It may be known for its penchant for flash, but Miami is also a top destination for travelers seeking flavor. Its diverse, ever-evolving dining scene is home to a variety of exciting, wine-focused restaurants. And while many institutions that helped establish the area's reputation for excellent food and drink remain, recent marquee openings are freshening up the Magic City, including the arrival of big-name chefs from outside Florida. Assistant editors Lexi Williams and Julie Harans, both former Miamians, give a taste of some new spots and trends.
Big-Name Chefs Come to South Florida
The Surf Club Restaurant
Chef Thomas Keller made his Florida debut in August 2018 with the opening of the Surf Club Restaurant at the recently renovated Surf Club hotel and residences, north of Miami Beach in Surfside. Keller is known for wine-centric restaurants including Wine Spectator Grand Award winners the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Per Se in New York. His new spot offers nearly 500 selections, overseen by head sommelier Zachariah Gossard, with focuses on California and France, as well as prized Bordeaux and Burgundy bottlings. Chef de cuisine Manuel Echeverri executes refined renditions of classics like Caesar salad, oysters Rockefeller and lobster Thermidor.—Julie Harans
Washington, D.C.-based restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi opened a second location of his contemporary Italian restaurant, Fiola, in Coral Gables in November 2018. It's the first non-D.C. venture for Trabocchi's restaurant group, which also owns Fiola Mare and Del Mar; all three restaurants are Best of Award of Excellence winners. Corporate wine director Casper Rice manages the 800-selection Miami list. Like the wine program at the flagship location, it emphasizes Italy, Bordeaux and California, while offering breadth and depth in other benchmark regions around the world. Premium by-the-glass selections from producers such as Gaja, Joseph Phelps and Château Cheval-Blanc are available by Coravin. Executive chef Michael Fusano's menu is more seafood-focused than the D.C. location's, but it maintains Fiola's upscale approach to the cuisine of Trabocchi's home country.—J.H.
New to Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards
Leynia features chef Jose Icardi's Argentine-Japanese cuisine in the famed Delano South Beach hotel just steps from the ocean. Leynia earned an Award of Excellence in 2018 for its 360-selection global wine program, with strengths in France, Argentina, California and Italy. On the patio, you can watch the open-flame grill in action while enjoying the Miami weather. And don't miss out on dessert: Sorbet is wheeled in on a bicycle cart imported from Argentina and prepared tableside with a blast of liquid nitrogen.—Lexi Williams
Bringing Fine Wine to Miami's Nightlife Scene
In Miami's nightlife-driven venues, wine programs can easily be overshadowed by glitz. But local hospitality mogul David Grutman is raising the bar at such locales, offering wine lists that are draws instead of afterthoughts.
The nightclub owner's first dining project, Komodo Miami, opened in 2015 with an Asian menu and a 150-selection wine list. In 2017, Grutman set out to strengthen the program and hired experienced sommelier Collin Bleess. As Komodo's wine director, Bleess has grown the list to 360 labels, and the restaurant earned an Award of Excellence the following year.
Bleess also created the lists at Grutman's Swan and Bar Bevy restaurants, which opened in November 2018 with a shared list of 120 diverse wines, including first-growth Bordeaux and iconic producers such as Opus One and Vega Sicilia.
Now united under Groot Hospitality, which Grutman founded in 2018, these venues promote the idea that a complete guest experience includes a serious, dynamic wine program.—J.H.