Wine bars in New York are as varied and eclectic as the city’s inhabitants; a wine tour through Manhattan can take you around the globe and back again. Whether you are on the east side, west side, uptown or down, you are always a short walk away from an eye-opening international gustatory experience. Most bars offer small plates—tapas, cicchetti, or hors d’oeuvres—to accompany your glass of wine, emphasizing the pairings possibilities with countless global sips.
We’ve short-listed the standouts, chosen for depth of wine list, variety of wines by the glass, food and ambiance. Whatever your toast—Salud, Prost, Yassas, Salut or simply Cheers—raise a glass to New York City!
Upper East Side
Accademia di Vino
Sometimes going back to school can be fun. Accademia di Vino offers an elegant atmosphere in which to learn about Italian wines. Warm wood and etched glass evoke a Tuscan villa, while artfully displayed bottles of grappa and wine have a “wine cellar below the streets of Rome” feel. Wine Director Michael Doctor has selected more than 850 bottles for his geographically arranged list, and forty wines are available by the glass. All of the major regions of Italy are represented, many of them with notable wines: the super Tuscan selections boast many from Bolgheri, including magnums of Ornellaia and Masseto from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. Chef Kevin Garcia prepares full entrees as well as small plates to accompany your choice of wine. The heavenly prosciutto and parmigiano fritters pair beautifully with the flavorful white-fruit and herb-scented Planeta 2007 Cometa Fiano from Sicily, while the St. Michael Eppan 2007 Pinot Nero from Alto Adige complements the Cognac- and sage-sautéed chicken livers.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: Daniel, Aureole, Post House. Bloomingdales; Madison Avenue shopping, such as Barney’s New York and Giorgio Armani; and the oldest continuously operating wine shop in the U.S., Sherry-Lehmann
Upper West Side
Its cave-like vaulted ceiling, 32-page wine list and house-made charcuterie give Bar Boulud a “French village cooperative on steroids” vibe. Head Sommelier Michael Madrigale pours 50 labels by the glass and he and his staff will cheerfully recommend pairings for Executive Chef Damian Sansonetti’s Lyonnaise-style specialties. Focusing on the wines of the Rhône Valley and Burgundy (and international “cousins” made from the same grapes), categories include value-driven Discoveries, and more familiar Classics and Legends. Also on offer are “Heart Throbs,” (or wines they love) from around the world. The long wood bar is covered with large-format bottles and a round tasting bar in the back is used for weekly wine dinners. Among classics by the glass are Domaine Bernard Morey 2006 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Puits, and Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2006 Côtes de Rhône. Insituto Agrario di San Michele 2007 Müller-Thurgau from Alto-Adige is also a star, and if you’re in the mood for bubbles, try a bottle of Henriot 1998 Brut Champagne. From the kitchen, enjoy flatiron steak with pea fricassee and chanterelles, slow baked wild striped bass with mahogany clams, or do the Black and White Tasting, which pairs blood sausage and truffled white sausage.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: Per Se, Masa, Landmarc. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and New York Philharmonic; Central Park
The Alpha and Omega of Greek wine, Molyvos pours 320 of them, with over 70 by the glass. An additional 130 international bottles round out its 28-page list. Affable Wine Director Kamal Kouiri knows his Assyrtiko from his Xinomavro, and he will gladly guide you through a tour of Greece. While terra cotta walls covered with ancient family photos and ceramic plates remind one of a taverna in Athens, the enormous arrangement of seafood just past the 16-seat bar instantly brings you to the Aegean. From the 10-page by-the-glass list, a refreshing Gaia Estate 2008 Wild Ferment Assyrtiko from Santorini is perfect with grilled baby octopus and olives, while the Boutari 2006 Kotsifali-Mandilaria Kretikos from Crete works well with Greek-spiced lamb spare ribs. A vertical of Tsantalis Cabernet Sauvignon-Limnio from Metoxi in Mount Athos is available, running from 1996 through 2000, as are multiple years of Ktima Kir-Yianni Ramnista from Naoussa. The front bar also has a 22-seat casual café, with a larger, more formal dining room in the back. Chef and partner Jim Botsacos excels across a wide-ranging menu of small mezedes (appetizers) and meat and fish entrees.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: The Modern, adour Alain Ducasse, BLT Market. Carnegie Hall, Museum of Modern Art, Broadway theaters
Morrell Wine Bar & Café
Just steps away from the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, Morrell Wine Bar offers a civilized view of New York City’s most beloved Christmas Tree in winter months, but is worth a visit year-round. A large plate glass window separates you from the crowds that throng the streets, and warm wood accents and a 14-seat curved black granite bar make for a cozy atmosphere. More than two thousand bottles are available from their extensive list, with fifty wines by the glass. Standouts at this grande dame of Manhattan wine bars include a delicious Yarden 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Israel, and the herb-tinged Do Ferreiro 2006 Albariño from Rías Baixas. Small plates are served at the bar; try the braised octopus carpaccio with the crisp Craggy Range 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, or the velvety Muga 1998 Prado Enea from Rioja, which is an excellent complement to the jamón serrano and charcuterie plate. The restaurant is under the direction of Chef Edwin Bellanco and serves a variety of delicious pasta, fish and meat entrees. After dinner, on a cold winter’s night, nothing warms the soul like a glass of Croft Reserve Port.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: Le Bernardin, Insieme. Rockefeller Center, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue
