If you live in New York City you know that wine bars seem to be popping up faster than you can hail a cab these days. The concept of an authentic wine bar first entered my wine loving conscious in Italy. I can still remember sitting in an unassuming little wine bar just across the Arno in Florence called L'Volpe eL'Uva. It was perfect. Just a counter and some stools, a simple selection of bruschetta, cured meats and cheeses, and a great selection of wines, all of which were also for sale to take away. Besides the fact that the setting was ultra relaxed and the owners exceedingly friendly and helpful, the place was unique in that if you liked what you tasted, you could walk out the door with it (well, after you paid for it) and drink it with dinner. Perfetto!
While the ‘wine for sale off-premise’ concept is a bit more difficult to get around in NYC wine bars (damn blue laws) there are two new wine bars that have taken the notion and run with it.
This relatively new wine bar in Tribeca has two distinct entrances (the requirement for wine bars/retail stores in NY) but the place looks like one big space, a glass wall the only thing dividing the bar from the shop. VinoVino's decor is relaxed but fashionable with lots of dark wood and candles. The bar carries a decent selection of wines from various regions, mostly from lesser known producers. Choices include 10-15 selections each of dry whites and reds available by the glass or bottle, as well as a smattering of sparkling and dessert wines, sake and beer. The fact that the wines come from various regions and not just Italy is a plus to me mainly because most of the wine bars that get it right in NYC are Italian and, well, sometimes you just want some alternatives. The menu is simple -- cheeses, cured meats and pates -- and the simpler the better I say. All in all VinoVino is a great place to meet up with friends for a libation and a snack.
(Note: VinoVino also features jazz and tastings during the week but best to check out the calendar on their website and not subscribe to their e-mail newsletter until they tone it down and you can actually read beyond the design madness.)
CentoVini opened even more recently near the shopping madness that is Soho. The bar also has an annexed retail shop with a separate entrance. Although the wine is all Italian and the menu a little more involved, the wine selection is bigger and the food is genuinely Italian influenced. The décor is fashionably funky, as you might expect knowing that this is a joint venture between the owners of Moss design shop and I Trulli restaurant. A welcome addition to the neighborhood, Cento Vini is a comforting place to escape the insanity of Broadway during the day or to settle in after the tourists have left and enjoy a full bottle and a light dinner.