Wine Down Tastings and Tapas
About a year ago, I met Gary Skeel, owner of the new downtown hot spot Wine Down. When we met, Gary and his wife’s plans for the restaurant were in their infancy, but his passion to make it a reality was palpable. Originally, they planned to locate the new restaurant on Dupont Road. For a downtown dweller like myself who considers anything north of Coliseum Boulevard practically out of bounds, the location was not ideal, but I vowed to give it a try once it opened. Fast forward a year, and news hits the street about a new restaurant opening in the Harrison. I was delighted to discover it was the Skeel’s dream coming to fruition.
I didn’t know what to expect when I popped into Wine Down for the first time a few weeks ago. I remember what Gary told me about the concept, but I wasn’t sure how it would translate. Walking into the place, I was wowed. It is upscale and impeccably decorated. It is cozy and inviting and offers several booths, tables and seating areas for intimate parties. It also has a private room for larger parties. It has a big city feel, and my friend and I commented several times that it felt like we had been transported out of Fort Wayne by simply walking through the doors.
Just beyond the entryway is the bar, featuring a large horseshoe-shaped bar with a combination of large booths and high-top tables surrounding it. The much-talked-about wine vending machines are located at one end of the space. These temperature-controlled machines dispense 1-, 2.5-, and 5-ounce pours and are operated with a Wine Down debit card that tracks guest selections. Just past the bar and up a few stairs is additional seating—couches with low tables and more traditional four-top tables. Doors lead out to an expansive patio that sits right on Parkview Field’s concourse. When I visited, the outdoor seating had not yet arrived, but they assured me it had been ordered and will be ready in a few weeks. Our city needs more outdoor dining options, so this is a definite highlight.
My friend and I bellied up to the bar and were greeted warmly by bartenders Trevor Scovel and Cory Barnard, both incredibly knowledgeable about the cocktail menu, and rightly so, since they had a hand in creating it. I was extremely impressed with the creativity and ingenuity of the drinks featured on the signature craft cocktail and signature wine menus. Here are some highlights.
Hibiscus Gin Sour ($8): Made with hibiscus flavorings and gin. This is a refreshingly simple drink and one that I will definitely order again.
Smoked Old Fashion ($12): Made with whiskey and a live smoked hickory glass. Yes, a live smoked hickory glass! The bartender pulled out a plank of hickory, took a torch to it to start it smoking and then set a glass over the smoke. The effect was subtle and delicious. If you are a whiskey drinker, you must try this drink.
KoCo Rye ($12): Made with Chopin Rye vodka, champagne, red wine and fresh basil. The drink unfolds new flavors with each sip, none of which are overwhelming. One word to describe it: delightful.
Washington Pinch ($10): Made with scotch blended with red wine, maraschino and orange liqueur. The scotch and red wine balanced each other nicely, and it finished with a subtle citrus flavor.
Strawberry Basil Daiquiri ($8): Made with strawberry basil-infused rum added to a classic daiquiri recipe. This is definitely not your sorority girl daiquiri. It is made from scratch and catapulted to the top of our list once we sampled it.
But what about the food? As I read the menu, my heart rate quickened. There are so many items I wanted to try, each unique and inventive. It features a nice selection of shareable tapas plates, two cheese and meat board choices, soups and salads and four carefully crafted large plate options.
Here are a few of the highlights:
Olive Tapenade ($6): Kalamata and manzanilla olives blended with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, served with crostinis. This dish paired perfectly with our cocktails, and while it isn’t necessarily the most original dish on the menu, it was executed well – not too oily, not too bitter. We did have to ask for additional crostinis though, in order to finish the tapenade.
Port Wine Basil Paté ($7): Classic paté blended with Port wine and sweet basil garnish with gherkins, served on baguettes. When this emerged from the kitchen, I was underwhelmed by the presentation, but the flavor was spot on. I’d recommend smaller baguettes and with the gherkins on the side. The pickle flavor overpowered the paté a bit, so I removed them and nibbled them separately to enjoy both flavors.
