On the Menu: The Ocala Wine Experience
Written by Amber Tompkins, Food Editor
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Just as wine gets better with age, so has the Ocala Wine Experience, now under new ownership.
Just as the old song says, “might be a little dust on the bottle, but don’t let it fool you about what’s inside…” Ocala Wine Experience is being revamped and new owners, Megan Whittaker and Mark Sykuta are up to the challenge. They are planning on “keeping the things that worked and changing the things that didn’t.” Whittaker and Sykuta have been together for over 10 years and have wanted to pursue a business venture for a while. The couple met in The Villages, where they were both working in fine dining at a country club. When they decided it was time to go into business for themselves, they knew they wanted to break away from “The Villages’ style of service.” After searching and searching, they came across Ocala Wine Experience in May of 2016 and knew right away it was the right spot for them. While Megan will tell you that she has more of the business smarts, Mark has the palette. “He can find the flavors in everything,” Megan told OM affectionately of her business and life partner, Mark.
Changes that are expected to take place in the future include, redecorating the upstairs lounge and bar area, refreshing the Mediterranean courtyard, expanding the menu and hosting more themed nights for customers to enjoy. Ocala Wine Experience has hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. Bottles can be purchased and consumed onsite for a small corkage fee. They also sell select wine varietals by the glass, 8 pour wine flights that include 4 reds and 4 whites and beers by the bottle. Patrons should expect to see local beers on tap soon.
And what goes better with wine than cheese? Cheese and Fruit plates are available and include 6 different cheese options (Iberico, Swiss with leeks and morel mushrooms, Muenster, Aged Cheddar, Gruyere with candied cranberries and cream aged Brie). The traditional cheese and fruit plate is served with organic Genoa Salami, crackers and fresh fruit while the Brie and fruit plate is served with carrots, crackers and fresh fruit. Hummus can be added to any of the cheese plates for an additional charge. Other menu options include pizzas, chicken wings, shrimp cocktail and desserts.
Be it produce, meats, cheeses or organic Viennese Roast Espresso beans, new Ocala Wine Experience owners are doing everything they can to support local food vendors for their supplies. Frequent stops for Mark include the downtown Farmer’s Market and the Florida Grub Hub which is inside Infinite Ale Works downtown. It is safe to say that these new business owners are loyal to local.
And not only do they offer local food ingredients, they have local wines too. The most popular being the Panty Dropper collection, which is exclusive to Ocala Wine Experience and comes from the Murielle Winery in Clearwater, Florida. “These wines tend to be on the sweeter side, but people love this stuff,” Mark told OM.
For those interested in smoking Hookah, Ocala Wine Experience has different coal selections for you to try. $15 gets you a single coal and as many hoses as you want.
For dessert be sure to try the NY style Cheesecake or if you’re lactose intolerant give the Goat Cheese Cheesecake a try- it’s divine!. Chocolate Brownie a la mode, Cappuccino truffles and Amaretto truffles also appear on the dessert menu.
If you really love the Ocala Wine Experience space and can see yourself hosting an event there- wait no longer, reserve it for your next party or business networking meeting! The upstairs area alone can accommodate 30 – 50 people. To stay in the loop with all of the events and specials Ocala Wine Experience has to offer, follow them on Facebook and Instagram! They also have a website with upcoming event information and a mailing list for those who don’t want to miss anything! OM
The Ocala Wine Experience offers delicious pizza options and they have shared one of their favorite recipes with you – the Kosar. Click here for the full recipe.