Wine Enthusiast......



Charleston continues to charm in-the-know visitors with a perfect combination of Southern allure and cosmopolitan chic that few cities of any size in North America can match. Whether it’s the tried-and-true place for shrimp ‘n grits or a little alley hideaway that just happens to have more than 50 wines by the glass, this is a city where you can eat, sleep, and maybe even pick up a Carolina drawl.

Right in the heart of the historic district, Market Street’s Planters Inn still remains somewhat of a secret, thanks to its diminutive size and understated elegance. Across a lush courtyard, Robert Carter is cooking up a larder of creative ingredients at Peninsula Grill. (Planters Inn and Peninsula Grill, 112 North Market Street, tel. 843-722-2345).

Just a bit outside the downtown hustle, but easily within strolling distance, Wentworth Mansion is a great base of operations. The Wentworth achieves that elusive blending of a seriously upscale B&B with that of a small French inn that happens to have a Michelin-starred restaurant next door. Enjoy a glass of complimentary sherry and then head across the garden to Circa 1886. This now-elegant space once served as a carriage house for the mansion (a new spa is in the former stables). (Wentworth Mansion and Circa 1886, 149 Wentworth Street, tel. 843-853-1886).

If a big-city hotel is more your style, the two top picks are Charleston Place and Market Pavilion. Charleston Place has earned its reputation as one of the city’s top addresses to sleep and eat, including Bob Waggoner’s French-inspired fare and 9,000-bottle cellar at Charleston Grill. Market Pavilion has a more modern flair, with a busy beef-oriented restaurant (Grill 225) right in the lobby. (Charleston Place and Charleston Grill, 205 Meeting Street, tel. 843-722-4900. Market Pavilion and Grill 225, 225 East Bay Street, 843-723-0500).

Most of Charleston’s top restaurants have excellent wine lists. However, a select few, including those mentioned above, are particularly excellent. Have appetizers in the newly renovated wine bar at McCrady’s, which has about 20 wines by the glass.  Bottles are priced at retail and there are at least a dozen unique cheeses on the menu. Locals love Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar, where chef Tommy Clayton’s delicious, distinctive beef tongue was just added to the menu and owner Kevin Kelley’s one-page wine list wonder is a unique labor of love highlighting small producers (at least 40 are available by the glass). Il Cortile del Re Enoteca & Wine Bar, with an alley entrance and an all-Italian wine list, is where “Massi” Sarrocchi holds court nightly for a loyal local following. (McCrady’s, 155 East Bay Street, tel. 843-577-0025. Vintage, 14 North Market Street, 843-577-0090. Il Cortile del Re, 193-A King Street, 843-853-1888).

You’ll want to walk off those grits and Charleston obliges: The visitors' center on Meeting Street ( can provide a map of historic offerings, as can any concierges worth their weight. For shopping, King Street still reigns. Charleston Cooks! is a kitchen store and school geared to the amateur. Soothe sore muscles by making an appointment at either guys-only Gents Barber Spa (where women often wait for their post-massage men at the hip bar) or the coed Stella Nova. (Charleston Cooks!, 194 East Bay Street, 843-722-1212. Gents Barber Spa, 32 Vendue Range, Suite 100, 843-722-2233. Stella Nova, 292 King Street and other locations, 843-722-9797.)

If you love the city as much as I do and want to visit again soon, make plans now to attend the first Distinctively Charleston Food + Wine Festival, which will be held March 2-5, 2006. (843-571-0999,

-Lynn Seldon