Most restaurant wine lists do a good job of impersonating a grocery store wine shelf. The brands are familiar. The basic reds and whites are there. Some options are cheaper than others. You get the picture.
Other restaurant wine lists, however, like the one guests will find at Mesa de Notte Italian restaurant in Ocala, tell a far more engaging story. It’s a list—big on options—that offers both familiar choices and new options for the culinary explorer.
“We started out with a basic wine list back in 2011 of 30 wines,” says owner Jose Moreno. “But we offer more than 120 wines currently, and we are expanding our list.”
The 120-plus-bottle wine list (with 35 wines served by the glass) is filled with wines from around the world, with a strong focus on domestic Cabernet Sauvignon and Italian varietals.
Napa Cabernet lovers will be at home, with top-tier producers, such as Far Niente, Jordan, Hewitt and Groth on the restaurant’s “Capitana” (Captain’s) List as well as a range of value-oriented domestic reds. And naturally, there are several domestic whites available, as well, including a few standouts from Napa’s neighbor, Sonoma.
But as interesting as these domestic options are, Mesa de Notte differentiates itself by offering an impressive collection of Italian classics, red and white, to pair with their food menu. These include Sangiovese (grape)-based wines from Tuscany, such as Chianti and Chianti Classicos. But one can find wine examples from many different Italian regions.
From the Veneto region, one can indulge in a bottle of Amarone—an intensely rich, but dry, style of red wine made from dried grapes. Or, if one desires a wine with both elegance and power, one can opt for a Barolo, made from the Nebbiolo grape, affectionately called the wine of tar and roses.
Not a dry wine fan? Not a problem.
If there are sweet wine lovers in the group, encourage them to order a glass of Moscato or even “blood wine.” This is a sweet, semi-sparkling, low-alcohol red wine that tastes of black cherries and is curiously called Sanque di Guido (Blood of Judas). (Legend is, the Italian monks who invented this style of wine gave it a scary name to scare people away from drinking too much.)
Of course, there are many traditional Italian favorites that don’t require a backstory to fully enjoy.
“Drink what you like,” says Kelly Adams, general manager. “Pinot Grigio is a versatile wine that you can enjoy on its own or with a light dish, like a salad or even a Pizza Margherita.”
Are you a creature of comfort or an Anthony Bourdain wanna-be? Whatever your personal dining style, it’s comforting to know that one can find both familiar flavors and interesting new ones on the same wine list—and in the same place—at Mesa de Notte.
To build your own vino adventure, visit their website at mesaocala.com or make a reservation via Open Table.