Swanky high-rise hotels along South Beach often gave the perception the city had a handle on wine, but Miami was always much more interested in luxe labels and bottle service, leaving the wine scene somewhat lacking. Over the past few years, however, new, wine-driven restaurants and bars have sprung up, and more established eateries have brought in talented young sommeliers and wine directors who consider the bottle selection as carefully as the cuisine.
Sure, you can still order your magnums with sparklers, but with lists like these, it’s no surprise half of New York City relocated down here during the pandemic. From heavy hitters and collector-worthy vintages to niche natural wines and everything in between, here are the top wine-focused restaurants and best wine bars in Miami. Sip your way around the city—and find out where to buy bottles to enjoy once you get back home.
Magnums by the bottle or glass
When New York City’s Michelin-starred Korean steakhouse moved into Miami’s ritzy Design District in the wake of the pandemic, those in the wine world were curious to see what superstar somm Victoria James would bring to Cote 2.0. Together with master sommelier Mia Van de Water, the duo put together an impressive list with more than 1,200 selections from classic and harder-to-source producers and vintages dating back to the 1800s.
Similar to the NYC location, large-format bottles reign supreme, and every by-the-glass wine is poured from magnums. But while the NYC flagship is more European-influenced, the Miami list focuses more on wines from the Southern Hemisphere. ‘And whenever possible, we also try to lift up marginalised groups by supporting wines made by women and BIPOC,’ James says.
Memorable market fare, biodynamic vino
Launched in the midst of the pandemic as a takeaway concept with a virtual marketplace, Krüs Kitchen has since expanded to offer dinner and a cave à manger experience in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Coconut Grove. Chef Sebastián Vargas’ résumé spans prestigious stints everywhere from Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, to New York’s Eleven Madison Park, so while the seasonally driven menu includes salads and sandwiches, this is not your average market fare.
The team say that at Krüs, they’re ‘creating a melting pot for artisans in Miami to showcase their brands and products,’ since they are collaborating with everyone from local chocolate makers to a fifth-generation Italian cheesemaker who works with local dairy.
The wines also follow a ‘farm to glass’ mentality. Wine expert and co-founder Josh Hackler sources natural, organic, and biodynamic wines and hosts themed, weekly wine tastings on Wednesdays. ‘Our menu is ever-changing and is a direct reflection of who we are and the backgrounds we come from,’ he says. ‘This is the food and wine we want to enjoy every day in our homes, and that’s the simple motto we live by.’
Late-night Old World wines
After setting up shop for a year in an outdoor event area in Little River, Downtown’s late-night pasta spot is back in its original space, which is looking fresher than ever with a redesigned dining room and new outdoor seating.
While the Parker House rolls with honey butter have garnered a cult following, and the bucatini cacio e pepe is hard to beat, the duo behind the concept have also proved their weight in the wine world with a mix of high-value, classic, low-intervention producers, catering more to Old World wines with minimal use of new oak. ‘While most of our guests think of us as a cocktail bar, we want to make sure that we have something for everyone, and that includes a tight selection of wines that both complement our food and can be enjoyed by themselves,’ says co-owner and beverage director Will Thompson.
Modern Italian, Chilean-centric wine list
The chef-couple behind Boia De, which opened in 2019 in the banyan tree-filled neighbourhood of Buena Vista, met in New York City while working in the kitchen at The NoMad. The same year they opened Boia De they were nominated for a James Beard Award, and while the laid-back atmosphere and modern Italian-influenced menu are definitely a draw, so is the list of New and Old World vintages—particularly the well-priced Chilean wines (a nod to co-owner Luciana Giangrandi’s roots).
If you’re looking for something to temper the Miami heat, sommelier Anthony Alvarez recommends Domaine du Pélican Arbois Trois Cépages from Jura, which he calls ‘a great wine that overdelivers for its value, especially considering some of its neighbours.’
