Category Archives: Unscrewed

The Subway Wine Trail: How to Wine Taste in Brooklyn


If you missed my column Unscrewed in the Village Voice on how to wine taste in Brooklyn, here is your second chance (with subway directions included)!

Can’t make it to Napa this week ’cause Jay-Z hitched a ride in your Gulfstream to his Barclays show? No worries, hit up Brooklyn, Hova’s favorite borough, for an idyllic afternoon on the subway wine trail. Your chariots, the 5/G/L trains (and the Ikea Ferry), let you have the drink without the drive — can you name another wine region that boasts a public transportation line?

Grab some friends and make a day of it.  Here is your guide for sampling the best wines this innovative borough has to offer, proving once again that Brooklyn can do anything, except maybe cultivate a vineyard.

Brooklyn Winery – an easy walk from the L Train

Brooklyn Winery 

Directions: Take the L train to the Bedford Ave Stop

Founded by two internet start-up colleagues and aspiring winemakers, Brian Leventhal and John Stire built Brooklyn Winery to fill a void in the market — the urban winemaking facility. They hired winemaker Conor McCormack to craft a handful of small-batch wines using grapes from upstate NY and Long Island (and from California for their Pinot Noir and Zinfandel Rosé). Current whites include Riesling and Chardonnay with several reds to be released in October. Wines are sold in bottles, as well as on tap using exchangeable growlers (they have a winery license). The space also serves as a restaurant, wine bar, and general hangout (wine and wifi), plus it can be rented for private parties. 213 North 8th Street, 347-763-1506

BOE in Williamsburg

Brooklyn Oenology

Directions: Take the L train to the Bedford Ave Stop

Founded in 2006 by winemaker Alie Shaper, BOE is focused on promoting all things New York, from the grapes used in her wines down to the local artists’ work featured on her labels. Although the wines are made at a shared facility in the North Fork, Alie plans to move more of the winemaking operation to Brooklyn as the business grows. The Williamsburg storefront opened in 2010 to showcase BOE wines and function as neighborhood wine bar that opens as early as 2 p.m. — for those days you wish you were at a tasting room instead of the office. You can also keep yourself busy sampling the other NY State tipples on offer: whisky, cider, and beer. BOE’s line-up includes a juicy Sauvignon Blanc, a newly released Rosé and several reds. Keep an eye out for fun events like the recent $1 “Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc” party. 209 Wythe Avenue, 718-599-1259

Take the Ikea Ferry round-trip. Shoppers will wonder why your mouth is purple.

Red Hook Winery

Directions: Option 1: Take the G train to Carroll Street and get some exercise by hoofing the rest.  Option 2: Take the G train to Bergen Street or the 5 to Borough Hall; pick up the B61 bus to Red Hook, and get off at Van Brunt. Option 3 (from Manhattan only): Pick-up the Ikea Ferry from Pier 11 in lower Manhattan ($5 weekdays, free on weekends).

RHW is hard to reach, but your effort is rewarded with liquid gold. Set in an atmospheric old waterfront warehouse on Pier 41, arriving here feels like stumbling into a government secret, tucked away in a desolate building at the farthest edge of the city. Adding to this sense of discovery, one encounters an oddly located Key lime pie shop at the edge of the pier (Key West meets Sin City?). The staff is friendly and motivated to walk you through all of the 60+ white, orange (white wine with extended skin contact) and red wines produced.

That may sound like overkill, but there are two winemakers in the house. If you are familiar with Abe Schoener from Scholium Project in California, then you know you won’t be drinking standard issue 90 pointers. RHW is also blessed to have California wine genius Robert Foley working the second set of grapes. Each winemaker literally gets half of the harvest and a green light to produce their own style of Chardonnay, Cab Franc, etc. The collective goal is to show off the potential range of NY State wines while finding the common thread of terroir throughout. Pier 41, 175 – 204 Van Dyke Street, 347-689-2432

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Unscrewed: Ladies, the Wine Industry is Courting you!

If you missed my Unscrewed article in the Village Voice on marketing schemes that blatantly pander to the female wine drinker, here is your second chance…

Considering women now buy more than half the wine that ends up on the American table, a few companies have devised marketing tricks to capture “her” dollars. I submit the following evidence:

Exhibit A

Pretty in Pepto Pink!

