The cocktail craze may be hogging much of the media attention these days, but the timeless wine bar doesn’t mind. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of peace and quiet to heighten the oenophile’s most important senses.
1 City Winery
At 21,000 square feet, this is one of the most sprawling places in the city to enjoy any kind of drink. But the potables at City Winery prove that the venue is as much about quality as quantity. In the barrel room, you can test your own vintner skills and craft your very own glass from scratch (meaning grape). Added bonus: live entertainment includes music (10,000 Maniacs and Shawn Mullins perform this month) and stand-up by comics thankful for the happily buzzed audience.
2 Bar Veloce
An in-the-know crowd that skews European has been clamoring for space at this narrow, tastefully-designed East Villager for more than a decade, an eternity in nightlife years. The killer, mostly Italian wine list covers reds, whites, roses and spumantis (those would be sparking wines) from a host of regions. Veloce also serves small plate snacks and cocktails, should you for some reason want to opt out of vino.
3 Ten Degrees
Anyone seeking a respite from the raffish St. Mark's Place mayhem should duck straight into this gregarious but low-key watering hole just steps from Tompkins Square Park. The place gets packed late night on weekends, but otherwise the airy room, kept expertly lubricated by the folks working the horseshoe bar, is a perfect place to soak in a downtown afternoon. A snug back parlor is ideal for parties.
Opened in 1997, the otheroom survived the Clinton-era wine craze and still manages to feel fresh. You can chalk that up to its romantic brick walls illuminated by generous candlelight, a location in the farthest, most picturesque reaches of the West Village and a laser focus on the grapes, since you won't find any liquor here, although suds fans will enjoy the beer menu.
There's nothing wrong with an exhaustive wine list. But sometimes you know exactly what you want, and if that happens to be a bold Spanish red, this understated tapas and wine bar that pays charming homage to the Basque Country is the place to be. Overflowing pitchers of sangria and live music are bonus draws.