Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Random Wine Bar Rant

Warning: rant ahead.

The other night I found myself visiting, and really enjoying, a new wine bar. Well, new for me, as I'd never been. This place, The Ten Bells, was homey, and had a very nicely chosen, priced and eclectic wine list. There were crowd-pleasing wines (an Italian Negro Amaro that had good juicy fruit with a hint of earth) as well as geek-pleasing ones (a Cheverny 50% Pinot Noir - 50% Gamay that was full of dirty cherries, the best kind). The food was perfect bar food, small plates at small prices. Think European tapas as opposed to just Spanish ones.

My experience there got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing, if not to me then to those around me: Why can't there be more little places like this? New York's a big city, we should be drowning in them. Instead we're awash in a sea of appletini-serving "wine" bars that are filled with tourists and B&T'ers trying to get an inauthentically "authentic" New York experience. What the Hell?

Almost every time I go to a new wine bar, it's that in name only. And you can always tell because the wine list is an after-thought that's been designed by their distributor (note the singular, if they're getting all their wines from one source it's a safe bet they just couldn't be bothered to look outside the box, or their liquors were bundled into a money-saving package). In fact, the wines will be stored any which way and the liquors will be prominently displayed behind the bar. Which means that wine isn't their primary concern, despite their name. Lastly, you might recognize some ordinary wines that cost $10-15 in the stores being poured for $10-15 by the glass. The price isn't the issue, it's the "ordinariness" of the wine being poured that is.

So what would I want in a wine bar?

A real wine bar would set itself apart by finding interesting bottles at interesting prices, especially during a recession. If anything, a recession is the perfect time for such places. I mean, folks are dying to forget the sorry state of the economy and not feel like they're getting ripped off, but who wants to drink a $10 Budweiser or a $17 martini made with 4th-tier top shelf vodka or gin? Would you really feel like you've gotten your money's worth? I know I wouldn't.

No, I would want someplace that offers wines that make me sit up and take notice, but also make me forget that the economy's in shambles. A tall order, perhaps. But a few places have succeeded. Heck, I believe every neighborhood should have at least one if not more of these types of wine bars. I posted a while back about NYC's wine bars, and so I'd happily add The Ten Bells to that list. They all offer interesting selections at decent prices while making you feel at home and comfortable.

And in this economy, isn't that something nice to look forward to?
Rant over.

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