Long a go-to stop on the local craft-beer map, the triangle-shaped, Spanish-style building that popular bar Laser Wolf calls home in downtown Fort Lauderdale soon will become a destination for wine lovers, too.
Located in the city’s up-and-coming Progresso neighborhood, facing the lively MASS District and Flagler Village just across the FEC/Brightline railroad tracks, the Sidewalk Bottle Shop should be open in about six weeks.
The shop is tucked into the interior corner of the nearly 100-year-old, L-shaped building on Progresso Drive at Northeast Third Avenue, sharing a grassy, tree-dotted courtyard with Laser Wolf and other tenants. The terrace is set for an imminent remodel, and it’s easy to see the space becoming one of the more engaging outdoor venues in the area.
Befitting its location among a new wave of youthful, venturesome downtown dwellers, the shop will cater to a buzzy subculture of drinkers, specializing in natural wine. Essentially this means wine untainted by pesticides, additives and preservatives — just fermented grapes (often handpicked) and native, naturally occurring yeasts.
Sidewalk Bottle Shop is the first retail venture for co-owners David Lopez, 34, and Nicolas Riveira, 36, friends since their high school days in Pembroke Pines.
Lopez comes to the project after years in the spirits distribution industry in South Florida, including a recent stint as a Miami-Fort Lauderdale rep for City Beautiful Beverage Co., which specializes in natural wine.
The genre has exploded as consumers have become more focused on everything they are putting into their bodies, Lopez says. But, he admits, for most people, that’s secondary to the taste.
“It’s kind of going back to the roots of winemaking, where there’s nothing added, nothing taken away. It’s just a grape-to-bottle thing. It’s a better drink for you, but it has better flavor profiles as well,” Lopez says. “I got hooked as soon as I started drinking it.”
Lopez and Riveira began working on the Sidewalk Bottle Shop two years ago, seeing the popularity of natural wine “blowing up” in Miami.
They were not alone in noticing the trend: The Small Wine Shop opened last summer in Flagler Village, at 410 N. Andrews, with a focus on natural wines.
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The industrial-chic interior of Sidewalk Bottle Shop will include a tiled bar, some sofa seating and a bank of shelves that will hold 400 bottles from more than 100 winemakers, along with a refrigerated case where bottles will chill. Expect a food truck to be set up outside the door on Northeast Ninth Street.
Sidewalk Bottle Shop will offer wines from a variety of sources (Lopez is excited by new bottles from Slovenia, the Basque Region and Texas), including red, white and trendy orange. They’ll also have a selection of naturally sparkling pétillant naturel wines, known as pet-nats.
Lopez moved from Miami to Flagler Village a month ago to be close to the shop, but also because he feels at home in the neighborhood. Colorfully inked, with a thick beard, Lopez is familiar with area dining and drinking hot spots, his list of favorites including Laser Wolf, Roxanne’s Liquor Bar & Kitchen, Here & Now and Heritage.
“I’ve always loved this area. It’s kind of off the beaten path, but it’s across the street,” Lopez says.