley, served with parsnips and Yukon Gold potatoes.
And, I have Megan to thank for encouraging me to try bone marrow. I am always adventurous with food but marrow, in the past, has been where I draw the proverbial line. (Thanks, Megan, I feel like this was a step in moving me past "wanna-be" foodie status.)
The food was delicious. I can't wait to go back and try their new brunch menu, which is served not only on Sundays, but also on Saturdays. Hooray for Saturday brunch! No better way to enjoy a brunch than without the stress of a workday looming over your head, right?
The flatbread with fig jam, clue cheese and prosciutto.
The wine director, Lucius spoke with us about the types of wines we typically lean toward -- and then announced he was going to expand our horizons with some flights he has created. We were up for that! The one pictured here was Pinot Envy, a "menage a trois of pinots" - a rose and two reds.
The other flights we tried also had creative names -- Spanish Road Trip was a trio of three Spanish whites, and Fifty Shades of White had a chardonnay, a vermintino and a pinot gris. Lucius really knows his stuff and I was blown away by his knowlegde but also the way he was able to explain the different varietals to the non-expert (me).
This is "The $13 and Under Table." Aptly named, every bottle here is $13 or under -- and these are much nicer wines than you would get at Publix for this price.
Every Tuesday there is no corking fee if you buy a bottle of wine in the store and bring it into the wine bar. When we were there, the Cru Book Club, who meets monthly, were in the process of grabbing their chosen wines for the night and then heading back to one of the private tables to discuss their book of the month. How cool! Jen, let me know if my suggestion, Trail of Crumbs, made it to the short list! It's a great book I recommend to any foodie. But I digress...
The shop was all dressed up for the holidays...
While we dined inside last night, I did want to mention that their much-anticipated Wine Garden is now open.
Photo courtesy Cru Cellars
The outdoor space is designed to be a spot to enjoy a glass of wine al fresco, and it;'s available for private parties.
One of the coolest things about the wine shop is that Jen leaves her hand-written tasting notes on every bottle on the shelf. So even if by chance, she is not there at the store when you're shopping, you can still get her detailed input on any wine before you buy. Having a master sommelier's notes at your fingertips = priceless.
Yes, I said tasting notes on every bottle. I love it!
Cru Cellars is located at 2506 S. MacDill Avenue Tampa, FL 33629.