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Best wine bar: the story behind the premium wine at The Vault at West Palm Beach Brewery

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Looking for the best wine bar in Palm Beach which has wine you simply won’t find anywhere else?  Hop on over to The Vault, which is the wine bar + retail wine store at the West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault, 332 Evernia Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.  Here’s why.

  1. Premium Wine.  His goal is to not only create a great craft brewery, but also the best wine bar in south Florida.  What?  Yes, this craft brewery was started by a wine guy.   “We source our wine from the finest vineyards in America” says West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault  owner John Pankauski. “Over the last two vintages, I purchased about 22 tons of grapes just from Santa Barbara vineyards alone, including some of the top Pinot Noir, Grenache, Chardonnay and Syrah vineyards in the country.”  Pankauski and his wine maker, Ken Brown, of Ken Brown Wines, http://www.KenBrownWines.comare not only passionate on crafting premium wine, but they are focused on specific sites within those award winning vineyards. “These vineyards have the top grapes which create 90+ point wines.  We zero in on specific blocks and rows before I contract for grapes.  Ken Brown knows those vineyards like the back of his hand.”  Indeed, he is focused on his wine mission in South Florida. “I would like to be politely clear.  The West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault offers premium wine that is carefully crafted with sincerity and passion from America’s finest vineyards.  It’s also important to know what we are NOT.  We are not some mass produced, flabby wine to provide an alternative for those that don’t consume craft beer.  We are about quality and uniqueness, not production or distribution.” 
  2. Limited Production.  Pankauski, whose brewery does not distribute its award winning craft beer, https://www.westpalmbeer.com/our-beers/  likewise is not interested in being a Total Wine or a large scale producer.  “That’s not my passion nor my model.  I always wanted to create premium and super-premium wine.  To do it right, it takes focus, time and money.  So, I’ve started out small.”   Indeed. Pankauski’s wine offerings at his best wine bar in the Palm Beach area has limited quantities.  His Pankauski Cellars label of wines is predominantly Napa-based and serves as the backbone to trying to create the best wine bar in Palm Beach.   The Drum Canyon Cellars label is limited to the top drawer Pinots, white wines and Rhone varietals sourced from the Santa Barbara County area: Sta Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley, Los Olivos, Santa Maria, Ballard Canyon and Happy Canyon–  all AVAs found in the “Sideways” wine country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPKdHP8zWuo  The offerings at this wine bar tasting room have quantities which range from 25 cases for an incredible Coombsville, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to a 2017 Drum Canyon Cellars Sauvignon Blanc at 170 cases. His famous Dad’s Blend, a nod to his late father, whose photograph in his World War II Marine Corp uniform is the front label, tops out at 300 cases.    And even then, he does not produce a Dad’s Blend every vintage. “I only produce a Dad’s Blend when mother nature and the land give us an amazing vintage.  It’s always a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon red wine blend, and we blend in small amounts of other varietals to craft a delicious, big Napa Cab blend for that particular vintage.” 
  3. Un-apologetic Passion for Great Wine.  Pankauski is defiant and steadfast on what he’s trying to do at his best wine bar.  Since moving to Palm Beach from Boston over 22 years ago, he was sick and tired of drab, un-inspiring wine offerings at area restaurants.  “I want to bring premium wine to South Florida and show you that it does not take a lot of money to drink great wine.  It just takes access.”  Pankauski has the access, from Napa to Santa Barbara, and now up to Washington State, where he has developed relationships and friendships with wine makers, winery owners and vineyard managers across the years, miles and all varietals.  Look for a brand new Florida 5 Series of elegant red wines    from Washington State to be released at his charitable event, the Pankauski Pour, on March 1, 2019– a block party out in the street in front of the brewery for the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.  http://www.legalaidpbc.org/   Although he sold his Napa land on Atlas Peak before the fires, he still owns unplanted vineyard land down the street from Seasmoke in the Sta Rita Hills, one of his favorite places to make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from.   Regardless, the quality of his wines shines through in the glass and from the mouths of his patrons, wine club members and fans.  But whenever talking to Pankauski about wine, his focus comes back to quality.  He is quick to distinguish himself from certain other wine retailers who he refuses to name. ” My model is to create a Napa Valley like tasting room, with the respect for you, the wine consumer, and with high quality, delicious premium wine offered by the glass, a wine flight, bottle or case.  Take it home.”  
  4. Variety.  The best wine bar in Florida now offers about 50 wines by the bottle.  The West Palm Beach Brewery’s wine bar serves big, Napa Cabs and red blends, as well as stunning Pinot Noirs, and other reds.  His Napa Cabs are big and “unapologetic” as he likes to describe them. “When you sip one of my Napa Cabs or red wines, you know you are in Napa!  “   His passion for Pinot Noir permits you to “visit” the top AVA’s, including Sonoma, Sta Rita Hills in Santa Barbara, Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands, and coming soon, the new AVA Fort Ross-Seaview.  His Chardonnay is never over-oaked or buttery, but is refined, respectful, with the correct amount of fruit.  “I can’t tell you how many people who tell me that they hate Chardonnay until they try mine.”  He offers a 2016 Drum Canyon Cellars Chardonnay from the Sta Rita Hills,  and a 2015 Pankauski Cellars Carneros Chardonnay.  His 2017’s are resting gently in bottle in his warehouse, one from the Sta Rita Hills and one from Napa. 
  5. Fair Prices.   Pankauski’s prices are surprisingly fair.  Although he states that his goal is to offer wines at 20-50% off of Napa prices, his tasting room menu and price list look like a wine lover’s dream that won’t hurt the wallet or pocketbook.  “I intentionally wanted approachable prices the very first year or two.  I need to have wine consumers, whether beginners, social drinkers, or serious collectors, to get introduced to my wine and try it ”  Try the Palm Beach Pinot, which is a blend of the top three vineyards and top three blocks of Pinot Noir from the Sta Rita Hills in the 2016 vintage, or the Inky Black red wine.   
  6. Innovation .  Pankauski can’t sit still.  He just harvested 2.5 tons of Gruner Vetliner from Santa Barbara in the 2018 harvest which should be bottled next summer.  He also is passionate about Mourvedre.  He purchased about 10 tons of Mourvedre from 4 different vineyard sites, including the Zaca Mesa and Curtis Vineyards.  His Washington State wine offerings in his new Text Message wine,   and this Florida 5 Series will be released March 1st. The best wine bar in South Florida?   His Florida 5 Series labels are a nod to South Florida.  His next big project? Beyond a cask program and barrel aged beer for the craft beer lovers in Palm Beach, he is expanding his wine on tap program.  “I am bringing super premium wine on tap to South Florida.  The quality will be outstanding and the prices will range from $5-$7 a glass and $10-$12 a glass for our reserve line.   These will be wines that sell in Napa for $100+ a bottle.  No one is doing this.” 

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Dec 29, 2018