The wine purse. No, there aren’t pockets for your cell phone, mirror, and gloss. That might make the packaging useful as opposed to merely silly. No, this wine “purse” only holds wine in a bladder inside a cardboard handbag. There are two companies perpetrating this stunt. Volere, from Italy, is selling Pinot Grigio, Merlot-Pinot Noir (???), and Rose in knockoff Chanel bags that are, what? Meant to fool the casual observer? Vernissage, from Sweden, offers a Canal Street-worthy L.V. design filled with French Chardonnay/Viognier, Syrah/Cabernet, or Rose.

My issue is not with boxed wine (which is actually bagged wine in a box). Boxed wine should be a good idea — it is environmentally friendly, easy on the wallet, and good for large groups (see keg wine). However, most boxed wine is bad because good wine isn’t (usually) boxed.

Exhibit B

Which wine defines your style, Ladies?

Little Black Dress Wines. This offering is a strange amalgam of single-varietal, no origin wines, and LBDs coupled with party tips. Not sure how they go together, other than the company’s attempt at likening its wines to the reliability of the LBD — it is stylish, always there for you, and there is one for every occasion. Seems like a tenuous comparison.

The Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, is of unknown origin (read: a blend of red wine from nameless vineyards selling off their excess), and has the following description:

“Sometimes a little drama in life can be good, particularly when it’s as tasteful as our Cabernet. This red wine has spice and oak flavors that say it’s okay to be bold. There’s nothing indecisive about this label. It makes quite a statement, just like you in that little black dress…”

Does this really entice women to buy this bottle? Wine is not Mountain Dew; it is a complex product that people spend years making. Are these companies dumbing wine down for women, or merely demystifying it with playful products? Is there a place in the market for these wines, or are you insulted that Merlot and Pinot Noir were actually blended together, and then packaged in a handbag they assumed you would buy because you’re a girl and it’s cute?

I haven’t tasted these wines, so I can’t comment on the quality, but I can make an educated guess.

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Unscrewed – Wine on Tap


Not your parents’ keg party!

If you missed my Unscrewed article covering wine in kegs, here is your second chance…

The practice of serving wine from a keg or cask has long been a tradition in Europe, where what grows together, goes together. Imagine sitting down to a plate of Coq au Vin in a little village in Burgundy and being offered a glass of Chianti — l’impossible! Your glass would be filled with the local stuff, out of the cask in back.

But in New York, the notion of regional eating and drinking has only recently taken hold.

Fueled in part by the New York market’s embrace of the locavore lifestyle, as well as by young drinkers who aren’t prejudiced towards non-traditional bottling and varietals, the trend of local, tapped wine is catching on.

In 2010, the Gotham Project, a wine-keg company from the Finger Lakes, made inroads into the NYC restaurant scene by introducing a New York Riesling. With the success of the Gotham Project has come the next wave of regional winemakers selling their drink in keg. Paumanok, Channing Daughters, Raphael, Shinn and Red Hook winery, to name a few, are embracing this effort. Wineries and restaurateurs are realizing cask wine makes environmental and economic sense, and offers value to us.

Wine taps at Southfork Kitchen

Just think about the reduction in cost to the winery: no more corks, labels, foils, bottles, and packing materials that add a few bucks on to each bottle; and the same reduction in restaurant waste, having to no longer recycle or throw all that material out. The cost savings, sometimes as much as 25%, is then (hopefully!) passed on us.

Also, the flexibility of a keg program allows restaurants to sell wine in different sizes, guarantees freshness using inert gas, and most importantly, allows us to buy a glass for $8-$10, rather than for what seems like the going rate of $14 in Manhattan these days. Sounds like a win-win, right?

If you’re looking to get a taste of local wine on tap, you can visit The Breslin, The John Dory, Terroir, DBGB, Burger and Barrel, and City Winery, all in Manhattan. In Brooklyn, check out Arthur on Smith, Buttermilk Channel, or Seersucker. And the list keeps growing: Swine, a new spot in the West Village, emphasizes locally made and sourced goods, and is dedicated to all things porcine and vinous. Can’t think of two things I love more.

Now if only our antiquated alcohol laws would take another cue from Europe and let us fill our growlers with wine instead of beer. That would be tres magnifique!

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Unscrewed: Get Him to the Greek (grape!) Moschofilero



Greek flag fluttering off the back of a ferry

If you missed my post on Unscrewed last week, here is your second chance:

It’s time to add a new grape to your repertoire and order a seemingly unpronounceable variety (see rule #2).

