Incredible edibles: The Best Cellar
Benjamin Rusnak/Courtesy / October 25, 2012
(Did you notice that the picture of Richard Stetler was taken through a wine glass!)
A peek inside some of South Florida's unique food shops.
Wow factor: A pink neon sign in the window reads "Fine Wine & Tastings" next to the Old Florida Seafood House. The attractive and inviting shop with dark-wood accents is a welcome contrast to the strip plaza outside. A 10-seat lounge greets you in the front, and three large tables for tastings dominate the room. The small bar to the right is punctuated by an 1860s stained-glass window from England.
The shop sells 350 rotating wines, mostly from small estate vineyards, and doubles as a wine bar. Customers can buy a bottle and sit down to savor it without a corkage fee. The wine-tasting events for $20 conform to a sit-down educational format with a list of 12 to 15 wines to sample and discuss as they are poured while guests snack on cheese, crackers and French bread from Croissan' Time. A mix of 10 to 40 newbies and connoisseurs typically turn out, and the most serious night is Wednesday, which includes collectors and some distributors who help owner Richard Stetler decide which wines to stock. Regulars on this night bring their own bottle to share. The events often kick off with a champagne reception, and customers who buy at least six bottles afterward receive 10 percent off.
"I've had some of the same people here every week for the past 15 years," says Stetler.
Quote: "This is definitely boutique. ... Ninety percent of my business is the wine tastings. Every night is priceless. I have people who meet here and get married. It's a lot of fun, and that's why I'll still be doing this when I'm 90," says Stetler.
Background: Stetler, whose mother is from France, grew up back and forth between Paris and Philadelphia. His father met her when he was a soldier in World War II. They owned a French restaurant in Pennsylvania, and Stetler began drinking wine when he was 8 years old because of the European influence. After moving to Broward County, he worked as a maitre d' at high-end hotel restaurants - the Cypress Room and Windows on the Ocean before opening The Best Cellar in 1998. Three years ago, he moved the shop from around the corner to gain more space and parking. He hosts various organizations and charity events as well. ...
"Since people realized the health benefits of red wine, they have not been drinking as much white," says Stetler, who marks up his wine 15 percent to 20 percent.
If you go
The Best Cellar, 1408 N.E. 26th St., Wilton Manors, 954-630-8020, beaconmgmt.com/rsfwt
Hours: 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; wine tastings start at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
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