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It looks like a regular wine shop. But The Wine Shoppe, located just off N. Dale Mabry in the CineBistro shopping center in Carrollwood, is so much more.

Wine girl that I am, I wandered into the shop recently to see what was on the shelves. I was amazed to find, not just bottles for purchase, but an inviting bar area at the center of a cozy space with 32 different wines to taste and enjoy in 1-, 3-, or 6-ounce pours. White overstuffed couches were arranged living room-style to allow for sipping, nibbling and listening to live entertainment on the weekends.

General Manager Pedro Moreno told me that this new and improved location of The Wine Shoppe has only been open for six months. I decided I had to return on a Saturday evening to partake in the full experience.

Upon arriving on that rainy Saturday, I was welcomed warmly by Pedro, who immediately showed me how to use the charge card to sample the different varieties of wine. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

A refrigerated section with whites and reds lines one wall, while the bolder reds are showcased on a circular wooden display table that grabs your attention as soon as you walk in.  If you are a fan of Cabernet, Merlot or other red varieties, the selection includes Silver Oak, Jordan, Rutherford Ranch, Caymus, Chianti, Quintessa (which retails at $259.99 a bottle) and even a ’92 Château Haut-Brion, which costs $50 for 1 ounce. The refrigerated wines were just as enticing, with such labels as Nickel & Nickel, Cakebread, Rombauer and a Kendall Jackson Rosé.

Sitting at the bar area enjoying my wine, I browsed the menu for Michael’s Grill next door. The Wine Shoppe and Michael’s have a partnership; order food from the restaurant and they’ll walk it right over.

Entrees include pasta dishes, salmon, chicken, filet mignon with wild mushroom sauce, and blackberry duck — not your typical menu for a wine shop.

We decided to sample several appetizers. The Escargot Burgundy grabbed my attention immediately. Baked in a mushroom cap with burgundy garlic wine sauce and topped with a puffed pastry, it was absolutely delicious. So were the crispy calamari with sweet chili sauce, honey, lemon aoli and wasabi slaw. Jeff’s Fried Brie with strawberry habañero sauce was a wonderful complement to the trio.

When the live entertainment started at 7 p.m., people started wandering in, and by 8 the place was humming as patrons listened to music and enjoyed the warm inviting atmosphere.  In the cooler months there is an outside seating area with patio furniture adorned with soft upholstered cushions highlighted by twinkling lights above.

The other benefit to shopping at The Wine Shoppe is that you can taste several wines you may not have had before, and then purchase a bottle from the retail side and open it there to enjoy with no corkage fee.

I asked Pedro about my favorite, Opus One, and was told it had sold out. It’s such an exclusive wine that each location can get only six bottles, which retail for $349 each. Pedro told me that Carrollwood Day School had hosted an event at The Wine Shoppe for 50 guests, with Opus One on the circular display table to taste. Before the end of the night, all six bottles were gone.

I would highly recommend exploring The Wine Shoppe on the weekends for their live entertainment, or during the week for one of their happy hour or evening specials. Or if you just want to stop in for a wonderful bottle of wine, try and taste what they have showcased, and then purchase something special to take home — it may become your new favorite place.

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