Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Painful Truth

It's really unfortunate. You discover a great new place and the next thing you know, it goes under. Doors locked, maybe a going-out-of-business sale, dust starts collecting on the once-polished bar, a gem of the culinary skyline dies softly in the night.

Recently, Old Vines Wine and Food Bar in the Waterford Lakes Towne Center in Orlando folded. I was excited to find this wine bar on the UCF side of Orlando where chain restaurants dominate. It's hard to get college students to go anywhere they don't see on television, so in all honesty, the closing of Old Vines wasn't a huge surprise.

The ironic part of all of this, and the reason I bring it us, is that the week before it closed its oak and iron doors, I was assigned to review the chic little wine bar for the Orlando Weekly. The day before the column was supposed to run, my editor, Jessica, recieved an e-mail/press release notifying her that the bar was closing. I thought my review was a pretty decent piece of work, so I was a little disappointed. Plus, I just laughed so hard listening to my best friend, Veronica, pronounce the German word "Auslese," and the happiness that came from a romantic evening connecting with my sweetheart, Cliff, was so fulfilling that the times I spent at Old Vines were just too memorable not to share my review of this little business venture that, unfortunately, couldn't make it.

Here it is:

Not Just Wines at Old Vines

East Orlando isn’t exactly a wellspring of fine food. So when a place like Old Vines Wine Bar in the Waterford Lakes Towne Center comes along, take notice.

Opened by two guild-certified sommeliers, Old Vines carries an impressive selection and, unlike many wine bars, offers every wine on the list by the glass as well as by bottle. However, the red wine list is heavily skewed towards New World vintages, while the white list is much more centered and includes a killer German Auslese Reisling ($7.00), thick, low in acidity, and full of honey and herbal notes. It complements perfectly the flavor-packed toppings on the Oriental flatbread ($7.00), brimming with teriyaki chicken, vegetables, and peanut-soy sauce. It’s just too bad that the actual flatbread has less flavor and integrity than a matzoh cracker. The wine bar also offers a well-rounded list of fortified and ice wines, categories often overlooked by most bars.

Old Vines is a haven for the newly-trendy microbrew with over 25 selections available both on draft and in the bottle. The list of draft beers changes almost nightly, so if a menu favorite isn’t on hand, it’s likely they’ve temporarily replaced it with something better. Old Vines also offers the elusive “beer flight,” a value at $5.00, 3 ounce pours of any three draft beers, perfect for learning the new-fangled art of beer tasting. Include the Lost Coast Apricot Wheat beer from California with a distinct scent of dried fruit and a light, hoppy flavor.

Desserts aren’t made in house, but they are worth a fair look. The Marquise au Chocolat ($7.00) is unbelievably decadent - a tiny version of the spongy chocolate genoise cake, filled with chocolate ganache and topped with pistachios. It pairs well with the smoky, chargrilled nose from the Spanish Tempranillo featured on the “Crimson Tide” red wine flight ($8, also featuring a highly tannic Argentine Malbec and a classically smooth French Rhone perfumed with earthy minerals).

It may not be situated on the most posh of Orlando’s tree-lined streets, but Old Vines is a bastion for UCF-area wine lovers, and will hopefully set a precedent for the future of East Orlando’s dining scene.

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