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This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of 

Louisville SWIG

. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

By Joy Neighbors

Date Night:

Bistro Le Relais

2817 Taylorsville Road

For a delightfully swanky date night, touch down at this Bowman Field Louisville original. The intimate Art Deco interior recalls the era of the Big Bands, while just outside, planes do a three-point landing on Bowman’s tarmac. Revel in the sumptuous French cuisine and explore an enticing wine list that features moderately priced bottles of well-respected reds, whites and bubblies. (Rare wines are also available.) Bistro Le Relais is sure to become a favorite romantic retreat “As Time Goes By.”

Try: The Four Graces Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley — velvety texture and earthy tannins.

Girls’ Night Out:

Varanese

2106 Frankfort Ave.

Plan your next girls’ night out to coincide with Varanese’s “Wine Down Wednesdays,” when more than 100 bottles are half price. Choose some intriguing new finds to split and share. Or bring your best gal pals for one of the monthly themed wine dinners, which feature six exceptional food courses, each paired with artisanal wines and an opportunity to meet the winemaker or winery owner. Round out any meal with a to-die-for dessert like mocha crème brûlée and you’ve created an evening where girls just wanna have fun — and do!

Try: White Haven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region — crisp and clean.

Happy Hour:

Bistro 1860

1765 Mellwood Ave.

This is a wine lover’s paradise! Up to 52 bottles of wine are available by the glass, thanks to one of the largest Cruvinet dispensing systems in the country. (Cork dorks come to gaze adoringly!) Oenophiles can beat the Monday blues from 4 p.m. to close when selected bottles of wine are half price. Bartender Lauren Dupre touts the extensive wine list and those uniquely infused mixtures on the bar, ready to be mixed in to create a one-of-a-kind cocktail. Boasting one of the best-stocked bars in the city, Bistro 1860 is definitely a place to get your happy on.

Try: St. Innocent Chardonnay, another Willamette Valley wine — fun and refreshing.

Out-of-Towners:

Jack Fry’s

1007 Bardstown Road

The relaxed atmosphere and intimate nightclub vibe calls to out-of-towners and locals alike to sit and sample a bit of Louisville’s past. The food-friendly wine list features more than 100 wines, and beverage director JR Schiavi is in the process of updating and adding more. Sip a glass of wine at the original bar or delve into a magnificent meal while enjoying live jazz mingled with the buzz of conversation. Jack Fry’s is impressive but not pretentious. That’s what makes this a Louisville legend.

Try: Morgan G17 Syrah from Monterey County, Calif. — fruity, oaky, easy to drink.

Pairing Food With Wine:

Marketplace Restaurant at Theater Square

651 S. Fourth St.

When it comes to pairing food with wine, this place walks its talk. Located downtown in the old Kentucky Theater, Marketplace has it all — great food, an upscale patio, live jazz, a wine shop, wine Cruvinet system and a staff that understands not only how to pair wine with food but how to make the experience sublime. Schedule a tasting-style dinner for six or more for a one-of-a-kind dining experience. There are more than 100 wines available by the glass, bottle or half bottle. Oenophiles take note: Marketplace’s beverage program is expanding, and even more emphasis is being placed on wine. Bravo!

Try: California’s ruby-red Bogle Phantom — fruit forward with a hint of smoke on the finish.

Special Celebration:

Corbett’s Restaurant: An American Place

5050 Norton Healthcare Blvd.

In this posh 19th-century mansion, you can relish celebrating a special event with tantalizing New American cuisine and a mind-blowing bottle of wine. Corbett’s sommelier and director of service, J. Troy Ritchie, has stocked the wine cellar with more than 300 bottles of outstanding vinos, including those crafted in Old World and New World styles, and wines of noteworthy distinction. Under Ritchie’s guidance, the wine program has been recognized with an Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine. Twenty bottles are currently available by the glass. For a more laid-back party atmosphere, check out the basement Wineskellar.

Try: Legras & Haas Tradition Champagne — elegant with notes of citrus.

To See and Be Seen:

Proof on Main

702 W. Main St.

If you like to people-watch with a glass of wine, then Proof on Main is your nirvana. This is where the artsy crowd hangs out. Peruse the 12-page, diverse 100-bottle wine list, which includes wines crafted from Old World and New World producers along with some obscure yet satisfying boutique producers. Wines are available by the glass, bottle or quartino. The bar area adjoins the trendy 21c Museum Hotel, where the exhibits, like the wines, astound, intrigue and delight.

Try: Napa Valley’s Black Stallion Cabernet — a classic, jammy Cab.

Neighbors is a native Hoosier living in Vincennes, Ind., who has spent the past 15 years judging international, regional and local wine competitions, writing for publications including WineMaker magazine, and speaking internationally about wine and wine culture. She also writes for her blog, Joy’s JOY of Wine.

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