When you’re the only art museum in Wisconsin with a sommelier, it only makes sense to establish a wine bar. And that’s exactly what the Milwaukee Art Museum has done.
Under the direction of Sommelier and Wine and Beverage Director Heather Korte and Chef Jason Gorman, the new East End Wine Bar offers up select wines, delectable small dishes and a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan.
The wine bar, which was added as part of the museum’s recent $34 million expansion, is located to the east of the new first floor galleries. Even more conveniently, there is a new entrance to the museum on the northeast adjacent to the War Memorial parking lot at 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., making the wine bar a great place to grab a cup of morning coffee, immerse yourself in an afternoon of tea and book reading or enjoy a glass of wine with friends after work.
As is the case for Cafe Calatrava and the Windhover Coffee shop, admission to the Art Museum is not required to utilize the East End Wine Bar, though a brand new Easterly admissions desk allows guests to conveniently enter and exit the galleries as desired.
High top seating, which runs along the east corridor, sits opposite a wall displaying a photographic collage created by Vik Muniz entitled "Fleur de Lis." Additional low top seating will also be added along the wall moving forward.
Meanwhile, a lounge area on the southern end of East End offers a prime view of the Burke Brise Soleil, the museum’s signature wings, which open each morning at 10 a.m., flutter at noon and close daily at 5 p.m.
Future plans for the wine bar include extending its footprint to an outdoor patio on the lake during the summer months.
East End offers a constantly evolving selection of eight wines, are available by both the bottle and the glass (priced $6-14 and $24-56).
Korte says that the wines are International in origin in an effort to appeal to a variety of tastes, but there was a particular interest in choosing wines that have ties back to the world of art.
For example, there is a selection from Blackbird Vineyards, whose founder, Michael Polenske, established Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, a stylized indoor and outdoor gallery and wine room which funnels funds back to the arts through the sale of art featured in its rotating artist exhibitions.
The Klee Pinot Noir from Roots Winery, owned by Racine native Chris Berg, features a label inspired by the work of Swiss-born painter Paul Klee.
Meanwhile, "Casamatta," or "crazy house," is winemaker and artist Bibi Graetz’s creation of a Tuscan-style house wine created through the use of the Spanish solera method during which wine from a current vintage is combined with wine from previous vintages to create the final blend.
Beer offerings ($5-6) run the gamut from PBR tall boys to selections like Unibroue La Fin du Monde. And, on the non-alcoholic side, guests can choose from San Pellegrino, Sprecher sodas, coffee or tea selections, including blooming tea, served up in individual glass pots, from Rare Tea Cellar in Chicago.
A collection of European style small plates provide choice nibbles for even the most discerning palate.
"In looking at all of the demographics of those who visit the museum, as well as what our offerings are in the cafes, I looked to create these plates for someone who wants something a bit more refined, elegant," says Gorman, whose beautiful plates highlight simple, high-quality ingredients.
Sarvecchio Parmesan is served with Essenza Balsamico, a deep, dark sweet and syrupy aged balsamic vinegar that counters the umami of the cheese with depth and vigor ($8).
A selection of green and ripe roasted olives are marinated in the flavors of orange and chiles, offering up a balanced fruitiness alongside a bit of salty zip ($7).
Paper thin helpings of imported Italian prosciutto are sliced to order which almost melt in your mouth ($9).
Unctuous chicken liver mousse topped with port onion jam is the perfect snack spread on crisp crostini ($9).
Meanwhile, marinated artichokes are tender, sweet and flavorful enough to be enjoyed on their own ($8). But, if you'll be sipping wine, ask for a recommendation that won't come off cloyingly sweet when up against the artichokes' natural cynarin content. Dry, higher acid wines are usually best, notes Korte.
And, if you’re in the mood for sweets, rich fudgy Rocket Baby bouchons and macarons are available for $3 each.
Thanks to new Museum hours, which are extended until 8 p.m. on Fridays, East End will host happy hour every Friday evening from 4 to 6 p.m. beginning Jan. 29.
During happy hour, enjoy European style small plates for 25% off, $5 wine specials, and $3 beer selections. Also note that every first Friday of the month is Meijer Free First Friday, and admission to the museum is also free.
The East End Wine Bar is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.