Despite the dreary economic situation, Greece has long been associated with the sybaritic lifestyle, attracting like-minded voluptuaries to places like Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Plus, Greek variety names sound seriously sexy rolling off the tongue, so let’s indulge our hedonistic streak and try a glass of Moschofilero (moh-skoh-FEE-leh-roh).

This grape is grown primarily in the high, cool Mantinia plateau in central Peloponnese, and produces dry white wines that are light in alcohol (between 11.5 to 12 percent), but intensely perfumed with wild florals, spice, stone fruits, and citrus notes on a racy, fresh palate.

Greece boasts 6,500 years of wine-making on its résumé. But a lack of international awareness (partially due to the fairly recent revitalization of the industry) means there are undervalued bottles hiding throughout the city’s wine shops. If you ask me, Greek wines are going to be the next big thing, so taste them while they’re still under the radar and cheap:

Where to try:

Moschofilero at The Immigrant

The wine list is quite short at The Immigrant, a very intimate, very dark East Village establishment, but it covers some interesting territory. Although I take issue with its thick-lipped wine glasses — I prefer mine sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel — the Moschofilero is a perfect tipple on a balmy night: fresh, mouth-watering acidity with intense aromatics of pear, peach, and white flowers followed by lingering citrus pith on the palate. Antonopoulos Vineyards, Moschofilero, Arkadia, Peloponnese (Greece) $11/glass

Where to buy: 

Sherry-Lehman carries Boutari, Mantinia Moschofilero (Greece) 2011 $12.95. Boutari is a leader in the Greek wine renaissance and considered one of the best (and biggest) producers, making its wines easier to find in the States. While Uva in Williamsburg carries Nikiforou, Moschofilero (Greece) 2010 at a steal — just $10.


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Unscrewed: 5 New York Rosés to drink before they are gone

If you didn’t see my Village Voice column “Unscrewed” last week, here’s another opportunity to find out 5 of my favorite New York rosés from Long Island to catch before summer ends. Hurry, only another week before Labor Day! Of course, you can drink rosé all year in my opinion.

rose_collage.jpgAs summer winds down (or up, depending on your plans), it’s time to celebrate the pink drink that fuels fantasies of seaside, Provençal retreats. If I had a garden hose that spouted such watermelon-hued berry bliss, I would fill a pool and host a fête. Alas, no such aquifer exists; the best we can do is visit the gorgeous vineyards of Long Island or pick up some chilled bottles and take the party to Sheep Meadow — discreetly, of course.

A chilled glass of rosé appeals to drinkers of white and red — it refreshes while offering fruit and body to pair with all manner of foods. Wolffer Estate in Bridgehampton might be the most prolific and well-known rosé producer out of the East End, but there are many others to seek out. Below are my five favorites to enjoy right now, before summer’s end.

Keep in mind that though our demand for rosé has grown, local production remains small. A helpful note on finding my five picks: You can buy them directly from the wineries (in-person or on their websites), try your local wine store like Astor Wines and Spirits in NYC, or check out Empire State Cellars (the only all NY wine shop) which ships to NYC for a flat $10 fee.

Lauren Mowery

Channing Daughters (South Fork) 2011 Rosato di Lagrein ($20). Purplish-pink and brimming with flavor, this dry, 100 percent Lagrein rosé is crisp, floral, fruity, and spicy, all in one sip.

Channing Daughters made eight variations of rosé, both from well-known grapes such as Merlot to more esoteric varietals (at least for Long Island) like Lagrein. Hues range from pale tangerine to pink flamingo, and are as pretty sitting on the table as they are in the glass. Tastings are inside at the bar, but there is a shaded patio that faces the vineyards with several benches. About half the rosati are sold out, so check their website. Channing Daughters focuses largely on Northern Italian varietals and has an intriguing lineup of whites, reds, and orange wines to explore, should you (gasp) tire of rosé.

Lauren Mowery

Peconic Bay (North Fork) NV Nautique Esprit de Rosé ($9.99). 50/50 Cab Sauv and Cab Franc, this dry, medium-bodied wine is redolent of muddled strawberries, dried herbs, orange peel, and tea leaves.

