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Bar review: Seminole Heights City Wine Bar in Tampa

One of the best spots to grab a drink in Ybor is the Ybor City Wine Bar. It's easily the largest beer selection in Ybor despite being obviously wine-centric, and the extensive wine selection comes with a side of expert staff to help smartly walk you through a long and unusually formatted wine list that separates wines into price tiers rather than style.

Enter location No. 2, the equally matter-of-fact Seminole Heights City Wine Bar. The deal here is practically identical: more than 100 beers in cans and bottles, and 200-plus wines available by glass or bottle. Same cool black and white decor, same highly trained staff — most of whom carry sommelier credentials.

That last bit is really what makes Ybor City's location a must-visit, and with the addition of a Seminole Heights branch, I'm glad to see an equal level of expertise. You can get great wine at any of the area's renowned restaurants, but this is unquestionably the wine spot in the Heights.

Wine has never fully clicked with me. I enjoy it, I drink it now and then, but it has never driven me down an educational rabbit hole in the way that beer and whisky has. When I'm able to sit down and drink wine while chatting with people who look at wine the way I look at beer, it really brings out the "Hey, I should go get a book on wine" feeling in me.

I like hanging out at the bar and chatting with friends as much as the next guy, but I still want to be engaged by what I'm drinking. I hate drinking just for the sake of drinking. I want to order something and actively think about it as I drink.

I like perusing a long list of wines, searching for a region or grape — or blend — that I'm unfamiliar with and then getting some insight from someone who knows a thing or two before I make the call. Seminole Heights City Wine Bar is small and intimate enough to make this a realistic scenario without becoming a terrible burden on a bartender just trying to get the next round of cocktails out to the table at the back.

The staff here loves talking wine. Between our sommelier's corkscrew earrings, wine glass wrist tattoo and strong opinion on how many sweet red blends are acceptable to keep in stock, I knew that I wouldn't be out of line trying to dig deep into the menu, which is important given such an overwhelming list of options.

It's more fun to chat malolactic fermentation while sipping a cabernet-merlot blend from Washington's Kiona Vineyards, or learning what a barolo grape is all about, while drinking a wine from Terre del Barolo in Piemonte, Italy.

But let's say that you're already plenty comfortable navigating such a wine list, or you don't really care that much and just want to down some grapes with your crew on a Friday night. No trouble there: choose from some four-seaters near the bar, some more intimate two-seaters in the hallway or a semi-private lounge area in the rear corner, obscured by the wine bookshelves bordering the main seating area. Small place, plenty of options.

That Seminole Heights City Wine Bar is a grade-A wine destination isn't surprising, but the bar also stocks an impressive beer cooler. It's a deliberate selection of often uncommon picks from across the world.

These range from bottled brews from the United Kingdom's Timothy Taylor, known for its traditional cask ales; the Mr. Pink lychee and pink guava Berliner from Denmark's To Øl; a range of fruited wild ales from the Petite Sour line of Denver's Crooked Stave; and the ever-underrated Palo Santo Marron from Delaware's Dogfish Head, a rich double brown, aged in massive Paraguayan palo santo casks.

This is definitely one to add to your Seminole Heights rotation, and that counts double if you enjoy getting into the nuts and bolts of your wine. Wine can be an intimidating subject, but if you stay awhile at Seminole Heights City Wine Bar, it's highly likely you'll walk out more knowledgeable that when you arrived, and you'll certainly have a greater appreciation for the craft (wine buzz notwithstanding).

— Contact Justin Grant at

sip it

Seminole Heights City Wine Bar

6703 N Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 999-4966;

The vibe: A cozy and richly stocked neighborhood beer and wine bar.

Food: Small plates, $6 to $16; desserts, $8 to $14.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $4 to $30; wine, $5 to $20 by the glass and $15 to $95 by the bottle.

Specialty: Surprisingly, Seminole Heights City Wine Bar may have the best beer selection in Seminole Heights, with more than 100 bottles and cans covering a staggering range of styles, regions, formats and price levels. But the bigger focus is undoubtedly on wine (more than 200 bottles, all available by the glass, as well), and that's what the staff knows best. The bar always has a sommelier on staff, so if you want to really dig in and learn about your wine, this is your chance.

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

Bar review: Seminole Heights City Wine Bar in Tampa 08/17/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 1:27pm]
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