City Winery – New York Review
Address: 155 Varick Street New York,New York 10013.
Phone Number: 212-608-0555
Region: New York
Reviewer: James Houston
Review Date: 7/12/2012
Reviewer: James Houston
The traffic on New York Citys Vandam Street at 5 P.M. is straight out of a Los Angelinos worst nightmare. Trucks hauling soiled linen to New Jersey battle with Maseratis for an edge in getting the heck out of Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.
At the intersections, a chartreuse-clad traffic cop is needed just to get people safely across the street. I take my best shot and eventually make it to the other side of Vandam and Varick to City Winery, the brainchild of hobbyist winemaker Michael Dorf, founder of legendary downtown music spot The Knitting Factory. Barely four years after opening, City Winery is a TriBeCa fixture.
It is also several businesses under one roof. It is a custom crush facility, where well-heeled Manhattanites can createor hang back as head winemaker David Lecomte createsa wine under their own personal label. It is an intimate concert venue that plays host to international stars and local darlings. It is a full-service restaurant with an eclectic wine-friendly menu.
And finally, it is a tasting room. In addition to its custom crush winemaking, Lecomte creates a wide range of wines on-site for consumption by the public. The tasting area is in the right-most corner of the long building, featuring a bar and long tables. When I take a seat I am greeted by Director of Sales Raul Meisas who happens to be taking a turn behind the bar as the after-work crowd drifts in, accompanied by a hip playlist of MGMT and Franz Ferdinand (though FF might qualify as classic rock by now).
I scan the selection, noting that most of the wines available for tasting are sourced from out west, with a few from New York. I assemble a flight of three: Varick and Vine Chardonnay sourced from Californias Russian River Valley, Uptown Riesling sourced from New Yorks Finger Lakes, and New York City Cab Sauvignon, sourced generally from North Coast, California.
Meisas draws all three from taps into stemless Riedel glasses, which rest on a wooden tray with shallow dimples to hold the glasses. I hope more wine bars and tasting rooms move towards wine on tap as it becomes more affordablethere is no contest between the freshness of a pressurized keg and the freshness of a bottle that was opened two days earlier.
Next to me, a couple is served an Erlenmeyer flask full of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in a cool nod to the lab aspect of most wineries. Perhaps the cocktails come with hydrometers for swizzle sticks?
I ask Meisas whether they have ever made wine from Long Island grapes, since Long Island is the closest major winegrowing area. He replies that they have in the past. Anticipating (correctly) where I am going with that question, he follows up by affirming City Winerys commitment to all things local, but notes that their top priority is to make the most delicious wines.
And how are the wines? The Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are classic Californiahuge fruit, huge oak, low acid. You either love wines like these or you hate them. Lecomte has certainly preserved the inherent California character of the fruit with these, even if the fruit spent a day or two in the back of a refrigerated truck.
The Riesling, meanwhile, was a revelation. Cloudy in appearance and tingling on the palate, I wondered if it was still fermenting a littleand since, according to Meisas, the tap wines have no added sulfites, this would not be entirely out of the question. The wine is deliciousamazingly fresh, bracing, with the purest citrus Ive tasted in a wine in some time.
I will try not to find any symbolism in the fact that City Winerys wine sourced from New York beat the pants off two wines sourced from California. I might fail, but I promise to try.