5 Miami Sommeliers Dish on Wine Travel Advice & Where to Drink Wine in Miami

5 Miami Sommeliers Talk Wine Travel Advice and Where to Drink Wine in Miami

Miami is hot, and that doesn’t mean just temperature-wise. A growing city at the center of the Americas is making a big wave in the hospitality industry. When you visit Miami, you can eat and drink cuisine and beverages from all corners of the world and find wines from all wine regions, too.

With wine on the mind, we talked to five Top Miami Sommeliers and beverage professionals from some of the best restaurants in the city. We wanted to get their advice to help Winetraveler’s around the world travel more efficiently. Plus, get an industry perspective on where to drink wine when you visit Miami.


Joseph “Joey” Gewarges, Lead Sommelier at Stripsteak by Michael Mina, Pizza & Burger by Michael Mina at Fontainebleau Miami BeachJoseph “Joey” Gewarges, Lead Sommelier at Stripsteak by Michael Mina, Pizza & Burger by Michael Mina at Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Joey’s lifelong passion began in a backyard in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. His uncle, Master Chef Carlos Bruno — a featured chef in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas — hosted Sunday afternoon barbecues for family and friends. It was during one of these gatherings that Joey was introduced to a wine of particular interest, the Argiano ‘Brunello di Montalcino’. Capturing a special place in his heart, the Italian red wine was a perennial favorite amongst the Bruno household and became the inspiration behind Joey’s chosen career path.

WT: What is your favorite wine region to visit & why?

JG: So far – 100% Bordeaux. We have come to know, through another passionate wine friend, a French family that lives in the ‘Haut-Medoc’. Particularly ‘Lesparre-Medoc’, which is breathtakingly beautiful, for a few years now and we stay with ‘the Filatreau’s’ almost every year. Words cannot really describe experience(s) of this kind, but it does involve a lot of cooking, eating, drinking, dancing, and ‘Chateau’ hopping throughout the ‘Left-Bank’. No amount of experience in any other wine growing region can compare. I call Bordeaux the ‘Golden-Epicenter’ of wine because it showcases the grandest of quality wine with an ethereal and spiritual element that is unparalleled.

WT: Do you have a funny story about wine travel?

JG: I grew up in Michigan, and one of my first wine growing regions I visited with friends was Heitz Cellars in Napa Valley. Mr. Joe Heitz was behind the greeting table at the time and looked at me and my group as we were walking in for our 11:00am tour-tasting stunned and said, “Are you all here for a tour?” and we said, “Yes at 11:00am,” and as he was loading a rifle he blurted out very frantically, “You’ll have to come back, we have a deer problem in our vineyard!”

We could see them picking off deer in the vineyard as we looked out and it was the craziest thing we had seen happen on a tour-tasting. Apparently, the problem is quite common in regions of this type.

WT: Do you have a “once in a lifetime” wine travel story you can share?

JG: During my visit to Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, we walked across the road to Chateau LaFleur Petrus and had an experience of a lifetime. Some of the best experiences are only the best if you have someone to share them with. Being with my wife, Katrina, we were treated to a tour & tasting that was out of this world. So much knowledge and information followed by the most memorable and spectacular wine. The ‘2015 Chateau LaFleur Petrus’ was outstanding, and we could still to this day remember its character.

WT: What is your best wine travel advice for someone about to embark on a wine adventure?

JG: I suggest going with friends that you know for sure are good to travel with. Don’t go with people you just met or someone you barely know. Sometimes it only takes one person to ruin a trip so try not to invite impromptu individuals that you think will be fun. Always get a consensus from others if you do so. Don’t research too much information and keep it as exciting as you can. Go with the flow. Getting lost is not a bad thing in wine country. Finally, save the drinking for the valley, and keep it to less than a bottle of wine.

WT: What can visitors to your restaurant expect from your wine list?

JG: We sport many styles of wine from California, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, & Spain. A total of 700+ different labels.

WT: What do you think makes Miami a wine list destination?

JG: The Miami-market has many more wine labels than other city-markets. We have a lot of tourism and business from around the world that frequents the city. Miami is a mecca for all styles of wine and the consumption rate is pretty steady. The demand for all the classical producers from around the world is still very rampant and sought after. Most Americans, though, still gravitate towards the larger-bolder style reds from California and South America.

WT: What is your best kept secret about wine traveling?

JG: Get to know everyone you meet in the “Wine-Biz” if you can. The more winemakers, proprietors, representatives, importers, etc… you meet, the better your visits will turn out.


