Developing, mixing and tasting your way to the perfect craft cocktail menu is fun and exciting.

Putting together a wine list is fun, exciting, overwhelming and stressful all at once. Developing an INTERESTING wine list can be outright painful—and we are not referring to the headaches you may endure after numerous tastings of “interesting” wines that are a little out there. Today the U.S. wine market is bursting with great selections of quality wines, so next time your wholesaler comes knocking take a chance outside the ordinary and put together a list that reflects the same unique character your beloved cocktail menu does.

Bar Meli, bar and lounge view

Bar Meli, Miami

Liza Meli, owner of Bar Meli in Miami, is anything but ordinary. With a welcoming smile and a sexy swagger that only a woman born in Australia and Greek ancestry can pull off, she sways between the tables with a knowing smile. Just when you think she’s going to ask you to dance she utters those wonderful words, “so what are we drinking tonight?” Now, while Bar Meli does offer a full bar, for Liza, it’s all about the wine. Uniquely interesting, approachable and affordable wines.

Liza Meli, of Bar Meli

Liza Meli, of Bar Meli

Where does one start in deciding on what wines to bring in?

It’s good to have a few rules and stick to them. For Liza, it’s Old World Wines from small family-owned vineyards. But most importantly, a wine list should complement the menu, no matter how big or small. We are a Greek bistro and bar so we focus on Old World Wines predominantly from the Mediterranean region. I also like to meet the geniuses behind the wine. Fortunately we get a lot of winemakers coming through Miami so I have either met with or visited the vineyards. To me, this makes all the difference.

How do you make a list accessible and inviting when offering unique varietals? 

Each wine has a description about aroma, body and taste that can, and should, be communicated to the guest to explain how it complements the menu or their selection. Also, these days the wine making process – if a wine is natural, sustainable, organic, etc, can influence guest choice. Case in point, Liza feels small production wines are made with extra love and integrity.

Do you offer any commonly recognized wines?

Yes, it’s always important to offer the more “standard’ like Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay to make guests comfortable. But since I stick with the Mediterranean wines rule, they do have different flavor profiles from the U.S style wines so explaining this to guest is important.

Why do you love wine?

What’s not to love? (laughs) It’s the Beverage of the Gods. I love its complexity, its unpredictability, its diversity and moods. It’s wonderfully social. The best part is that everyone’s palate is so different and there is a wine for all palates.

What do you drink at home?

I am fortunate to have many wine choices available to me based on my profession. But usually at home I go for light bodied wines and always from the Mediterranean region. My evenings begin with a bottle of white, today it will be a Falanghina from Campania Italy followed by a bottle or two of a Nerrello Mascalese from Sicily.

Like anything, it’s trial and error. So, sit back, take a sip and print your wine list proudly next to your cocktail menu.