Hot Weather, Big Wines at Vagabond in Miami


Jack Colombo

Check pretty much any list of best new restaurants or bars in Miami, and you’ll likely find a common name: Vagabond. The retro-modern space was completely overhauled for 2015, and with equal parts old-school cool and hip chic as a part of the Vagabond Hotel, the restaurant’s menu and wine list are all about one thing: Flavor, Miami style. It’s such a hit they’re also in the running for Eater’s Miami Restaurant of the Year (vote here!). 

Jack Colombo, a certified sommelier who also created a remarkably inventive cocktail menu at Vagabond, has been around the block when it comes to smash-hit restaurants and bars. He’s tended bar and managed at Nobu and SoHo House before landing at Vagabond, where he and chef Alex Chang put their creativity together to shake up the Miami food and drink scene.

“The wine trends in Miami are changing a lot,” Colombo tells us. “Luckily I work at a place now where people are advanced. People know their wine lists now, and everyone has a cell phone, so you have to give a better value now. They’ll look up a bottle on a wine app and call you out on it.”

So what makes Miami different from other regions where people are wine-savvy? Their roots … and penchant for red wines in scorching heat.

“Miami has such a South American influence that they still drink their big red wines, even if it’s 100 degrees out on the patio… Someone will still get the biggest red if they’re just having a salad. As much as you try to coax them, that’s what they want, ” Colombo laughs. “There are also a lot of people with traces back to Spain, and they’ll ask for Tempranillo or Verdejo and those wines more than other regions.”

One distinguishing factor that the Vagabond has in terms of food-and-wine pairing options is Chang’s food menu, which goes all over the globe: Thailand, Mexico, Cuba, China, Morocco. There’s all sorts of oddities to please the more adventurous eaters out there, be it roasted grasshoppers mixed in with spiced peanuts, or organ-centric dishes like sweetbreads or beef heart. While that challenge might send some sommeliers into a sweat — which is likely in Miami on any given day — Colombo thinks that’s the perfect opportunity.

“It makes it fun because you’re trying to get a lot of different things — not just your common wine list. We tried to think about all the dishes and not get anything too overpowering.”

So, with two Ribera del Duero wines — a ValSotillo crianza and the famed Vega Sicilia Valbuena — currently available (Jack is currently tweaking the wine list, so stay tuned…), Jack gives us his tips that would make anyone, Spaniard or not, a happy, happy eater.

If you can get the Vega Sicilia and the bone-in short rib, you’re going to be in heaven.

The grilled Iberico diafragma, marinated‎ in condensed milk and served with green papaya salad.

The grilled Iberico diafragma.

“The ValSotillo is great — that could take the ride through the whole menu. The jerk chicken wings, then into the gnocchi, then the skirt steak. A lot of the wines I picked in the beginning, I picked them for that reason, and this wine is a great value.”

If value isn’t a concern, unleash your inner baller and  order up the infamous Vega Sicilia.

“If you can get the Vega Sicilia and the bone-in short rib, you’re going to be in heaven. You can’t get much better than that,” Jack says of the restaurant’s 16-ounce bone-in beef bomb, served with Mexican garnishes. “Also, because we try to get regional with our pairings, we have the grilled Iberico dish. If I can pair something regionally, I think that’s always great.”

If you live in or near Miami, or if you’ll be ditching the cold weather this winter for a vacation there, you’re going to want to taste what Vagabond is plating and pouring. Find out more and make reservations here.

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