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Winston's opens downstairs at Churchill's

Winston's Wine Bar opens

You don't have to cross the pond to get a taste of jolly old England in Savannah. Churchill's Pub has been doing a great job of fulfilling our tastes for the motherland for quite some time.

The English portion of the menu, resplendent with the obligatory Shepherd's Pie, is solid and builds character in your taste buds. The bar is home to the city's best selection of import English beers, often featuring beers on tap that no other barkeep would offer.

Now, the popular Bay Street pub is paying homage to the great British statesman, Winston Churchill. The addition of Winston's Wine Bar in the restaurant's well-kept basement is reeling in wine fans and those seeking a cozy get-away.

The concept is not new. Wine bars have met with sketchy success over the past decade. Many have come with great fanfare, and then faded quietly behind papered over windows.

Perhaps Churchill unknowingly prophesied an eponymous local wine bar when he said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they've tried everything else."

Winston's is off to a fast start. With a huge wine list and a dedicated menu of small plates, Winston's is already attracting a hard-to-come-by local audience. On my three visits, I'm yet to find a wine out of stock – which has been a challenge for previous operators.

Owner Andy Holmes says he envisions a list that is pretty dynamic, meaning there will be frequent changes to keep the list fresh. With so much juice out there, Holmes' buying staff is not without plenty of choices.

I've sampled a number of items off the Winston's menu, including plenty of charcuterie (cured meats and cheeses) that are handily presented by nation of source. There are great little hot bites like braised short rib, shrimp and grits and other light bites.

I keep returning to the seared tuna atop wilted spinach. It's a wonderfully flavorful couple of bites with plenty of substance, and it goes great with everything from a brash New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to a creamy California Chardonnay.

On one visit, I was part of a large party, and service stepped up to accommodate our needs. So far, I'm well pleased and can cheerfully recommend Winston's. Cozy corners can accommodate couples seeking an intimate wine experience, and the warm new décor is just as welcoming to more raucous, large groups who are interested in networking, noshing and sipping great wines.

Menu peek

I have not made it to the new Bella's Italian Café sister restaurant, Fiore. The menu went online this week, so you can get a look at what awaits. Check it out at

7360 Skidaway Rd. in Sandfly

Dine with Rioja

700 Drayton in The Mansion on Forsyth Park is hosting a six-course dinner paired with wines from Spain's Rioja region on Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. Guest chef will be Leonard McNab from the Kessler Canyon property; a representative of the wine importer will speak. $85pp, call for reservations, 721-5002.