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Friday, September 29, 2023

The Traveler Bar and Brasserie hosts its opening wine tasting event

Gainesville locals gather to enjoy glasses of wine in good company at the new establishment

Wine glasses were filled and emptied over exchanged tales and travel stories. Laughter filled the room as strangers would find good company in each other over a mutual love for wine.

Wine connoisseurs and novices alike celebrated the grand opening of Traveler Wine Bar and Brasserie in Downtown Gainesville Aug. 31. The new project, spearheaded by 50-year-old visionary Maude Wilson, hopes to revolutionize the way locals experience and understand wine tasting. 

The Traveler Wine Bar and Brasserie, which has taken inspiration from previous projects, has opened a new location downtown. While similar in its offerings, the Traveler differentiates itself with a new goal: a more expansive food menu with a more intimate feel.

Attendees of the “Wine Tasting 101” event gathered around the bar, which sat in front of a decorated wall of wine. Each guest, greeted by name, was served a glass of wine and cheese and crackers to complement it. Most attendees had developed a relationship with Wilson in previous years, and those who had not, were welcomed with open arms.

“When someone walks in and if they've been here before, we call them by name. We make sure that they know how special they are,” Wilson said.

One of the newcomers, Betty Braun, a 60-year-old Gainesville Fire Rescue Paramedic, had no idea what to expect before attending the tasting event.

“I came in nervous and as soon as I started talking to people, I just felt at home,” Braun said. “If you don't know anything about wine, you would feel very comfortable here. If you do know anything about wine, then you would feel comfortable here, too.”

The Traveler is building its foundation around the community that supports it. As a new establishment, it is interested in receiving feedback for everything from the menu items they will serve to the wine tasting events they will host. 

The dark and moody bar and brasserie will host several events, weekly, monthly and annually. Every Thursday, it hosts themed tasting events. These tastings are open to all ages, except for completely wine based ones like its most recent event “Wine Tasting 101.”

Many attendees of the weekly tasting events are also members of the Traveler’s Wine Club. The Wine Club offers members a monthly subscription box of two wines, one red and one white, along with information about its taste and origin.

Three of the long-term members, Josh Steele, a 39-year-old University of Tennessee professor, Imanol Suarez, a 35-year-old UF assistant professor, and Tony Maurelli, a 71-year-old UF professor, reap the benefits of their wine club membership by attending all the weekly tastings free of cost. 

“What I appreciate about what [Wilson] does is she makes the experience very accessible,” Steele said. “A lot of [the] time you go to wine tastings, there's this expectation that you're bringing all of this knowledge with you, but she's willing to start at ground zero and really helps someone build a liking for wine.”

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Each tasting comes with the six wines of the evening and a gourmet cheese snack plate to ensure attendees are branching out and exploring different taste combinations. 

“You start learning what you like, what you don't like and why you don't like the things that you don't like,” Suarez said. “It's a great event to make new connections and relax yourself because it feels so intimate.”

The tastings were continued from the other locations that The Traveler Bar and Brasserie was born out of, giving members an opportunity to explore the familiar tastings in a new environment.

“It's going to be really an interesting change from the other two locations,” Maurelli said. “But it's the same expertise that Maude brings to the wine tastings. She knows her wines."

The Traveler Bar and Brasserie’s collection provides customers with a worldwide flavor experience. Their collection is a culmination of wines from multiple distributors, featuring both well-known and unique bottles.

“If someone comes in and they want something specific, I try to have at least one of what they're looking for,” Wilson said.

While their wide collection comprises wines from diverse regions including California, Bordeaux and Piedmont, Italy, all their bottles have one quality in common: sustainability. 

“These are smaller producers that spend more time and create a product that is a little bit more true to winemaking,” Wilson said.

Oftentimes, their wines are vegan and organic too. 

“We want to make a minimum impact on the planet, but maximum impact on your experience,” Wilson said.

Sharon Carr, a 62-year-old Gainesville local, has been wine tasting for over 15 years at wineries around the world. She appreciates that The Traveler offers the same experience so close to home.

 “Each [bottle of wine] brings a richness and a variety because of the soils and the climate and so forth. It's just really interesting to see how people are able to bring that to Gainesville,” Carr said.

The Traveler Bar and Brasserie’s initial event proved to be an incredible success, leaving attendees with satisfied appetites and optimism for their new favorite spot.

“I really like their plan and their goals for bringing in the different tastings from the different countries” Carr said. “Gainesville has a really diverse population and I hope they support this area because it's going to be a really special thing.”

Along with weekly tastings, The Traveler hosts monthly events with higher end entrees and paired courses with different wines not on the regular menu. The monthly events are by reservation only with limited seating, but members of the Wine Club have first access.

Contact Molly Seghi at Follow her on Twitter @molly_seghi.

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Molly Seghi

Molly Seghi is a first-year journalism major at UF and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When not writing or journaling, she can be found at a live music event or working on her podcast “An Aural Account.”

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