A chance to sit under the stars on a warm December night is worth the tolls and endless construction. The Sanford Wine Company, located in the severely underrated historic district, boasts an international wine list that includes classics from Spain, Italy, France and the western United States, and more obscure vintages from Canada and Eastern Europe. With over 100 wines to choose from, even the staunchest white zinfandel devotee will trade in that sophomoric rosé for a sophisticated riesling.
Sanford Wine Company is as much dive bar as it is wine temple. There are over 40 micro-brewed and specialty beers both on tap and in bottle, sourced from Poland to Portland. Try Florida’s own Honey Amber Rose beer ($3.50), brewed along the Indian River, with hints of rosehips and orange blossom honey.
Unpretentious surroundings and ESPN-beaming flat-panel televisions defy the example of the trendy wine bar and encourage more discussion of onion rings than opera. In fact, the Wine Company forgoes so-chic seared-tuna appetizers in favor of snappy bratwursts (perfect paired with a glass of Elyse 2003 Le Corbeau from California) and meaty burgers (the dark fruit, leather and tobacco of the Italian barolo makes for a classic combo). A variety of cheeses is also available, and the knowledgeable waitstaff can pair camembert with the perfect cabernet.
The wine bar hosts wine and beer tastings, live music, lectures, and block parties throughout the year, making it an epicenter of the North Central Florida social structure. Taking wine from insurmountable pretension to cool modesty is a formidable task, but the Sanford Wine Company accomplishes this without sacrificing dedication to high-quality beverages. This temple to fermentation is as friendly to the diehard Mondavian as it is to the most urbane oenophile.