Confession: I am a wine-oholic.
Ever since I was a child, my mother, aunts, and uncles alike would sneak me sips of wine at family dinners. It might have only been a stolen sip of a basic Chianti or light and crisp pinot grigio that you’d pick up in a supermarket, but nevertheless, I knew from an early age I was a wine lover.
Since becoming an adult, I’ve sought out every chance I can get to learn more about wine. I know the difference between a Brunello and a Burgundy — but my knowledge is limited, truth be told. But given my sheer eagerness to learn, I find myself at wine tastings all around the City. I wait until my favorite shops and restaurants post updates of their upcoming wine education classes and I consume articles and books on the topic religiously.
Part two of my education is based on consumption. I’m a woman of action, and that means to truly taste, sip, and learn, I must therefore try every wine bar in New York. I have my local haunts to frequent, such as Vanguard in Kips Bay, and the newly-opened enoteca — next to my favorite Italian grocer, Todaro Brothers — when I’m in the mood for something casual and comfortable. (Check out Todaro’s $5 wines by the glass at happy hour; they’re very drinkable!)
I also find myself mourning those that are no longer with us, like Veritas, the high-end wine bar and restaurant on 20th Street directly across from Gramercy Tavern, and the quaint Vino 313, which was replaced by a new tapas/wine bar that doesn’t have the same vibe I was hoping for.
Be that as it may, this is New York City, and the food and beverage landscape is ever-changing, and so I continue my search for the perfect pour, the best bottle, and the most satisfying sip.
I once heard from a well-known sommelier during a wine tasting that even though there are critics and connoisseurs out there who will tell you what you should drink, always stick to your guns — drink what you like.
My Budget Pick:
8th Street Winecellar
Price Range: $6 per glass, house red or white; $20 happy hour bottles
The mantra that 8th Street Winecellar lives by is to offer good wine at a great price, making it accessible to all. Every day, you can get a glass of either red of white house wine for $6. But where the really great value lies, in my opinion, is their “Get Happy Hour” from 4-7 p.m., featuring 10 different bottles of wine for $20 each. Thirsty patrons can choose from a sparkling, a Rose, four reds, and four whites. While it still might be slightly more expensive than going into your local wine store and getting a decent bottle for $12, you can hardly beat the price for drinking out at an actual wine bar.
The wine list is also always a work in motion — they encourage their patrons to suggest wines they love in hopes that it can work its way onto their well-curated list. And for all of those discerning wine drinkers out there, you’ll be in good hands at 8th Street — it’s owned and operated by Michael Lagnese and Jonny Cohen, two Union Square Café veteran bartenders who know their stuff.
My Bougie Pick:
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Price Range: $11-$90 per glass; $35-$2,650 per bottle The first time I got wind of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, I was sitting in the Soho House with finance contacts of mine, wrapping up a business meeting. The two people I was speaking with are high-net-worth individuals and wine connoisseurs in their own right, and know that I very much appreciate a great glass of wine. They were going on and on about the “new Le Bernadin” and said that I must try it. Funny thing was, they hadn’t even given me the name of the darn place! After a few seconds of Googling, I came upon a beautiful website that had that feeling of luxury and elegance. I knew I was going to like this place. The wine list goes on for pages and pages, and ranges in regions and vintages. For those celebrating a special occasion, or with the dire need to splurge, the Romanée St. Vivant, Domaine de la Romanee Conti (‘01) goes for $2,650 a bottle, and the Cht. Margaux, Margaux (‘89) for $1,750. What I like about the wine list here is that it doesn’t just favor French or Italian wines; Aldo Sohm Wine Bar features a sizable selection of “New World Wines,” like California, and even a bottle from the Finger Lakes region of New York.