Gourmet PB ’N’ J ($6): Bacon, Nutella, honey, black walnuts, raisins, raspberry preserves and chocolate chips served on cinnamon toast. Holy yum! I like all of these things on their own, but put them together and you have a flavor explosion. I highly recommend giving this dish a try, but certainly share it. It is sweetness overload.
Shrimp ’N’ Grits ($16): New Orleans-style shrimp with creamy Gouda cheese grits, topped with sunny-side-up egg and crisp prosciutto. When I asked Gary what his favorite dish is, he pointed to this one. I have had shrimp ’n’ grits at many restaurants across the country, and this one ranks up there with the best. Perhaps it’s the egg. Whatever it is, they got it right.
Ostrich Filet ($26): Seared tenderloin filets of ostrich, with a Cabernet demi-glace, served over horseradish Parmesan red skin smashed potatoes. Oddly enough, I grew up eating ostrich burgers in my rural hometown in Illinois and always enjoyed it. I had not, however, had an ostrich steak before, and it did not disappoint. Lean and flavorful, the ostrich paired well with the cabernet demi-glace and potatoes.
If you’re looking for a fun and different dining experience, give Wine Down a try. You may want to make a reservation if you plan to dine there during the weekend. I have heard the wait time for a table is over two hours..
Wine Down Tastings & Tapas
301 W. Jefferson Blvd.
4-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.;
4p.m.-12 midnight Fri.-Sat.
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Career Fair —Job and internship fair with more than 50 companies recruiting for over 1,000 positions, 12-3 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Walb Classic Ballroom, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 481-0689
Guided History Tour and Lunch — Tour of Allen County Courthouse and Swinney Homestead with lunch at the Homestead, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, March 23, tour begins at Allen Co. Courthouse, Fort Wayne, $25, 747-1501
Lizzie Shea — Premier of the Italian Friend ArtRuckus web-series featuring local actors and businesses, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, free, 424-7195
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Cloud Catcher w/Bison Machine, Big Money & The Spare Change — Rock/metal at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Crowder w/Britt Nicole, Tenth Avenue North, Andy Mineo, Colton Dixon, NewSong, Thousand Foot Krutch, OBB, Sarah Reeves, Steven Malcolm — Contemporary Christian at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $10, 483-1111
Marcus King Band — Blues at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $15-$30, 426-6434
Styx — Pop at Honeywell Center, Wabash, 7:30 p.m., $49-$125, 563-1102
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Columbia Street West Unplugged feat. George Gardner and Mitch Frazier — Acoustic at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke & DJ's — Karaoke at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8-10 p.m., no cover, 489-0286
IPFW Music Faculty and Friends Showcase Concert — Classical at Rhinehart Recital Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Jeff McDonald — Folk at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 489-2524
Jessica Brita-Segyde — Acoustic at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 625-1002
Lee Lewis All Stars — Blues/R&B at The Supper Club & Lounge, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 451-8223
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Conley at Mad Anthony Brewing Co., Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 426-2537
Open Stage Jam — Hosted by Pop 'n' Fresh at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., no cover, 478-5827
Outta Hand — Rock at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8-10 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Tronic — EDM at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
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Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 432-8966
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Variety at The Venue, Angola, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 665-3922
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Rack and Helen's, New Haven, 10 p.m., no cover, 749-5396
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9213
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 -.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Double Down, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 435-4567
Shotgun Prod. Karaoke — Variety at Paul's Pub, Kendallville, 10 p.m., no cover, 340-1318
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Ben — Karaoke at Spudz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-7292
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
An Exploration of Perspective — Multimedia works by Deborah Robinson Miller, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday, March 24-June 24 (artist reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 24), West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Liberations of Line & Matter — Digital works by Adam Meyer, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Overlapping in the Proximity of the Sublime — Works by Ashley Beatty, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Semantic Sequences — Exhibition of letterpress prints by Stephanie Carpenter, assistant director of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102