The most buzzed about new wine and cheese bar happening in the Sunshine City isn’t opening on Beach Drive or Central Avenue. No, Must Wine Loft is opening just off 5th Avenue North and 2nd Street across the street from Kahwa Coffee. The Old Northeast just landed itself a spirited new concept.
It’s a passion project from sommelier Jessica Arkwirght, and chef Raymond Cotteret. They’re joined by co-founder Alex Paunic, who shares their love of wine, cheese, and the conversations the two spark.
The founders are currently looking to hire ahead of a late winter debut. Here’s what they recently posted on Facebook:
“We are looking for culinary professionals who love to play with food (job titles aren’t as important as passion for your product), who have food-pairing knowledge and experience (bonus if you have cheese shop experience), and are able to taste wines and come up with dishes inspired by the wine and/or cheese – if you don’t have the latter skill, we will teach you, so long as you have the desire to learn AND a passion for cheese and wine”
Those interested in applying can do so online.
A partnership that began in 2014
The pair met while working at Locale back in 2014. Arkwright was the Beverage Director at the time and Cotteret was the Cheesemonger. Over the years Arkwright and Cotteret have hosted wine and cheese classes. They take away the stress of shopping for the right bottle and the proper cheese to enjoy it with.
The classes are laid back, palate expanding experiences worth having. You can keep up with all of the upcoming events by following Must Wine Loft on Facebook. Stay in the know by joining Must Wine Loft’s Cork & Curd Club.
Each month they feature an appellation they admire for its dedication to “producing balanced, terroir-driven Wines and handcrafted natural Cheeses.” The bottles are delivered and available for pickup the third Thursday of every month.
It has taken months of work to get the wine loft ready for its debut. The founders hope to be host their soft opening on March 3rd, though that date is subject to change. Y’all, we cannot wait. Hold the turkey, we’re here for a good Pinot Noir and some funky slices of cheese garnished with spices.
Converting a laundromat into a Wine Loft
The owners have been working the past several months to design MUST Wine Loft with a local architect, builder, interior designer and legendary mural artist Carrie Jadus. The space was originally a laundromat, but you’d have no idea with the improvements they’ve made inside.
The wine and cheese selection won’t be stagnant. What you sip and what you nosh will be seasonal, so you’re sure to get the freshest flavors available. At the end of the day, Must Wine Loft wants to help build your confidence when it comes to selecting the perfect bottle.
Your first tasting sample is of course free, because Arkwright, Paunic and Cotteret want every customer to be satisfied with their pick.
Future plans call for custom charcuterie boards that can be ordered in advance and either picked up at Must Wine Loft, or delivered to your door in the immediate area. Must Wine’s founders have longed worked with Savory Spice, and hope to continue that partnership once open.
Must is the first step in winemaking
We should note, the name is a bit of a play on words. Must doesn’t mean must in the traditional sense. Must is actually the first step in winemaking. The word refers to juice created from the crushed grapes.
Must Wine Loft has set up an IndieGoGo campaign to help offset the cost of getting their doors open to the public. The owners hope to raise $30,000. That money will help pay for current construction costs, and assist in Must Wine Loft filling out its meticulously selected inventory of wine and cheese.
Donors will receive perks, of course. $50 donations will net you some Must Wine Loft Swag. $75 contributions will grant you a $100 gift card to the wine and cheese bar. At the $300 level Arkwright and Cotteret will design a 2-hour wine and cheese masterclass for you and three friends to enjoy at their space.
Giving back to the nonprofits in the Sunshine City
Once open, Must Wine Loft will be Sunday through Thursday from 12-9pm, and weekends from 12-10pm. There will be outdoor seating as well if you’re inclined to bring your pup out for a fun wine night.
Arkwright noted that they want to give back to community, too. Must Wine Loft will have special dog bandannas and proceeds from sales will benefit local dog rescues in Tampa Bay.
Must Wine Loft will a host special Brunello Happy Auer, with proceeds going to Southeastern Guide Dogs.
There are already plans in the works for an expansion that would add a special wine cellar to the Must Wine Loft.
Welcome to the new lounge spot in the Old Northeast
Must Wine Loft, 442 2nd Street North