South Pasadena's Vino Simpatico should be on the to-do list of both wine connoisseurs and those who enjoy the occasional sip. Luckily, it still can be.
On Wednesday, first-time restaurant-bar owners Shawn Rae, Randy Buddemeyer and Dean Karikas celebrated the grand reopening of their newly refurbished boutique wine shop at 722 Pasadena Ave. The trio, who took over ownership back in May, are excited for their new adventure. They get to drink wine as part of their job (sign me up!), for starters. Every Tuesday, the gang tastes a lineup of wines brought in by various vendors, choosing which ones they want to feature that week.
Aside from a healthy remodel that can now accommodate private parties, the updated Vino Simpatico also added beer coolers for patrons who'd prefer a cold craft beer.
"We wanted to take advantage of St. Pete's craft brews," said Shawn Rae's wife, Angela, "so we're working with different vendors."
The real story here is wine, of course. While you can pop in to buy a bottle anytime during business hours — prices range from $11 to top-shelf offerings that go for more than $1,100 — you'll want to head there on a Thursday for regular wine tastings, or on a Friday or Saturday for happy hour. Let's break that down.
On Thursdays, $10 scores all tasting participants a really nice pour, plus they have the opportunity to learn some things, according to Angela.
"We actually have our sommeliers who come in and get to feature their wines on Thursday nights. It's kind of educational," she said.
Happy hour between 6 and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays brings select wines by the glass (and some bottles) to Vino Simpatico — at a discount. There's always a nice spread of cheese, Boar's Head sausages, crackers, hummus, olives and the like to munch on, and members of the shop's six wine clubs don't have to pay a corkage fee, either.
"As a member, you get tastings for free every Thursday night. Happy hour, you get a free glass of wine or the $5 cork fee waived," Angela said. "You also get 10 percent off wine bottles, depending on your club."
And there really is a club for everyone, whether you want to explore bottles approved by the most respected wine critics in the world (90+ Point Club), an assortment from different regions (Discovery, West Coast, Old World or California Big Red clubs), or exquisite wines in a category all their own (Top Shelf Club).
For Tampa Bay residents who love wine, the allure of Vino Simpatico is simple: wine. The owners work with vendors, including wineries, from all over the world to curate their boutique collection, aka wines that have a limited barrel. Think you'll find the same kind at Publix? You won't. It's one of the highlights that sets this place apart.
"We just wanted to make it super, super friendly and comfortable," Angela said.
We'll be right over.