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NYC Wine List: Pushing the Envelope By the Glass

Posted on  | August 23, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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An Ounce of Cure…
Leveraging Older Wines

With cooler weather, Morrell Wine Bar in Rockefeller Center has restarted its Wines By The Ounce program, in which an older bottle is opened every Thursday. “Our wines by the ounce program is rather unique: we pour wines that have 10-15 years of age and at prices which are quite approach-able,” says Sommelier Anna-Christina Cabrales. Ounce pours range from $11 to $15; half-glass pours (2.5 oz) $22 to $25 and full 5-ounce pours $40 to $50.

“It’s an opportunity to try something that they may not necessarily select at a wine store,” says Cabrales. “Several guests have remarked that they would like to start drinking more ‘serious’ wines, and this opportunity is a great way to introduce them into the world of fine wine,” says Cabrales.

Just one bottle is opened sometime after 4:00pm, with timing depending on the age of the bottle, presence of sediment, how much air—or time after decanting—they think it needs to open up. It usually is sold out by mid-dinner service.
For September the wines are:

  • 9/5 – Dalla Valle Vineyards, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994
  • 9/12 – Poderi Luigi Einaudi, “Costa Grimaldi” Barolo 1998
  • 9/19 – M. Chapoutier, “L’Ermité” Ermitage 1997
  • 9/26 – Château Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac 1995

Busting open cellar dwellers for individual pours may well develop into a full-blown trend around town, with different restaurants adding a signature twist. At Morrell, it’s offering three sizes of pours. At Bar Boulud, Michael Madrigale has nurtured a following by opening oversize bottles.

The practice has also jumped the Hudson: If you happen to be anywhere near Hamburg, NJ, Restaurant Latour is pouring older wines by the glass once a week from a 135,000-bottle cellar. They have already poured a 1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva ($55), 1977 Château Mouton Rothschild ($50) and a 1999 Drouhin Le Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche from magnum ($55), among many others. On the schedule for September are: 1981 López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Rioja Gran Reserva ($35) and 1966 Graham’s Vintage Port ($35. 9/13). Their twist: pours can be reserved in advance.

Serving Wine Al Fresco

We became intrigued with plein-air plasticware after experiencing the Govino glasses at Terroir at the Porch back in August. Govino glasses are the Waterford of shatterproof stemware—a real boon in the city, where glass is not allowed for garden- and roof-deck dining. These stemless vessels are crystal clear, and their thumb notches and slight flexibility make them comfortable to hold. There are 12- and 16-ounce glasses, 8-ounce flutes and even a decanter, all made from high-grade, BPA-free plastic. They are reusable, shatterproof and recyclable, but washing by hand is recommended.

Govino is the creation of Joseph Perrulli, a Napa resident, with financial backing from Boyd Willat, a Los Angeles entrepreneur. The two spent nine years studying the many shortcomings of existing plastic vessels and interviewing manufacturers to find one who could make Govino glasses from PETG material. While the glasses are still more a West Coast phenomenon, a few NYC spots are using them.

They are not cheap; one place said they cost over $1.00 per glass. Interestingly, they have as much appeal off-premise as on. Keith Beavers, owner of both the East Village restaurant In Vino and the retail store Alphabet City Wine Company, says they are “the perfect in-store vessel—easy to clean, durable, and they don’t break.” He also sells them (in attractive four-packs) at Alphabet City, where they are extremely popular.

Govino glasses are sold by Martin Scott in the NY metro area. Attesting to their high-design quality, they also are sold at the Museum of Modern Art store.

Singl Does Single (Malts)

Singl, in the recently opened Union Square Hyatt Hotel, is run by the One Five Hospitality group (Tocqueville, 15 East), which also manages the other two restaurants in the hotel. Wine, spirit and beer selections are under the direction of the One Five Beverage Director Roger Dagorn, MS. Singl is named for its extensive single malt Scotch and single vineyard wine selections.

And Dagorn has added an interesting and educational twist. Singl is offering a series of single malt Scotch tastings on Tuesday evenings. At each two-hour session one brand of Scotch is tasted in three different finishes and pre-sented by the ditillery’s brand manager or another Scotch expert.

At one recent tasting, Highland Park was presented by Nicola Riske, Edrington brand manager; the three finishes were 12 year old, 15 year old and 18 year old. At another, David Blackmore, master brand ambassador for both Ard-beg and Glenmorangie, even suggested a new cocktail, the Ardbeg Bloody Mary with a base of Ardbeg 10 year old instead of vodka. Dagorn says it adds an element of smoky bacon to the drink.

Coming in September:

  • 9/10 – Oban, presented by Spike McClure, Diageo Senior Master of Whiskey (14 year old, 18 year old and Distillers Edition)
  • 9/17 – Lagavulin, presented by Spike McClure (12 year old, 16 year old and Distillers Edition)
  • 9/25 (final tasting) – The Balvenie, presenter TBD (12 year old DoubleWood, 14 year old Carribean Cask and 21 year old PortWood)

Purple Prose Evokes

Some wine lists go overboard with descriptors, making it close to impossible to figure out what the wine is actually like. Others have no description at all, leaving diners to tap their own knowledge. And some lists evoke the wine or beverage. Put Sel de Mer, a small seafood mecca in East Williamsburg Brooklyn, in the evocative camp. Showing a streak of Brooklyn moxie—the restaurant has no website and no answering machine—the wine list carries no brand or label names. But the descriptions communicate salient points.

For example, a 2010 white Bordeaux is “cold and steely like Ryan Gosling in Drive.” A 2011 Grenache Rosé becomes “carpe rosé! a classic, dry Provence rosé…nectarine, peach blush….yeah girl.” And if you didn’t feel like having a white wine spritzer when you walked in, perhaps you’ll feel differently after reading “you say lame, I say lamé. f%@# the grandma stigma…it’s sparkling and fabulous. get over it.”


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