Aleksandra Milinkov, Lead Sommelier at Matador Room at the Edition Hotel on Miami BeachAleksandra Milinkov, Lead Sommelier at Matador Room at the Edition Hotel on Miami Beach

WT: What/Who was your inspiration for getting into the wine industry?

AM: I got inspired by wonderful stories that are behind every label. I got in touch with several brands because I wanted to know a bit more about them and that is how all the magic started. Also, by reading a lot of wine books and getting to know the whole process behind winemaking. It still keeps me motivated to go further in this journey.

WT: What is your favorite wine region to visit & why?

AM: Every wine region is beautiful and has its own magic. I have to admit that I do like vineyards in Italy, such as those from the Piedmont region. The region is at foothills of the Alps, and besides the mountains, it has valleys that contribute to perfectly growing one of my favorite grape varieties, Nebbiolo.

WT: Do you have a funny story about wine travel?

AM: On one of my most recent ventures, I unfortunately wasn’t able to walk. But that did not stop me from being carried into each winery to taste amazing wines. I was not only happy to have colleagues that would laugh with me, but also help me get around. Even my own two legs can’t deter me from enjoying fine wines!

WT: What is your best wine travel advice for someone about to embark on a wine adventure?

AM: The advice that I always like to share with everyone is to be open to new wines, new wine regions and adventures that wine can bring to them. There are so many wines that are still waiting to be discovered.


RELATED: 10 Picturesque Wine Regions You Should Explore


WT: How do you get people in Miami excited about wine?

AM: My passion is to get their attention with something new and different by recommending amazing wines from around the world that are unique for their regional style. In the same way, exposing them to wines that are not so easy to find in the market.

WT: What can visitors to your restaurant expect from your wine list?

AM: Our guests can expect a good amount of all styles of Spanish wines, some of those not so easy to find in the U.S., which we like to call “our treasure.” Also, we do have some of the all-time favorite French and Italian wines. Our wine list offers gems from South and North American wine regions as well. I would say it’s a complete journey of the wine world.

WT: What do you think makes Miami a wine list destination?

AM: Miami is a great destination to visit because it’s the perfect place to experience different cultures. On the culinary side, you will find many versions of local South American, European, and Asian fusion cuisine. Therefore, all styles of wine can be paired with these dishes throughout Miami. In my opinion, people come here to explore those differences. By having it all in one place, Miami makes for the perfect destination to dive into wine exploration, which will open the door further for those seeking wine adventures.

WT: What is your best kept secret about wine traveling?

AM: There are no secrets. The best way to enjoy wine traveling is to eat and drink local. Everywhere you go, try local cuisine and locally made wine to experience a whole new different world and the local culture.

WT: When wine travelers visit your restaurant, what is a bottle or two you would recommend that are special to you and why?

AM: Champagne is my favorite style of wine, and it is a wine that can be paired with many dishes. It’s good as an aperitif, as well as throughout the whole meal. I am so proud that I can always recommend our chef Jean-Georges’ favorite, as well as mine, which is Billecart Salmon Champagne.


Amanda Fraga, Head Sommelier, The Genuine Hospitality Group (Includes Amara at Paraiso, Michael’s Genuine, Tigertail + Mary, Harry’s Pizzeria, and more)Amanda Fraga, Head Sommelier, The Genuine Hospitality Group (Includes Amara at Paraiso, Michael’s Genuine, Tigertail + Mary, Harry’s Pizzeria, and more)

WT: How long have you been in your position/at your restaurant?

AF: I’ve been working for Michael Schwartz for 5 years. I have held different beverage positions over multiple restaurants. Currently, I am the Head Sommelier for the restaurant group.

WT: How do you get people in Miami excited about wine?

AF: I believe excitement is contagious. My first step is getting the staff at the restaurants excited about wine. After all they are the first people to greet the guest. I do this by continually hosting wine training events on various wine regions and styles. This keeps the learning experience new and refreshing. I also put a constant focus on the specific wines our restaurants carry by the glass. With guests, the wines by the glass program is how I like to introduce something new and exciting. Customers are much more comfortable with trying something new over a glass versus a bottle. I start by asking a series of questions to understand what their current preferences are. Then, I’ll suggest something they are unfamiliar with but still relatable for them. For example, I love having a Grüner Veltliner on a list instead of a Pinot Grigio. It introduces our clientele to something different, but stylistically it is similar enough to Pinot Grigio. Both are easy to drink dry white wines, so it is easy to explain this in a way that the customer will be willing to try.

