Photography by Rick Delgado
As a child, I always fantasized about being Tinker Bell. I mean, what little girl or boy doesn’t want to fly? Now as an adult, there are still many days that I wish I could escape the confines of my office and glide through the air, sprinkling pixie dust.
Turns out, there is a real-life job that’s almost as magical: wine angel.
Cibo Wine Bar, with locations in South Beach and Coral Gables, is opening up a Fort Lauderdale location this month; and along with offering the same Italian-centric menu and a huge selection of fine wines, the restaurant’s famous wine angels will be center stage. These agile women, who are attached to a harness and suspended from a wire, elegantly swoop through the air to retrieve bottles of wine from a dramatic, 15-foot-tall glass-enclosed wine cellar. Like everything that Cibo does, from pasta making, to pizza tossing, to slicing imported prosciutto, the angels are on display for the entire restaurant to see. It’s the true meaning of dinner and a show.
The wine tower is filled with up to 3,500 bottles, so wine angels must study a detailed wine map in order locate a bottle. Wines are arranged by region and the most expensive bottles (up to $2,200) are carefully stored on the highest shelves. Cibo offers many Italian wines, although it also has popular Napa brands such as Caymus and Duckhorn in addition to small boutique and vintage collections. Angels use a remote to lift them up and down, and once in the air, they kick and push (and even add in some pretty acrobatics) their way along the tower to the desired spot.
With Cibo opening in Broward, I was offered the chance to be a wine angel for a night. Since my name, Angela, means “angel,” I decided I was halfway qualified for the job. I immediately pictured myself twirling, spinning and wowing customers – how hard could it really be? Turns out, wine angels need some serious heaven-sent talent.
The basic job requirement: You can’t be afraid of heights. Thankfully, I’m not, though I was terrified of dropping a pricey bottle. As soon as I was harnessed in, and after making head wine angel Paulina Arango assure me numerous times that I wouldn’t fall to my death, I asked, “What happens if you drop a bottle?” Sommelier Amy Weidig quickly responded with a straight face, “We don’t.”
I was given simple instructions for my training: Wear all black and slip-on flats. I devilishly disobeyed the shoe rule and instead wore a fabulous pair of black-and-gold booties. My fashion choice would force me to fall from grace almost immediately. Within minutes of being suspended in the air, I lost control and kicked two bottles off the shelf. A guardian angel must have been watching over me, because, miraculously, the bottles did not break! I quickly repented and put on the backup flats I packed.
I learned it takes so much coordination and balance to find, grab and safely bring down the wine. Sadly, most of my spins and turns were by accident. It requires a lot of core and arm work, and boy, can those harness straps rub you the wrong way. But it’s all worth it. Other than the flying, the best part of the job is entertaining the diners; even though I was far from graceful, they took pictures, clapped and watched in amazement.
I can’t stop thinking about my night soaring through the air. Paulina says she only intended to do the unique job for a few months, but she’s been an angel for three years. Who can blame her? Being a wine angel is heaven on earth!
Cibo Wine Bar 4100 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale 754.900.2426 www.cibowinebar.com