Two friends who left their jobs to own and operate a wine bar are giving patrons an experience unlike anywhere else.
The two avid wine drinkers in Morgan Beaton and Andrew McGrotha recently opened the doors to the new Islamorada Wine Co. at the former Sea Grapes, located at MM 80.9 in Islamorada. From reds to rosés to whites, around 50 different bottle selections currently line the shelves. And more will be on the way, as Beaton said they’re looking to have 100 different labels by year’s end.
Add in the charcuterie boards, sandwiches and Sunday brunches, and Islamorada Wine Co. is quickly becoming a favorite spot for those eyeing a happy hour glass of wine, celebrating a special occasion or just out enjoying an evening with friends.
“Upscale relaxed is what we’ve been calling it,” said Beaton. “You can get dressed up, but you can also come in your shorts and T-shirt.”
Running a wine bar all originated from a vacation the two friends took to the Virgin Islands, said McGrotha, who moved to the Keys four years ago to run Mile Marker 88 in Islamorada where he served as general manager.
“We kind of randomly got paired up to share a cabin and we became fast friends,” he said. “We knew each other a little bit before. But on that trip, we started dreaming of owning a little bar.
“We joked about it for a good eight months to a year,” he continued. “When this place became available, Morgan heard about it and approached me.”
Beaton spent many years in the restaurant business, having opened Shrimp Shack with her mother, Jill, some nine years ago. Beaton said she knew the previous owners at Sea Grapes pretty well and jumped on the opportunity when it went up for sale.
“The previous owners offered it to me first and here we are,” she said. “I talked him (Andrew) into it really bad. We both have been talking about looking for something smaller, a little less pressure and stressful than what we’ve been dealing with for the last several years.”
Once the papers were signed, the two started in on the work of rebranding and preparing the wine bar for patrons. With design changes to the inside also came a bigger food menu that features appetizers, charcuterie boards and fresh salads. They opened on Oct. 10.
Beaton and McGrotha say the charcuterie has been the main hit. It comes with the choices of double creme brie, italian dry salami, balsamic onion parmesan and aged manchego, to name a few.
“We have things you can’t find around town like truffle pecorino, black truffle salami,” McGrotha said. “We just recently introduced a dessert board which was a huge hit. It has a little cheesecake, nutella, honey goat cheese, berries and breads and pretzels to dip into fun stuff.”
Patrons can make a meal out of their experience if meat and cheese isn’t their thing, by ordering a roast beef or an apple brie panini and appetizers like prosciutto-wrapped dates stuffed with honey goat cheese.
Beaton and McGrotha are also working to begin a wine member club.
“We will have a membership program where you can do wine tastings or wine and cheese pairings. People can pre-order cases of wine from the events and take advantage of discounts,” McGrotha said.
As for the wine selection, Beaton said they’re aiming to bring the “heavy hitters,” as well as those elevated bottles that people can’t get anywhere else.
“We’ve been having to put our personal preferences aside, and everything we order are big delicious cabs and zinfandels and all these awesome wines,” said Beaton, who noted her love for red wine. Even though they are avid wine drinkers, “it’s cool because we’re learning so much more about different products.”
Beaton and McGrotha say their wine bar, which can house 19 patrons inside and seven outside, has stayed busy since opening, between the locals who’ve returned and the out of towners who’ve found them on Facebook and Google. Beaton said even fishermen have stopped by to try some fine wines.
“They come in and support us and they drink stuff we never imagined someone drinking,” she said. “It’s hilarious and awesome getting people in wine culture that you would really not expect. Everybody’s happy when they’re drinking good wine.”
Islamorada Wine Co. is open Thursday to Monday. Sunday brunches are also offered. More information is at Islamorada Wine Co.’s Facebook page.