My wine expertise is limited. While I consider myself a red wine lover (maybe even enthusiast), I'm far from an aficionado or connoisseur; my selection boils down to strolling the grocery store wine aisle and selecting a bottle based on my budget (small) and the wine label (needs to be eye catching!).
As a red wine lover with limited wine knowledge beyond "that label is pretty," I was excited with a small twinge of intimidation when I first visited Corkbuzz in the SouthPark area. The restaurant and wine bar is Corkbuzz's third location (behind two in New York City). Though it focuses on wine, the chef-driven menu is just as important to co-owners Frank Vafier and Laura Maniec.
The emphasis on wine makes sense when you look at co-owner Maniec's credientials. Maniec is a master sommelier; fewer than 250 people have earned this level of wine expertise and Maniec is one of 33 females to hold the certification. While this all sounds a little intimidating, Corkbuzz's philosophy on wine is relaxed, with a focus on "enjoying wine and talking about wine in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and never intimidated," according to the website.
But aside from its wine bar feel, Corkbuzz is much more. In fact, Vafier and Maniec refer to it as a wine studio: a happy blended recipe of a wine bar, wine-centric restaurant, home base for wine education and event space perfect for special events, wine dinners and other parties. While the wine selection is an important element of Corkbuzz's experience (with more than 35 choices by the glass and 150 by the bottle), the food is worthy of diving into.
Serving up a fusion of European and American cuisine with a nod to seasonal and local ingredients (their menu rotates based on what is available, and pays homage to Carolina and Southern cuisine), food and wine pairings are described as an "an integral part of the experience at Corkbuzz."
Deciding on my order at Corkbuzz has proven to be the most difficult task during all of my visits to the restaurant because the menu descriptions have me drooling and debating over what to eat.
The grilled octopus with housemade herb dumplings, bacon, macadamia nuts, and whipped feta is a standout, and the pasta always tempts me (the parmesean gnocchi that's currently on the menu with turnips, swiss chard, mushroom and poached egg sounds heavenly). The Waygu beef sirloin is hard to turn down; how could you say no to cheddar bacon grits and smoked ricotta? One of my go-to orders when I just can't seem to make a decision is one of Corkbuzz's most popular dishes, the signature Bourguignon burger. With a slight nod to Julia Child, this juicy masterpiece comes dripping with goodness including red wine fondue and bacon-mushroom relish.
And I dare you to walk away without dessert; it's definitely difficult to resist a plate of ricotta doughnuts, bourbon chocolate cake or an assortment of cheese to finish of your meal.
Corkbuzz is a pleasing, sophisticated addition to the Charlotte dining scene; it's a place I'd love to linger and spend hours sipping and savoring. Besides dinner, Corkbuzz serves up lunch, brunch, wine education classes, special winemaker dinners, and through September, Sunday clambakes.
The latter ($50 per person with a mimimum party of four) is served family-style with wine specially selected and paired with the meal. Offerings include salads, dessert, sides and dishes of honor like wild NC little neck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels, wild NC shrimp, and andouille sausage.
Chrissie Nelson is a public defender by day and a food blogger by night. Read about her foodventures, restaurant reviews and other Charlotte musings at offtheeatenpathblog.com.