Not terribly recently, meaning quite a few years ago, it was already starting to become known among native Miamians that locals don’t really go to South Beach anymore. Sobe had started to become a big, bland, overly commercialized tourist trap, and it was starting to attract the type of tourists who like that. Of course, over the past few years we’ve seen businesses stop the downwards spiral dead in its tracks with sophisticated hotels, restaurants, and bars that seem to cater to savvy tourists and locals, alike. It can now be said that while South Beach still has a lot of style, it no longer seems to tower over substance as it seemed to have done in the past. The best part is that a lot of venues have finally come to terms with the economic situation we’re in and now seem to cater to a wider range of patrons, which means more places are more accessible to more of us, and yet they still maintain that glamour for which we continue to go to South Beach. If there is one place in South Beach that can be held as an example of this refreshingly accessible SoBe, it’s WD 555, an expansive wine bar and shop that is worlds away from the stereotypes of the beach and affordable enough to make it a weekly habit.
Just north of 5th Street on Jefferson Avenue, WD 555 is one of those places that you have probably driven by countless times while trying to search for parking. Anyone who has been to South Beach at least once is probably breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about the parking situation, which is perhaps one of the chief draws to WD 555 before one even steps into the door. This place not only has a dedicated parking lot and no mandatory valet, but it is free! It’s as if manager Emmanuel Pelletier knew that if he can eliminate that stress, the customer is already happy.
Of course, a destination shouldn’t be judged on free parking alone. There is, of course, ambiance, which is another thing that WD 555 has done exceptionally well. The interior is expansive and elegant, with a large u-shaped bar dominating the front of the wine shop and racks of carefully-selected bottles lining the rear. Acting as a buffer between the racks and bar is a smattering of high top tables in light woods that echo the flooring and the shelves of wines. Towards the north end of the restaurant is a vintage room that houses a long tasting table, as well as some of their more coveted bottles.
Almost as if stumbling upon a secret garden, one passes through double doors on the South side of the spacious room to find a large white courtyard dominated by two young lime trees and bistro tables. The rear wall is lined with vines climbing up trellises and bearing wine grapes to add to ambiance and remind patrons that WD 555 is a wine complex - a place where enophiles can take refuge.
Going out to enjoy a bottle of good wine has typically been something that carried a hefty price tag, at least in Miami. Inversely, if one did manage to find an affordable venue, ambiance was typically the first thing that had to be sacrificed. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about WD 555 is that if you truly enjoy wine - even if you don’t know much about it - you do not need to make any concessions here. You can have your wine and drink it, too.
Not only is there a friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff that will help you pick the the perfect wine, but their bottles are affordable and most good bottles of wine will hover around the $20 mark. This makes trying a new wine something very doable for those who are just starting to explore. A Château Vieux Meillac from Bordeaux, for example, is only $19 and has an impressive 89 points, as well as complex flavors from a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.
A bottle of Cheval Noir St Emilion AOC is only $24 a bottle and exhibits red berries and cinnamon - a perfect wine to be paired with grilled meats. Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises is a bottle of Viridian Pinot Noir from Oregon that sells for $22 a bottle and had a surprisingly pleasant fragrance of fresh lychee to it. And these are just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast array of affordable wines that WD 555 has to offer to enjoy on site or at home.
It is obvious that they have a soft spot for Rosés, especially those from southern France. A Château Maïme from Côtes de Provence ($18 a bottle) is crisp, refreshing, and definitely far away from the fruity blush wines one typically associates with Rosés. WD 555 has built up an impressive collection of southern French Rosés, and to win over Miami to what is perhaps the wine best suited to our climate, they have recently launched a weekly Pink Friday celebration where patrons can sample $5 glasses of Rosé and $1 tapas with a live DJ from Paris from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
While the emphasis at WD 555 is definitely kept on the wines, no experience here is complete without sampling a few of their tapas, all of which pair gorgeously with the wines. Definitely veering more towards what would be popular in France, but with a definite Mediterranean slant, small plates include skewers of grilled haloumi and grapes, as well as merguez sausage and tomatoes. Skewers of perfectly grilled filet mignon drizzled with truffle oil are heavenly and actually make one want a sip of a tannic red wine. Shrimp with a citrus beurre blanc are also very delicious and perfectly cooked, but perhaps the most luxurious tapa consists of toasted slices of baguette topped with house-made torchon de foie gras and an onion confiture. While manager Emmanuel Pelletier insists that WD 555 is all about the wines, it really is hard to forget some of these perfectly-executed and well thought out small plates.
So, if there ever is proof of a changing South Beach that retains its sophistication, downplays the party vibe, and makes things accessible to all, WD 555 is definitely it! With a beautiful locale, helpful staff, a great and extremely affordable selection wines, delicious nibbles, and free parking, there is little excuse to make this a regular meeting place...even if it is just by yourself.
555 Jefferson Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Open from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM Monday through Friday
Open Saturday from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM