Originally posted March 29, 2022.
French Burgundy, Syrah, and Champagne: As a group, these are the one/two/three punch for which I rely on Mark Gambuzza, Key West’s “Wine Guy.”
Nobody in the Florida Keys comes close to Mark, where most restauranteurs know little to nothing about fine wine.
I buy 100% of my French Burgundy, Syrah, and Champagne from Mark, where his staggering new location at 605 Simonton St., Key West, makes it even easier for me to drop in.
By the way, when you stop for your first visit, know that the Wine Guy himself moved every single bottle of wine in the new shop from his former location. Mark, after a full day of fine wine intelligence and business at his former location, also did every splinter of woodworking and design in his shop. His former location was next to The Thirsty Mermaid, among our most visited restaurants in Key West. The Mermaid is #1.
Ok then, if you are now thirsty and perhaps hungry, lucky you. You have an opportunity to fix that.
You can visit and buy from Dick Young’s #1 Wine Guy. No one in the Florida Keys comes close to Mark Gambuzza in wine intelligence, effort, and integrity.
29 March 2022
Key West, 90 miles from Cuba
From Mark’s website:
My name is Mark Gambuzza. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in and around the NY area. Like many, I got my start in the restaurant business; juggling my studies for a degree in Business Management, while commuting to Manhattan for my bartending job.
Fortunately, in the mid 90’s, I was hired away to Red Bank NJ, where I was able to receive a free education to some of the finest wines in the world—thanks to the wine distributors’ classes and seminars held to educate their sales reps. After a few years, a co-worker and I pooled everything we had and opened a Tapas Restaurant, 2 blocks from the Steak House that we managed. That experience of opening a restaurant, dealing with construction, financial, marketing and negotiating sides, all made for valuable learning experiences. After 9 successful years, I was burned out by the hours and sold my share to my business partner.
In 2007, I met the love of my life, Dina. She was crazy enough to hop a plane with me in 2008 and elope, right on Smather’s Beach, across from the Key West Airport. When we returned for our 1st anniversary, Dina, too, got the bug to relocate, so two years later we sold our home, and moved to the Southernmost City.
Our Keys writes of UVA Wine and Mark:
While the literal translation of “Uva” is grape in both Spanish and Italian, in English I think it means “hidden gem”, or “don’t leave”, or perhaps, ‘“bring a date”.
Located at 519 Fleming in Old Town, Uva Gourmet Shoppe is owned and operated by local sommelier Mark Gambuzza and his wife, Dina.
A budding shop that specializes in boutique wines and cheeses, Uva is steps from Duval yet offers items found nowhere else in the Keys.
“The idea came from not being able to find the good stuff down here,” Gambuzza explains, while giving a generous pour of a French sauvignon blanc so good that it makes you want to lick the condensation off the bottle.
The mantra at Uva is to make estate-grown wines and cheeses accessible and familiar to the general public. In other words, you’re not going to find this stuff at Publix.
“I want you to come in and I’ll teach you how to order a good bottle of wine,” Gambuzza preaches.
In recent years, according to Gambuzza, consumers have become comfortable with buying wine and cheese in supermarkets. As such, they usually walk away with a mass-produced brand name variety that stems from California.
In contrast, at Uva, Gambuzza will educate you on the wine selection process, offer multiple suggestions, and coordinate pairings based on your taste and preference.
“If customers aren’t sure what they want, I like to turn them on to other things. And it’s usually French, Spanish, or Italian.
For locals looking to expand their wine and cheese repertoire, Uva offers free wine tastings conducted by Gambuzza himself. The only catch: you have to be in the Uva wine club. How do you become a member, you ask?
“If you frequent the store – you’re in,” Gambuzza says with a smirk.
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