Last Night: The Ritz-Carlton's Wine Room and Scotch Bar


New Times was graciously invited to an evening of pampering and boozing last night courtesy of the Ritz-Cartlon Fort Lauderdale's (semi) new and much improved wine bar. And it went.... well, how do you think it went? We were pampered. We were boozed. It was an all around lovely evening, and I would spend every night sipping champagne and getting my feet rubbed with organic cane sugar if I had that kind of disposable income. As it were, though, the Wine Room, with a cellar capacity of 5000 bottles, is really something to talk about.

Ritz-Carlton took over the St. Regis Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach this past August, and have made a lot of changes in service and amenities. I never spent a lot of time at the St. Regis, but the Ritz-Carlton's version of the wine bar is really a treat. First off, they've brought in veteran sommelier Sven Vogtland, who most recently stocked the cellars at Ritz-Carlton hotels in St. Thomas and Vietnam. The guy's a wealth of information. My partner for the evening and I joked that we learned more about wine and scotch talking to Sven for one hour than everything we'd learned before that. Actually, that's not far off. Sven really put the massive collection at the RC -- currently fluctuating at around 2500 bottles -- into perspective. They have an impressive selection of auction only wines, 100% Cabernet Sauvignons that are rare and expensive, and bottles stretching in price from $20 to over $9000. That means the hotel has something for everyone: the veteran wine enthusiast can drop in and pick up some bottles that only a hotel with this kind of buying power could procure. Someone looking for a Penfolds Grange Shiraz, the wine that put Australia on the map, says Sven, might want to sample from their series of 1998 upward. And for the casual wine fan, who might not know exactly what they're looking for, the cellar has a nice selection of mid-priced wines from Chile and Argentina that are among the best value bottles in the world.

Moving on to scotch, the Wine Room also has a rather nice selection of common single malt like Glenfiddich and Glenlivit of varying years, but they also have some rare selections too. We sampled a Talisker 175 year anniversary blend that was heady and full of leather and ash aromas. Not bad, says I, but my partner loved it. A pour of Oban 14 year was, for me, a fairly newbie scotch enthusiast admittedly, mind-blowingly great. Clean, complex, but not at all the kind of scotch that hits you in the mouth. Instead it almost melted on the tongue, dissipating slowly and leaving the sides of your mouth tingling slightly. Just stellar. Others, like a $2000-a-shot bottle of Macallan Lalique or a 1964 Glenlivit commanding $250 for an ounce, were much more rare. Vogtland hopes to also be receiving a bottle of rare, Remy Martin scotch culled from a just-discovered 100-year old barrel found in the recesses of one of the maker's cellars. I'm told 50 bottles have been produced from the barrel, and at $20,000 a pop the Wine Room might be one of the only places in the region where you can taste it -- well, if you have the coin, that is.

The bar itself is a comforting mix of dark wood and leather, like any good scotch and wine bar should be. Alas, it's missing the telltale fireplace, but we'll forgive that considering it's on the beach. You could comfortably lounge for hours in the ultra-plush cream chairs, and I'd imagine you could work up a serious drunk as well. I hope to be spending some more time there in the future, and I definitely want to pick Sven Vogtland's brain some more, and maybe even tell you folks about it. Until then, definitely consider checking the Wine Room out.

Oh, and the Spa is quite amazing too. On our way out, my guest commented, "This is the kind of thing that French Revolutionaries used to kill for." I couldn't have summed it up better myself.

-- John Linn

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