Peconic features an indoor tasting bar and outdoor, shaded patio with plentiful seating, and live music on weekends. In addition to the Nautique rosé, a great value at $9.99 (or $99 a case), I highly recommend their whites. The Riesling and Gewurztraminer are exceptional North Fork examples of these grapes.

Lauren Mowery

Paumanok (North Fork) 2011 Dry Rosé ($17.99). A blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Pale persimmon in color and highly aromatic, with pronounced strawberry-rhubarb notes on the refreshing, zippy palate.

Paumanok has a large deck overlooking the vineyards and allows outside picnic food. They have a well-regarded lineup of whites and reds, including a Chenin Blanc. Their Tuthill Lane reds are great examples of the depths Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can reach in Long Island in an excellent vintage, albeit pricey at $60 a bottle.

Lauren Mowery

Mattebella Vineyards (North Fork) 2011 Dry Rosé ($18). Mostly Merlot with a splash of Cab Franc. This dry, pale pink, lighter-bodied wine smells and tastes like a garden in full-bloom showing herbs, flowers and plump, red fruits with balanced acidity.

Mattebella evokes a lawn party at a friend’s rustic country cottage, with a smattering of tables scattered outside. The owners are hands-on and friendly, and will happily share with you the joys and frustrations of owning a vineyard. They make several other wines, including Chardonnay and old-world-style red blends. The 2011 rosé was picked up by Jean-George Vongerichten’s flagship restaurant as the house pour.

Lauren Mowery

Croteaux Vineyards (North Fork) 2011 Merlot 314 Rosé ($19). Salmon-hued, medium-bodied, and dry, this juicy, merlot-based wine shows notes of melon, apple, dried lavender, and roses, with sea-salt woven throughout.

Specializing in rosé only, Croteaux made 12 versions for 2012. Their tasting garden is gorgeous — think romantic French countryside. Prices range from $19 for their signature merlot based wines up to $30 for fuller-bodied versions. Croteaux is releasing a new rosé at the end of summer called Voyage for only $16. Yay, rosé in the fall!

Dog owners should note that Croteaux Vineyards, Peconic Bay, Paumanok, and Mattebella Vineyards are all dog friendly!

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Unscrewed: Ten Tips for Wine Rookies

The Pinot Pimp of Brogan Cellars

Perhaps you have seen my new gig at the Village Voice as weekly wine columnist for Unscrewed. If not, here is my first post—ten tips for improving your personal wine program.

1. Be curious. There is no shame in learning, only in pretending to know what you don’t.

2. Order stuff you can’t pronounce. Or rather, don’t not order wine because you can’t eloquently articulate the name. I took Spanish, not French, and I certainly didn’t study Greek (Agiorgitiko: I can finally say this one–a-your-yay-teeko!) The sommelier and store clerk don’t give a crap if you mispronounce something and are more likely thrilled they can share their wine geekdom with someone.

3. Drink more white wine. Drink it in the winter. Drink it with meat (maybe not with a porterhouse). Whites can be amazingly complex or lovely for their simplicity. They are better for sipping than reds, which often need food to shine due to their tannins.

4. Treat yourself. Every now and then, spend a little more on your vino. I’ll be suggesting wonderful, inexpensive bottles here, but keep in mind that many small wineries that make interesting wines can’t afford to sell them to us for $9.99.

5. Don’t drink trendy wines. Just because celeb-driven restaurants and bars push certain brands at 20x wholesale (Hello, Whispering Angel?), doesn’t mean the wines are higher quality. Drink a wine because you like it.

6. Visit local wineries when you travel. This adds a fun dimension to your trip, gives you a local’s insight to the region — winemakers usually give great restaurant recs! — and you just might discover something tasty that you can’t find back home. Unless you are in New Jersey. They still haven’t figured out how to make tasty wine there. Sorry NJ!

7. Take a trip to the North Fork. We have wine country in our backyard, less than two hours away, and some of the wines are pretty darn good.

8. Taste a new varietal. Put down that Cab Sauv from California! How about Plavac Mali from Croatia? Hárslevelű from Hungary? Or something less challenging and easier to find, like Australian Riesling?

9. Try new regions. Italy alone produces hundreds of varietals beyond
Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Tuscany is great, but so is Friuli. And Puglia. And Trentino-Alto Adige. Ask your favorite wine shop to help you on this quest.

10. Have fun! Wine isn’t meant to intimidate you. Even a Master of Wine can’t taste and recollect every wine in the world, so nobody expects you to either.

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