Images Courtesy of James Jackman (center), Maxon Media (left), and Maya Billing (right)
Miami is often characterized as a party city, with a drinking culture centered around flashy bottle service.
But the South Florida city also has a thriving wine scene. Many of these thoughtfully-curated wine programs, ensconced within some of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants and bars, are created and run by women.
Meet the seven female sommeliers who are setting the bar high in Miami.
Co-Founder, Partner and Sommelier, Vinya
At the onset of the pandemic, Vinya’s subscription wine boxes, which she paired with Instagram live tastings, were the silver lining for many during a very uncertain time.
The boxes were the brainchild of Vinya’s sommelier, Allegra Angelo, and CEO, Nick Garcia.
Originally from New Haven, Connecticut, Angelo cut her teeth in the hospitality space at the age of 14 as a busser at a country club. She first tasted wine roughly a decade later, while attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. In 2006, she moved to Miami after answering a Craigslist ad. It was for the then-new Michy’s, a restaurant from Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard Award-winning chef. Angelo began as a server and moved up to become a wine director. It was the beginning of her career in the Magic City.
In 2019, Vinya—a multi-faceted concept of e-commerce, wine shop, and restaurant and wine bar—came to fruition.
“We’d pop-up at residences with racks of glasses, coolers of wines and endless Vinya boxes, trying to spread the message of fine wine,” she recalls of the retail and wine bar’s beginnings.
Today, Vinya has locations in Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, where guests can enjoy Angelo’s selections from mainly France, Italy and Spain. The locations host “community bastion,” events where guests and industry tastemakers can build face-to-face relationships.
As for how they pick their wines, “We ask ourselves, ‘Is the wine sound and taste like the grape and its sense of place?’ ‘Is it delicious?’ ‘Does it offer value to our consumer?’ ‘Do we need it?’ ‘Can we sell it?’ Of course, there’s the X Factor,” says Angelo.
Favorite pairing: “Extra crispy French fries with a dash of truffle salt and a fine 1er Cru Chablis. Yum,” says Angelo.
Managing Partner, Beverage Director, Macchialina
It was through her brothers that Italy-born, U.S.-raised Jacqueline Pirolo got into wine and hospitality.
“My brother Fabrizio is my wine mentor; he has been in the wine industry for years,” she says. “While home in New York City on a college break in 2008, he took me out to eat. We popped open a bottle of Lambrusco, ordered salumi with gnocco fritto and Bolognese. The pairings were magical.”
When Jacqueline returned to her college in Oswego, New York, she searched for a similar bottle. Instead, she found a gallon jug of sweet Lambrusco and realized that “all wine is not created equal. The wine spark was then created.”