Peruvian pours, seasonally driven plates
In a neighbourhood flanked by designers like Gucci and Givenchy, Nikkei-inspired Itamae is a refreshing addition to the Design District’s over-the-top boutiques and eateries. Taking over a patio space in the Palm Court, Itamae serves up a menu of Peruvian-Japanese dishes revolving around local and seasonal ingredients. To pair with the fresh tiraditos and ceviches, Argentine-born wine director Karina Iglesias—co-owner of Downtown’s NIU Kitchen—sources natural wines from small producers in Peru, like the chillable red Fundo El Quintanar, Quebrada de Ihuanco.
A pop-up shop-turned-permanent
Similar to a psychic predicting the future, Karina Iglesias considers herself something of a wine medium, thus the name behind her pop-up wine shop Downtown. Her cosy Catalonian eatery, NIU Kitchen, was one of the forerunners in Miami’s natural wine scene, and when the pandemic caused the city’s restaurants to close their doors, Iglesias focused on what she knows best: wine. Tables soon became a setting for wine tastings and shelves of perfectly curated wine from around the globe shield the open kitchen.
Passers-by often pop in to scope out what’s recently hit the shelves, but if you don’t have time to stop in on your trip, Wine Medium can also deliver. If you do make it over to pick up a bottle, reserve a table next door at sister eatery Arson, where NIU Kitchen has temporarily set up shop in the larger space.
Miami’s own Little Italy
During the pandemic, Miami Beach’s romantic little Italian eatery—known for its extensive, all-Italian wine list—grew to include covered patio seating and tacked on a small wine “shop” up front for those wanting their bottles to-go. Locals love the decade-old gem for its homemade pasta and hearty mains like veal Milanese, but it also sports one of the city’s best Italian wine lists.
Italian-born beverage director Jacqueline Pirolo sources harder-to-find wines and less-known fringe varietals like Vitovska and Gaglioppo from Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Veneto, and Piedmont, offering 100 selections ranging from a 2010 Domenico Clerico Percristina Barolo to a 2012 San Fereolo. Something not often found in restaurants with this kind of bottle selection, guests can order a carafe of any wine, and everything that’s been opened and Coravined becomes a by-the-glass special, so you’ll always be surprised by the wines being served each evening.
Vintage beats & small plate eats
When the Bar Lab team (behind Miami’s beloved craft cocktail bar, Broken Shaker) announced plans for a wine bar, everyone was eager to see what was in store from the group that helped Miami earn a reputation as a serious cocktail city. A few delays, a pandemic, and a pop-up bar later, Margot (whose name nods to Hemingway’s granddaughter) has finally opened its doors in a historic building Downtown with a look that nods to 1970s Scandinavian and 1980s Italian design (picture plenty of pastels and sleek wooden décor).
Sway to the sounds of vintage vinyl while trying one of the 75-plus options of natural wine and low-ABV cocktails and small plates like tuna tiradito crafted by the chef from sister spot 27 Restaurant.
Bakery & bookstore pouring farmer-focused wine
The pandemic project started by five friends recently opened up in North Miami and is a combination bookstore, wineshop and bakery, where menus revolve around naturally leavened sourdough bread (think sandwiches, spreads, and pizza) that the team has spent a decade perfecting.
Browse the shelves of the lending library and books available for purchase—which focus on subjects like black studies, critical theory, and international struggle and solidarity movements—before moving over to wines. The bottles are small-production and small-vineyard, and organic or biodynamically farmed, which sommelier and co-owner Bianca Sanon says ‘should and ideally will be a reflection of why we wanted to commit ourselves to a space like this in the first place—to share our passions with others, to facilitate conversations and open questions, and to offer some of our favourite things at an affordable price point.’
Family-owned natural wine shop
- Address: 207 NE 82nd Terr., Miami 33138
- Tel: +1 305 639 8809
The former chef behind the namesake spot in Little River originally launched his concept as a wine and artisanal cheese shop with his parents in Miami Shores before realising that the city’s competition was too steep. They changed gears—and locations—and started shifting from conventional wines to more natural ones—which Lucio first fell in love with while working in a Basque restaurant in Barcelona—and became one of the first shops in the city to offer an entirely natural wine selection.
Local art is displayed (and for sale) on the walls, and Lucio hand-selects each bottle that hits the shelves for a well-curated mix of small producers, young vignerons, and multi-generation winemakers hailing everywhere from Argentina to Australia.