There’s quite a buzz being generated in Brooklyn as new wine bars open their doors and offer artists and young professionals an alternative to watery beer and overpriced cocktails.
Just Across the River
Hop on the L train from Manhattan and in just 5 minutes you are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to many of New York’s fledgling writers, musicians and artists. The hispters in this community can’t swing sky-high Manhattan rents, but what they lack in cash they make up in style. Krista Madsen sits on a bar stool and blends into the ultra-cool surroundings of Stain Wine Bar. Today she sports purple horn rimmed glasses a vintage t-shirt and Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. Stain was once home to a discount retail shop. Madsen negotiated a cheap rent and renovated the bombed out space in three months.
When Madsen’s not writing (her second novel is coming out this July), she’s hunting down new wines or booking local talent to perform at Stain. Madsen continuously searches for unusual additions to her line up of New York’s finest wines. Her current favorite is the Treleaven Riesling ($7 by the glass/$22 for the bottle) from Cayuga Lake, New York. She raves about its delicate floral character. As for reds, Madsen favors the Gristina cabernet franc from Long Island, New York ($10 a glass $30 a bottle). She describes this wine as vibrant and bold with hints of black pepper.
Stain serves as a quirky conglomeration of Madsen’s passions. It is part exhibition space part artists den and part wine bar. Patrons drink from simple tumblers. As they enjoy their wine, the can write a few lines in communal journals or head to the back garden to work on the 12-foot long mural. Madsen hopes to be a magnet for free spirits and to become a community resource for artists.
For an evening rife with romantic possibility, a better bet is Williamsburg’s DOC Wine Bar. Just two blocks from the East River, DOC has six wooden bistro tables set on the sidewalk, a perfect spot for scoping out the scene or testing out a date from match.com.
DOC offers a non-threatening setting with an easy escape hatch. Meet your “match” for a single glass of prosecco. If the date is a disaster, your outta there! If things look promising, stay and enjoy a traditional Sardinian meal. Owners Rosanna Patteri and Claudio Coronas proudly share food and wine from their homeland of Italy. DOC is warm, welcoming and easy on the wallet. “Marzianettos,” tiny two ounce tasting glasses, are priced from $1.50-$4.50 more generous “bicchierres” start at $4 a glass. For a light Summer bite, try the fragola, small round pasta, similar to couscous, made with celery and walnut. Another option is the taglieri platter ($12 for one person $20 for two): a hand carved wooden platter arrives to your table stacked with Italian cheese, charcuterie and fruit.
The all-Italian wine list is seasonal and shifts during the Summer months to go heavier on the whites. Try the Selegas, Nuragos, a very rare grape from Sardinia ($8 for a bicchierre). The wine is refreshing, but full. For something livelier try the Villa Martina cabernet franc. This red was airy and smooth with a mild berry flavor (also $8).
Kicking Back in Park Slope
Once home to dilapidated brownstones, second hand stores and Pentecostal churches, Park Slope Brooklyn is now teeming with free spirits looking for room to breathe. All the major Subway lines (the 4/5, 2/3, F, B/Q and N/R) conveniently connect Park Slope and Manhattan.
Owner Adam Robertson opened a tiny bar on 5th Avenue after he got tired of waiting for a great place to hang out with his friends and drink wine. He gave Total Wine Bar a New Orleans feel in honor of his hometown. Robertson has sprinkled some Creole dishes on his menu and recommends the crawfish etouffÃ?Â© ($10) a rich spicy dish topped with puff pastry.
The bar has a few wooden tables scattered near the front door, but most people gravitate to the large wooden bar. On a typical evening, you may spot an artist enjoying a glass of the Maretima, a Sicilian rosÃ?Â© ($7/$20) as he dabs at a watercolor portrait of his companions.
When it comes to wine, Total Wine Bar takes an interesting position on the classics. Total Wine offers 47 bottles and 36 wines by the glass and they are always looking for something new. This Summer, try the Ermete, lambrusco ($7 per glass, $24 for a bottle) a chilled Italian red that is mildly effervescent.
Deeper into Park Slope, a Thievery Corps mix seeps out onto Vanderbilt Avenue from Half Wine Bar. A tattooed bartender uncorks a bottle of the Washington State Shooting Star Blue Franc made with lemberger grapes ($8/$32) and serves two guests working on laptops.
Rows and rows of half-sized wine bottles are lined up behind the bartender.
Half offers more than 40 half bottles of wine (hence the name). All of those adorable half bottles make it easy to sample a bunch of different varietals without getting completely sloshed or going completely broke. A solid pick for Summer is the Alscaia white, called Hugel Gentil. This wine is made of the five noble grapes of Alsace ($8/glass or $32/bottle) and is ultra refreshing. Take your glass and check out Half’s small shop. Options include Built neoprene wine totes ($16) Hello Kitty stickers ($4.95) and Skip.Hop diaper bags ($60).
Just past the shop, serious wine lovers and their newbie friends gather on the outdoor patio. Guests snack on specialty sandwiches like the blue cheese, pear and watercress ($7) and kick back enjoying a warm summer afternoon. Adventurous drinkers might give the Grover cabernet/shiraz blend from India, yes, India a try ($14 for a full-sized bottle).
Lighten up a little the next time you are in New York. Skip the snooty wine bars in Manhattan and give Brooklyn a try. Brooklyn’s young bars owners are savvy and know they can’t get away with over charging their customers for safe wines poured in dull settings. You’ll see more nose rings than Tiffany engagement rings, you’ll love the lack of pretension, and of course the wine.
Brooklyn Wine Bar Locations:
D O C Wine Bar Inc
83 North 7th Street, Williamsburg
Total Wine Bar
74 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
766 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Half Wine Bar
626 Vanderbilt, Prospect Heights