WT: What is your favorite wine region to visit & why?

AF: I love visiting California at least once a year. Not only are there amazing regions, all different and with their own personalities, but there are a lot of non-wine activities to do. It’s always nice to balance out a six-course dinner paired with wine and a hike the next morning.

WT: Do you have a “once in a lifetime” wine travel story you can share?

AF: As a newbie sommelier, my mentor and at the time and boss — Daniel Toral — suggested that I work a wine harvest. Claiming it would be the best way to learn about wine first-hand. He told me that if I chose a region, he would assist me in finding a job working a harvest. I chose Burgundy. Probably because at that time having Toral as my boss meant I was always surrounded by amazing Pinot Noir, so it just felt like a natural fit. I worked at Domaine de Bellene with Nicolas Potel just outside of Beaune. I woke up at 6am every morning, helped harvest grapes, then after lunch assisted in sorting, cleaning (lots of cleaning), crushing, barreling, taking temperature… just about everything. The workdays were long and hard but five weeks later, I developed a newfound appreciation for the work that goes into producing a good bottle of wine. I came back home with a knowledge and passion for wine that will last a lifetime.

WT: What is your best wine travel advice for someone about to embark on a wine adventure?

AF: Think about your goal for the trip. Is it four winery visits a day, or is it balancing wine with the culture of the region. Once you figure that out, find the region(s) that fit best with what you are looking to do.

WT: What can visitors to your restaurant expect from your wine list?

AF: Our wine lists prioritize interesting selections, appropriate to each restaurants’ cuisine, as well as a wide range of audiences. We are constantly looking at our lists with balance in mind as well as offering value to our guests.

WT: What is your go-to wine to cool down in the hot Miami sun?

AF: Ameztoi’s Txacoli Rosado is the ULTIMATE Miami wine. Dry fruity and with just enough bubbles. Enjoy poolside or with a seafood parrillada.

WT: What do you think makes Miami a wine list destination?

AF: Florida is one of the top and largest wine markets in the U.S., so we get a lot of allocated wines, as well as those fun, smaller production wines. As I visit and dine around Miami, it’s incredible how many wines — which would normally sell out in NYC — are found in multiple restaurants and at such reasonable pricing!

WT: What is your best kept secret about wine traveling?

AF: Treat wine traveling like a marathon…you must stay hydrated! I take Nuun (a hydration tablet that dissolves in water) a couple times a day to avoid dehydration.

WT: When wine travelers visit your restaurant, what is a bottle or two you would recommend that are special to you and why?

AF: At Tigertail & Mary, I love having guests try our multiple chilled reds we serve by the glass. No matter what time of the year, Miami is never cold, and chilled reds, like Love Your Bunches, a Sangiovese from Ballard Canyon California, are always a great pairing with our heat.

WT: When traveling to Miami should wine travelers be worried about pricing?

AF: There are spots ALL over Miami that are secret wine gems, with fun and ever-changing wine lists, as well as reasonable pricing. My favorites right now are Stanzione 87 in Brickell, Macchialina in South Beach, and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Miami Design District.


Jennifer Schmitt, Head Sommelier, Zuma Miami, DowntownJennifer Schmitt, Head Sommelier, Zuma Miami

WT: What/Who was your inspiration for getting into the wine industry?

JS: My Dad was ultimately my inspiration for getting into wine. I remember when I was a kid, I would see boxed wine in our refrigerator. My Dad had a good friend and co-worker who was a more educated wine drinker, and he would encourage my dad to discover quality wine. I’d say when I was entering high school, there was a dramatic switch in the exposure to different types of wine. The foreign words like “Napa Valley,” “Wine Spectator,” and “Old World” began to enter the conversation. As I was going into college, I was sneaking off with a bottle or two, while my dad pretended not to notice.

WT: What is your favorite wine region to visit & why?

JS: Alsace was my most impactful wine region to visit. At the time, I was working at a fine dining restaurant in Chicago — Everest — and the Chef & Owner was from Alsace. Chef Joho is a huge wine lover and an avid collector. I was privileged to sell and preach the Alsace gospel every day. We had one of the best Alsace wine collections in the country. A short trip to Alsace brought my wine studies and stories to life. The wines, the winemakers, and the growers were so kind and excited to have us visit. Not to mention the food. I can still taste the crispy tart flambé and incredible Rieslings in my dreams.

WT: What is your best wine travel advice for someone about to embark on a wine adventure?