Thirty three seats arranged around an intimate oval bar make this West Village locale an excellent choice for meeting old friends or making new ones. The wood-topped bar, with its frosted glass base encased in delicate ironwork, sits beneath hanging Riedel glassware of all shapes and sizes. There are more than 150 wines on the list with 20 available by the glass; however, Wine Director Andrew Hotis—sheep farmer-turned-sommelier—will open any bottle if two glasses are committed to from it. Most major wine regions of the world are represented on the well-balanced list. His favorite selection is Weingut Kofererhof 2007 Kerner from the Alto Adige. A fruity Tempranillo rosé by Mesoneros De Castilla from Ribera del Duero is refreshing as an apèritif on its own, or alongside a variety of cheeses, meats or pressed sandwiches. The bacon and smoked meat flavors of the Upland Estate 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa pairs perfectly with the Hungarian Pick salami and Italian sopressata. The reserve list boasts wonderful selections including a 1998 Chateau d’Issan from Margaux and a 1999 Chateau Cheval Blanc from St. Emilion.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: Perry Street, Blue Hill, Babbo. Bleecker Street shopping, such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Magnolia Bakery
With a tattoo-to-sport coat ratio of about 100:1 most nights, Terroir is definitely not your father’s wine bar. The downtown clientele and casual atmosphere (24 metal stools line its slate-topped bar and single wooden communal table) evoke an unstuffy vibe, but this place is serious about what Wine Director Paul Grieco passionately refers to as “grape juice.” Its brick walls and pine shelving are home to 100 bottles of wine, with 50 by the glass, evenly divided between whites and reds. To call its three-ring binders filled with essays and musings on the fruit of the vine a “wine list” is akin to calling Homer’s Odyssey a “poem.” Salads, panini and “fried stuff” such as sage leaves with lamb sausage or risotto balls with peas and pecorino accompany a quirky selection of wines that includes a spicy Antoine Arena 2005 Patrimonio from Corsica. The Reserve List, titled “From the Cellar of a Distinguished Gentleman,” boasts López de Heredia 1964 Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva from Rioja. Should you make it to the last page of your binder, Taylor Fladgate 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port, with its nose of dried stone fruits, is a refined way to end your evening.
What’s nearby: Restaurants: Hearth, Momofuku Ko, Apiary. Tompkins Square Park; East Village shopping, including Kiehl’s, Trash & Vaudeville, and Giant Robot
Raise a glass to these additional finds…
Though these wine bar finds are on a smaller scale, they do what they do extremely well and deserve an honorable mention:
Bar Veloce, Citywide
Forty five mostly Italian wines are available by the bottle, with 24 by the glass. Bruschette, panini and small plates are available. Caldaro 2007 Moscato Giallo from Alto Adige is ideal with Nutella panino. Exposed brick, dark woods and back-lit bottle racks create a comfortable space for meeting your friends. Three locations throughout the city.
Boqueria Soho, Soho
Named for Barcelona’s sprawling food market, Boqueria Soho is a roomier version of its Flatiron sibling. Beyond the long cream marble bar are counter height tables, including a communal one which seats twelve. The wine list is predominantly Spanish and both tapas and full entrees are served. Elegant Remirez de Ganuza 1996 Tempranillo/Graciano from Rioja is a perfect match for fried quail eggs with chorizo on toast.
Clo, Upper West Side
Located in the central gallery of The Time Warner Center, this unique 36 seat wine bar offers 100 wines by the glass, 96 of which are dispensed self service—think Horn and Hardart Automat for well-heeled grown-ups. Four sparkling wines are hand poured by the knowledgeable staff, who offer assistance with the space-age interactive wine list. Enjoy Opus One 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon or Fonseca 2000 Vintage Port without buying a whole bottle.
Counter, East Village
Taking vegetarian to the next level, Counter serves gourmet, inspired cuisine paired with organic and biodynamic wines in their dining room. The wine bar serves 13 rotating selections by the glass from their 160-bottle list.
‘Inoteca, Lower East Side, Gramercy
The frequently updated list features only Italian wine, and the panini press and prosciutto slicer never see any down time. Wine and small plates are served at the bar where you can watch the chef slice paper-thin prosciutto on a racecar-red hand-cranked slicer. Wash down a grilled mushroom and mozzarella panini with Valter Scarbolo’s 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Choose between the rustic LES original, or its newer, slicker East 20’s sibling.
Las Ramblas, Greenwich Village
Thirty bar stools are continuously filled in this West Village wine and tapas bar. Exposed brick and rustic wood are straight out of Barceloneta. Charming owner Natalie Sanz spent her childhood summers traveling throughout Spain, which is apparent in her focused Spanish wine list and market-inspired plates. A well balanced Pago Del Vicario 2007 Petit Verdot from Castilla and an expressive Pago De Los Capellanes 2006 Joven from Ribera del Duero are two standouts of the 23 wines offered by the glass.
Xai Xai, Hell’s Kitchen
A virtual safari through South African wine. Over 100 bottles are available, and 75 are poured by the glass. Rough-hewn wood, a South African staff and small plates including venison carpaccio and ostrich tartare make for an authentic experience. An elegant dark fruit driven Raats 2006 Cabernet Franc from Stellenbosch and a minerally white Buitenverwachting 2007 Riesling from Constantia are two of South Africa’s finest wines.