RESTAURANT REVIEW: Cuvée Wine & Bistro, Ocala

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Lake & Sumter Style Magazine.

Eating is an event at Cuvée Wine & Bistro in Ocala. The elegant décor and ambiance, creative menu, impeccable service, and a state-of-the-art interactive wine-dispensing system all add up to a captivating fine dining experience, the kind most Floridians find only in large metropolitan areas.

General Manager David Lewis and his staff immediately make customers feel welcome. They want you to enjoy every moment and learn a little about wines along the way.

“We are a very wine-centric place,” explains David, who has been at the restaurant since 2010. “Servers must be wine savvy. They are your guides for the evening.”

cuvee-fredlopez-9770Indeed my server for the evening, Jay Abbette, suggested food and wine pairings that were exquisite. He asked all the right questions. “What kind of flavors and spices did I like? What were my favorite wines?” He was extremely knowledgeable about wines from all over the world and how wines would pair with each dish on the menu.

Wine lists can be intimidating and choosing from more than 212 wines for dinner can be downright overwhelming. Cuvée Wine & Bistro makes it very easy, though, to find a wine you will enjoy. The best part is you can taste several wines before committing to one for dinner with the restaurant’s 104-bottle interactive wine dispensing system. The system allows the restaurant to serve small pours of premium wines by the glass at affordable prices. Customers receive a “wine debit” card, which is inserted into the dispensing system for 1-ounce, 2.5-ounce, or 5-ounce pours of wine. At the end of the evening, you pay for what you drank. Lewis says most couple’s average $40 to $50 for wine.

The advantage is you can try a wine to see if you like it before buying a larger pour or an entire bottle. You also have opportunities to try expensive wines you have read or heard about, but a bottle may not be in your budget or is not available in your local area. For me, that wine was a 2009 Anderson Valley Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, which retails for over $50 a bottle when you can find it. I was able to see if the wine lived up to its price tag.

If you are not a wine drinker, you can enjoy the wide selection of drinks including Scotches, microbrews, and trendy American liquors stirred by Cuvée’s trained mixologists.

Although Cuvée Wine & Bistro is known for its large selection of wines and unique dispensing system, the food is just as much a star. Chef Jim Schuman, a 1988 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, has created an artisan menu that is varied, unique, and deliciously wine-friendly.

My husband and I began the meal with three appetizers, mostly because we could not choose just one. My favorite was the Saint Andre’ Brie was a French triple-cream Brie cheese that was slightly warmed and served with lingonberry jelly and whole-grain mustard. We also had the Roasted Garlic Shrimp on toasted olive bread served with an artichoke tapenade, and Bison Meatballs, a hearty dish that was my husband’s favorite.

One of the skills that experienced servers hone, especially in fine dining restaurants, is the ability to pace the timing of each course. Our server Jay gave us enough time to savor our appetizers and relax over the wine before bringing our main courses. He also noticed I was enjoying the Cakebread Pinot Noir and suggested the Lamb Porterhouse ($27.95/$16.95, petite) as my entrée. My husband enjoyed the Roasted Peach Duck ($24.95) that paired beautifully with a glass of Newton Unfiltered Merlot, another wine we rarely have the opportunity to try. The side dish included sweet potato lasagna, a recipe I wish I could replicate. After superb appetizers and entrées, we made a wise decision to split the Cherries Jubilee for dessert.

This was my second trip to Cuvée Wine & Bistro, the first being an anniversary celebration. Both experiences were truly memorable dining events.

Cuvée Wine & Bistro

2237 SW 19th Ave. Road, Suite 102 Ocala, FL 34471

Hours of Operation:
Open Monday–Saturday for dinner at 5p.m.
Call for reservations: 352.351.1816

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