BOTTLE SHOTS: Memphis road trip fills the urge to travel in wine

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Nothing has been easy over the past couple of years, but one of the most difficult things for me personally about the pandemic has been its impact on my ability to travel safely. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 46 states and over 20 countries – sitting at home on the couch just isn’t in my nature. Recently, as things started to reopen, I spent a little more time rediscovering some of the towns within driving distance of Little Rock.

One of the highlights of these road trips was diving head first into the food and wine renaissance that is taking place just across the river in Memphis. For so long, Memphis was where I drove rather than drive (I’m sure Memphis locals say the same about Little Rock), but the city’s restaurant scene is full of fantastic restaurants and, I was happy to see, many high quality wine lists. If you’re also feeling the “dear god let me go absolutely anywhere” blues, here are some of my favorite places in town to pop a bottle:

Knifebird Wine Bar (knifebirdwinebar.com)

If you enjoy drinking top-notch wine in an instantly instagrammable setting, the Knifebird Wine Bar in trendy Cooper-Young is for you. A myriad of wine flights are perfect for the undecided, and their wine list from around the world (and friendly staff) make it easy to step out of your comfort zone.

The Gray Canary (thegraycanary.com)

Of all the restaurants in Memphis, The Gray Canary is perhaps the one I always look forward to returning to, and with a menu that draws inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic and a raw bar that’s always on the cutting edge. , it’s easy to see why. The wine list here is diverse with a pan-Mediterranean accent, but I always come back to their Canary Island choices.

117 First (117prime.com)

The traditional steakhouse can seem stuffy at times in our do-it-for-the-gram world, but the team behind 117 Prime eschews the required tuxedo atmosphere and creates a leisurely luxury experience. Best of all, they make it easy to pair your meal with one of the city’s most comprehensive wine lists. The list begins with a fine selection of champagnes from producers and offers a real “who’s who” of world-class Californian cabernets.

Catherine and Marie (catherineandmarys.com)

It was a trip to Catherine and Mary’s that piqued my curiosity for the Bluff City food scene. The restaurant’s Italian wine list showcases the almost endless diversity of the country’s wines. I got to know their huge selection of Italian nebbiolo, and if you know what’s going on, you will.

Ikea (ikea.com/us/en/stores/memphis)

Okay, not really. The Memphis Ikea store doesn’t actually sell wine, but this might be my only chance to cry Swedish fruit wine in this column. None are available in Arkansas (or Tennessee), but if you ever find a bottle, grab it, find me, and let’s drink it together!

As always, you can see what I’m drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your questions and quibbles about wine to [email protected]



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