It might not be your average, run-of-the-mill everyman’s bar. But if you’re looking for the city’s most carefully curated list of rare and grower champagnes, Winston’s Champagne Bar (420 Park Avenue South) is it. And if you don’t know your Cristal from your Krug, no worries: The staff is more than happy to help you drink — and spend — like a pro. Co-owner Brian Gefter shows us around the place.
Who is coming here? Are you getting rock stars and hedge-fund managers?
Winston’s has been set up to cater to collectors and enthusiasts. It’s a place where they feel comfortable and we feel comfortable having them, but it’s also set up for a non-collector or novice wine drinker to come in and learn about champagne by asking one of our waiters. … On Mondays, we get the after-gala crowd because charity benefits are often held Mondays.
Who’s more fun? The newbies or the experts?
Selling an older vintage of any of the champagnes on our list is always fun because it means it’s either a collector or someone looking to try a rare bottle. So, anybody who orders an older vintage we have listed is exciting for us just because it’s something that we know they can’t get anywhere else.
Most people know the Cristals and Moëts, but you have a number of lesser-known grower champagnes on the list. Why?
There aren’t many places in the world that have a list like this. The menu is all vintage champagne and tête de cuvée champagne, which is the prestige stuff. Really the only champagne we have that’s non-vintage is our grower champagne. It was a nice way to feature all these different small French producers that may not otherwise get the exposure.
Do you have any crazy stories about ballers coming in and ordering thousands of dollars in champagne?
Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily cater to that type of spending. It’s not the atmosphere that induces somebody to come and buy 100 bottles of champagne in one shot. It’s more about the product itself. We have had some of the biggest champagne buyers come to Winston’s. For instance, one of our clients came in and bought some of the older-vintage three-liter jeroboams. He started with a jeroboam of Bollinger ($2,700), then went to a jeroboam of Krug, then moved on to a jeroboam of Dom Pérignon Rosé ($9,000).
Yowser. Other than the bubbly, what’s your favorite part of the bar?
The décor is amazing. You walk into Winston’s and you automatically feel like you’ve been transported to a 1940s Parisian champagne bar. A lot of the guests that come in are travelers that are staying at the [Gansevoort Park Avenue] hotel. It’s cool to see their reactions when they see how special it is.
With the economy in the dumps, how do you convince newbies to get excited about champagne?
It’s not specifically about the champagne itself but about the experience you have when you come to Winston’s and taste the different champagnes. It’s something you can’t get anywhere else. The music is a big portion. It helps transport you immediately.
What’s your go-to hangover cure after too much champagne?
There’s an amazing new product called Mercy. It actually works. It’s not just if you have too much champagne; it’s if you have to much liquor at all. It looks like an energy drink. It’s actually marketed as a hangover cure.