JS: If you are traveling on your own, and not with a group, don’t overextend yourself. Look into setting a few appointments ahead of time with a couple of wineries that you are excited to visit, or it may be more difficult to drop in spontaneously. The philosophy of quality over quantity can give you an opportunity to really take in the landscape and feel the culture of the region. Taste the food, drink the wine, and laugh with the locals when you can. Immerse yourself in all aspects of the place.

WT: What can visitors to your restaurant expect from your wine list?

JS: Our list isn’t a carbon copy of the other lists in our company. Zuma is a global restaurant group, but it allows the lists to reflect the team and the market. Our list is very global; it balances well recognizable producers and regions, while sprinkling in some more obscure and playful placements. We also have a fantastic sake selection that reflects a wide range of styles and price points. We also have an incredible sommelier team that can guide our guests seamlessly through the list.

WT: What do you think makes Miami a wine list destination?

JS: Miami has a very unique market. You see a very wide range of guests coming in to dine. I think Miami is hungry to be challenged and pushed a little to the edge of the “norm” of what has been plug-and-play style wine lists. Having a list that has something for everyone makes the choice to drink wine more desirable. When guests feel intimidated, I think they can resort back to the comfort zone of cocktails. Don’t get me wrong, we have a great cocktail program as well, but I like seeing our guests starting or finishing their experience with them versus drinking them throughout their dining experience.

WT: When wine travelers visit your restaurant, what is a bottle or two you would recommend that are special to you and why?

JS: Ceritas, Charles Hientz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. I love introducing this wine to our guests who are either from Europe, or guests that say they “hate” California Chardonnay. This wine is electric and it’s such a special wine. John, the winemaker and owner, has a very special relationship with his growers. This vineyard is one of the region’s oldest historic vineyard sites. It was originally planted in 1912 to Zinfandel and then replanted to Chardonnay in the 1980s. It expresses a powerful flavor profile, with briny minerality and racy acidity that is generally associated with “Old World.” In a blind tasting, I think even our Burgundy lovers might be surprised to learn its origin.

WT: What is your go-to wine to cool down in the hot Miami sun?

JS: Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Chardonnay fan. During the hot season in Miami, I am in a very happy place to drink Chablis. But really any season is Chardonnay season in my world.


Tommaso Marangi, Fiola Miami in Coral GablesTommaso Marangi, Fiola Miami in Coral Gables

WT: What/Who was your inspiration for getting into the wine industry?

TM: My love for wine comes from my grandfather. Since I was a child, I would follow him into the wine fields where he worked. There, he would teach me about all of the different varieties, which boosted my passion for wine.

WT: What is your favorite wine region to visit & why?

TM: My favorite wine region is Puglia, Italy. Not only am I from there, but it is home to some of Italy’s finest wines.

WT: Do you have a favorite winery to visit & why?

TM: I found my favorite winery during my last time in Italy, where I traveled in the Puglia region. There, I met new producers who introduced me to Susumaniello grapes. Susumaniello is a variety of grape used to make red wine grown in the ‘heel’ of Italy in the province of Brindisi, which is in the southern region of Puglia. I always recommend my guests take a wine tour there.

WT: When wine travelers visit your restaurant, what is a bottle or two you would recommend that are special to you and why?

TM: I love to suggest new or unknown wine brands to guests. My favorite white wine to recommend is one made from the Vermentino grape, which goes well with all seafood dishes. For a red wine, I like to recommend a Super Tuscan, Guado al Tasso, which is from Antinori and appeals to many people who choose to eat pasta or meat.

WT: What do you think makes Miami a wine list destination?

TM: Our global wine list acts as a connector between people of all cultures, offering a choice for everyone to experience. We have wines from virtually all over the world, which reflects the diversity of Miami.

WT: How do you get people in Miami excited about wine?

TM: People have said that my enthusiasm for wine is contagious, especially when I’m describing it to guests in-person.  I enjoy discussing all of the different varieties from all Italian regions, in addition to pairing wines with dinner items so people can have a taste of Italy.

WT: What kind of trends are you seeing in Miami’s wine scene?

TM: Guests are becoming more knowledgeable of the winemaking process and dishes to pair with wine. While I’m glad to share my experience, I am also happy to see an increased interest in wine from everyday consumers. More people are trying different wines from various regions of the world and experimenting. This results in a better experience overall. My job is to enhance the customer experience with hospitality, and it’s my pleasure to guide them in this way!


More Ways To Explore Wine in Miami

18 Incredible Places To Have a Glass of Wine in Miami

5 Top Miami Restaurants With Great Wine Lists


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