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Earlier this summer, the highly-acclaimed event Wine Bar Wars came to the Design District’s Moore Building. It’s the first time the event has ever taken place outside of New York City — and the Design District’s own team reigned victorious.

The one-of-a-kind competition required sommeliers to build a bar using 32 of Chile’s wines, including at least four LAN Premium Business wines, and find design inspiration from one of four tourism destinations within Chile including The North, The Central Valley, The Lakes and Volcanoes region and Patagonia.

Wine Bar Wars

The four team captains, chosen by the Guild of Sommeliers, were filled with accomplished wine connoisseurs from throughout South Florida, with team ‘Natural Roots,’ helmed by the Certified Sommelier of the Fontainebleau’s Hakkasan, Brian Grandison, who used to be the head sommelier at Michael’s Genuine, along with the Genuine Hospitality Group’s Eric Larkee, Danny Toral of 50 Eggs and Kirsta Grauberger of Market 17 and Day Market Kitchen, taking home the grand prize.

But plenty went into that victory as Larkee explained.

Wine Bar Wars

Nine days before the event took place all four teams gathered to do a wine “draft” for their respective bars where they were tasked with tasting 70 different Chilean wines, while filling out a quiz about Chilean wines, completing a map of Chilean wine regions and blind tasting the wine. Then each team had to pick their wines quickly based on the results of the draft.

The day of the event the four competing teams had from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. to build out their wine concept bar inside the Moore Building. Then they had to pour a variety of Chilean wines to the more than 500 attendees for close to five hours.

Wine Bar Wars

So what made the Natural Roots bar stand out in the sea of wine-loving aficionados in order for them to take home the top prize? Larkee credits the laid-back feel of the bar and its interactive U-shape design. 

“We wanted it to feel like a bar. We took that very literal. We didn’t want to get too fancy or overthink it,” he adds.

Ultimately the pop-up wine bars were evaluated on wine selection and knowledge, service/hospitality, originality of concept and execution by a panel including Geoff Kruth Chief Operating Officer Guild of Sommeliers; Ernesto Echeverry, Marketing Director of LATAM Airlines Group, USA, Canada and Caribbean; Ingrid Hoffman celebrity chef, author, and host of Top Chef Estrellas Telemundo; and Charlie Arturaola, Certified Sommelier and designated Chevalier by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagnes, Wine Communicator of the Year at the IWSC, UK by VINITALY, and Confraria dos Vinhos do Porto. Thirsty guests got to cast their votes, too.

Wine Bar Wars

The event was a success and showed how much the food and beverage community has come in Miami in the past few years. Larkee hopes the event will return soon to the Design District, but until then plans to enjoy his rightfully won Chilean vacation.

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