By Angela Damiani Special to Published Oct 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Downtown on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. While most of Milwaukee seeps out of its cubicles and heads home, a fierce few remain behind to bask in the fruits of the days' labor with a glass of the featured reserve bottle at the InterContinental's Wine Craze.

Hosted in Clear, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., the hotel's lobby bar elegantly combines classical architecture with modern elements of decor making it nearly impossible to reconcile the fact that the reception desk for the hotel is only 50 feet away. Cool cocktail music interlaced with a few light house tracks creates a vibe reminiscent of a trendy big city lounge.

The event brings an interesting crowd. A few solo hotel guests sip artfully-crafted martinis. Several groups of business folk loosen their ties and hash out a new corporate policy over beautifully-plated hors d'oeuvres. Scattered here and there are people in the know –- the wine connoisseurs and their counterparts -- while the novices open to an adventure of the palate.

This particular evening is special because the Wine Craze is showcasing two bottles of Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5, a Spanish Tempranillo wine normally retails at over $120 per bottle.

The bottles of wine originate from the same vineyard, the grapes fed off the same patch of earth thus the difference between them is simply the year in which they were grown –- 2000 and 2002. For winos, this is a chance of a lifetime. Rarely does an establishment open a bottle of wine of this caliber for the public to sample –- and to afford the opportunity to sample two remarkable years of this brand (for only $5 a glass) is simply unheard of.

Perched at high top tables or reclining in the lounge chairs, participants swirl their glasses and relish the decadence of each glass as well as the unending assortment of cheeses offered to compliment each wine's nuances. All the servers have been well-versed in how to properly describe each wine and floating throughout the informal event is the director of outlets, a wine expert who readily answers specific and in-depth questions one may encounter.

While the practiced wine drinkers have the chance to discuss in detail the offering of wines, this event provides an insightful advantage to amateurs -- the ability to explore wine without breaking the bank. To try a glass for $5 and not enjoy it is hardly a risk.

The Wine Craze encourages patrons to explore the bottles in the reserve section of a wine list without fear. If one finds something enjoyable, he walks away from the event well-informed and equipped to order that high-end bottle when the right moment presents itself.

Essentially, the event gives common folk the chance to practice with wine, thus alleviating any pretension normally associated with it and above all, makes for a fantastic mid-week reprieve from the norm.

The Wine Craze occurs every Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Angela Damiani Special to

Angela returned to Milwaukee after living on both coasts and overseas. Filled with uncertainty about the move, she quickly discovered the hidden gem that is Milwaukee. The caliber of arts, music and culture as well as the ease of accessibility to it all, make Milwaukee one of a kind.

After a year of acclimating to life in Milwaukee, she is now surprised she ever doubted the return home in the first place. Exploring the different facets of Milwaukee has been an adventure she never expected and is what you'll mostly read about in this blog.