As we prepared to write about our 99 Essential Restaurants™ in Lower Manhattan, we spoke to the chefs and owners behind these places, asking them to discuss their history and unique place among the other eateries in this town. But we were also thinking of your wallet, dear readers, and so we asked them, too, to divulge the deals on their wine lists. Thinking about dining out this weekend? Use this info as a guide to pop a good, affordable cork.
Balthazar general manager Erin Wendt: Bargains in terms of price point: Our carafes are all $20 for three to four glasses of wine, and all are typical expressions of the regions they are from (Muscadet, white Burgundy, Beaujolais, and southern Rhone). Half bottles are a great bargain in terms of getting a taste of something higher in quality than a glass of wine but at a more affordable price than a full bottle, particularly the premier cru Chablis from Christian Moreau at $50. A third category to look for bargains in are wines from some of the lesser known regions of France (i.e. outside of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Rhone). Check out Loire valley reds and whites, gems from the Jura and Savoie (which are rarely seen on wine lists), as well as reds and whites from the south of France, which includes lesser known regions within the Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence, and Corsica.
Balaboosta chef-owner Einat Admony: “Rayuelo de Altolandon” 2009, Manchuela (bobal-tempranillo-monastrel) from Spain, $55. Amazing value. Elegant balance of juicy dark red fruit and spice.
Little Owl chef-owner Joey Campanaro: Savuto, which is a Calabrian red, pairs really well with the majority of the menu for $44. David Giuliano, who is our beverage director at The Little Owl as well as Market Table and the recently opened The Clam, always makes sure to keep a well-balanced wine list at all of our restaurants with plenty of affordable options.
Buvette chef-owner Jody Williams: Drink near the top of the wine list. I hope the prices are generous. They aren’t marked up. We want to promote wine drinking in general. We want people to drink wines we really like. I don’t think we try to mark them up. The more the wine costs me, the less I’ll mark it up. There is a lot of value to be found in the top of the list.
Aquagrill owner Jennifer Marshall: We make this easy to identify. Our best value wines are designated with an arrow.
Hearth owner Paul Grieco: Hearth offers a great selection of affordable wines from the world over, from Slovenia and Uruguay to the classic Old World regions. During happy hour, select wines by the glass are only $7 each, and a glass of Manzanilla sherry, a fortified wine, is only $2.50. Regardless of what time guests arrive, though, they’re sure to enjoy several reasonably priced wines by the glass and the bottle.
Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria owner Donna Leonard:
1. Contra Soarda Marzemino Nero: A delicious wine from the Veneto from a small producer and a little known grape varietal, Marzemino Nero. Related genetically to Cabernet Franc, this wine reminds me of a lighter Loire red like Pineau d’Aunis or Gamay, but with a little more grit that you would expect from Northern Italy. $50
2. il Chiosso Fara 2007: A very cool wine from the Alto-Piemonte, a blend of Nebbiolo and Vespolina from the town of Fara (which is lesser known but close to Gattinara, Ghemme, and Boca). A small production wine you don’t see out too often. I don’t want to compare this wine to Barolo (because they are both Nebbiolo), but with the age on the wine, I think it is a great value. $55
3. Domaine Economou Sitia 1999: While we are known as a destination for Italian wine, we feature wines from around the world. We are driven by our curiosity and the curiosity of our customers. This winemaker is in the town of Sitia on the island of Crete. The grape here is called Liatiko, and the winemaker Yiannis Economou studied oenolgy in Alba and worked for both Scavino and Ceretto, and also trained at Chateau Margaux. This wine tastes authentically made; the sense of wine as craft is ever-present. With the amount of bottle age on this wine (a Barolo from 1999 would generally cost $200-plus), and the thrill I get seeing people’s reaction to this wine when they first encounter it, this is a great value. $120
Annisa chef-owner Anita Lo: There are bargains throughout, but my beverage manager Gregory Fellows has plucked some little known gems from around the planet that go very well with the food and as they are less known, offer great value.
Casa Mono executive chef Anthony Sasso: There are plenty of places to look on our list for bargains. To find some real gems on our list, I recommend wines from the lesser known yet up and coming regions of Spain, like Canary Islands, Galicia, and Bierzo.
Recette chef-owner Jesse Schenker: We have a lot of collector wines that we don’t mark up. You can get some older vintage wines at a really, really great price.
Dirt Candy chef-owner Amanda Cohen: At your local supermarket. I’ve got eight wines on my list and I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them before. I spend a lot of time and energy making sure I’m only putting really exciting wines that are truly off the beaten path on my list. And I do half glasses so people can taste them without feeling like they’re making a big commitment.
Gotham Bar & Grill managing partner Brett Csencsitz: While we have a wide range in our pricing, many of our older vintage wines, particularly Californian vintages such as the ’92 Laurel Glen, represent true value.
Joseph Leonard owner Gabe Stulman: I am a sucker for some of the reds from Loire.
Northern Spy Food Co. owner Chris Ronis: I think generally our wine list is very fairly priced. We’ve only pushed the limit with our red wine. Everything is in that $40 to $60 range. A steal for $50: Carnina/Garnacha-Alvaro Palacios “Carmins.” I’ve kept that one on the list for awhile because it’s an awesome value. You get so much depth and complexity for that price. Carignan from Porter Creek “Old Vine” at $60 is a great value. There is a new white Vignoles: Keuka Lake Vineyards from Hammondsport, New York. It’s a small winery from the Finger Lakes of New York, and it’s really showing off what’s going on in upstate New York. It’s $40 with great minerality and acidity, and it’s so dry. Everyone is afraid of New York wines being overly sweet.
Cafe Cluny Jordan Popalis: 90 percent of the wines we offer are available by the glass.
Prune chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton: Ask for the “rubberband” wine, the very decent cheerful wine we sell by the inch, using the rubberband on the bottle as the marker. You pay only for what you drink and you get to be honorable by being trusted with not fudging the rubberband.
Public chef Brad Farmerie: Australian and Alsatian Rieslings, aged Hunter Valley Semillon, older vintages of Noble One Botrytis Semillon, some of the “ports” and “tawny port” from Australia.