> Congratulations are in order for Stone Hill Winery of Hermann and Chaumette Vineyards & Winery of Ste. Genevieve following their impressive showings at this year’s Missouri Wine Competition. Stone Hill took the Governor’s Cup for the second year running, this time for its 2009 Vignoles. The winery also won the most awards at the 2010 competition, with a total of 44! Chaumette proved to be no slouch either, bringing home three gold medals and four others, and a Best in Class award for its offerings.

> The accolades just keep rolling in for the Niche crew! First, Niche recently won a Wine Spectator award for its wine list, overseen by general manager BRYAN LIPA. And Taste by Niche next door just made Food & Wine Magazine’s 100 Best Bars in the World list.

> STEVEN CARAVELLI, chef de cuisine at Sleek, HUBERT KELLER’s upscale steakhouse at Lumière Place, has signed on as executive chef of Araka in Clayton. Araka management says he’ll be in place mid-August.

> The tapas trend has finally taken hold in Kirkwood. One 19 North Tapas Wine Bar opened June 26 at (of course) 119 N. Kirkwood Road. Co-owner (along with wife ELLEN) PAT CARR says he always thought the concept would be a perfect fit for the area, which has never hosted a tapas eatery before. So far his hunch has been on the money. “We’re getting busier all the time,” Carr says. In addition to delicious small plates, the restaurant features 30 different wines.

> Despite the harsh economy, several area restaurants are in full expansion mode. Lola, which opened just a scant six months ago downtown at 500 N. 14th St., is absorbing the the property adjacent to it and remaking it into a combination absinthe lounge and casual dining area. Co-owner CHRIS HANSEN says the new space should be open around Aug. 1. Future plans include a rooftop deck. Nadoz Euro Bakery Cafe at The Boulevard in Richmond Heights is also going big. Kathy Becker of Steven Becker Fine Dining, which operates the cafe, says it’s “very close” to taking over the former Cold Stone Creamery location next door. The new space will be used for private functions during the day and will transform into a wine bar at night. If all goes according to plan, look for a fall opening. And Cafe Ventana, at 3919 West Pine Blvd., has taken 1,800-square-feet next door to it and crafted a multifunctional space that should open by mid-August.

> Looking to expand your culinary skills and support some great causes? Then check out L’Ecole Culinare’s Kitchen With A Mission classes. Each session is open to the public and taught by an instructor from the school. Part of the proceeds from each class benefit a specific local charity. More information is available at lecoleculinaire.com.

> Overlook Farm in Clarksville, Mo., is hosting a barbecue extravaganza August 6-8. Dubbed “Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival & BBQ Cookoff,” the event will feature amateur and pro barbecue teams squaring off for cash and prizes, as well as barbecue demos by renowned fire-cooking experts. More at overlookfarmmo.com.

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