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NYC Wine List: Spring Awakenings

Posted on  | March 24, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Malbec in NoHo has two floors (the second to tango, of course)

Malbec Rocks in NoHo

While Malbec fever may have cooled a bit, it still is raging at Malbec in NoHo. The Argentine restaurant is on the main floor, while downstairs a nightly tango show takes place at Tango House (ticket required).

Juan Fabbri, one of the owners of Malbec, is a restaurateur and tango impresario in Buenos Aires. On the menu, you’ll find dishes like gramajo with bacon and potatoes (a popular Argentine omelet), baby lamb and several large cuts of veal and beef. Sommelier Juan David Quintero says that to show the style and quality of Argentine wines, they offer a wide selection of types, beyond Malbec. But, of the almost 200 Argentine wines, about one-third are Malbecs. Some nice ones are Kaiken from Uco Valley ($55); several Catena Zapata offerings; Terrazas de los Andes Reserva from Lujan de Cuyo ($64); and Noemia from organic grapes from Patagonia ($195).

To get an overview of Argentine Malbec, guests can try the Malbec Flight ($20), a selection of four wines representing the main growing areas. There also are fine Torrontes, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons and the Bodega Tacuil wines, from the world’s highest elevation vineyards (almost 8,000 ft.) in Salta.

Pure Food & Wine: Organic & Beyond

There are a growing number of restaurants serving organic and vegan foods. Many have good wine lists as well. At Pure Food & Wine, now in its 10th year on Irving Place—just one block from Union Square farmer’s market—the food is both vegan and raw and the wines are organic or beyond.

Sarma Melngailis, the founder, discovered a raw, vegan diet that she intended to try out for two weeks. Ten years later, she’s Still running Pure Food, has three juice bars under the name One Lucky Duck and she has and written two books.

Each wine on the list at Pure Food & Wine is coded as biodynamic (B), Organic (O), Vegan (V)or Sustainable (S). (Sustainable usually means a vineyard practices organic methods, but has no certification.) They also are the first restaurant in NYC to have organic sake on tap—Momokawa from Oregon.

The almost 100 wines are grouped by style descriptors. So under “Aromatic and Bold Whites” you will find Josmeyer Pinot Blanc from Alsace (B; $56) and Alois Falanghina from Campania (O; $53). Under “Soft and Fruit Forward Red” are Ronchi Di Cialla Ribolla Nera from Prepotto, Italy (O,V; $45) and Cargasacchi Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills, CA (O,V; $ 87).

PUBLIC: Haven for OZ & NZ

NoLita-based Public occupies a cool industrial space designed by owner AvroKO (for which they garnered two James Beard design awards). The one Michelin star it received in 2010 was likely based on Chef Brad Farmerie’s eclectic offering—wild game like kangaroo, venison, wild boar; Korean spaetzle with roast duck; oxtail and snail ravioli; and pan-seared Tasmanian sea trout with sea urchin, edamame/black trumpet risotto and black garlic.

The wine list is unchallenged on this continent in its vast selection of Australian and New Zealand wines—over 100 at last count. It’s organized by grape variety, with sub-sets of geography. Public also offers its own wine: a biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc ($52) from NZ winemaker Michael Seresin. There’s an impressive list of multi-vintages of Aussie Shirazes Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange (back to 1983, $880). And there are international craft beers and sakes.

The beverage director at AvroKO, Jesse Webster, who hails from NZ, is particularly liking Quartz Reef Sparkling wine ($69), Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc ($68), Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay ($84) and the Seresin Rachel Pinot Noir ($102).

An interesting wrinkle: via the Wine Mailbox Program ($50/month), members get a private, bronze mailbox at the restaurant. Once a month, a bottle of wine is deposited in the box. It comes with tasting notes, food pairings and sometimes food samples. Members also get invitations to special events and accommodation for lastminute reservations.

The Dead Rabbit Reboots

If you think most of the patrons at this Financial District grogstop must be bored because they are reading a book, you are wrong. Marking their first anniversary, the cocktail maestros at The Dead Rabbit just introduced a new beverage menu, and it is in the form of a book—part graphic novel—focused on the life of John Morrissey, leader of the establishment’s namesake Irish street gang.

The 70-page book presents the establishment’s cocktails in the light of Morrissey’s characteristics, such as: fresh, fiery, strong, low-spirited, bitter, ambitious. It has profiles of the types of Irish whiskey, plus old photos and maps of Dublin and distilleries. And there is a photomontage of bottles of Jameson, old whiskey posters, even poems. Dave Broom’s essay on “The Rise and Fall of Irish Whiskey” is instructive and fun reading.

“It was a privilege to create new drinks that both salute John Morrissey’s life and spotlight Irish whiskey in a variety of ways never done before,” says Jack McGarry, co-founder and bar manager. At the 2013 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Dead Rabbit won titles for “World’s Best New Cocktail Bar,” “World’s Best Cocktail Menu” and “International Bartender of the Year,” having duked it out with some of the best bars in the U.S.

Oh, and if you are wondering whether Morrissey went down swinging, he ultimately reformed and became a New York State Senator and U.S. Congressman.


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