Wine bars worth visiting in Westchester County
The small plates craze in the Hudson Valley has spawned another form of recreational grazing: wine bars. The term is rather vague, as it can refer to places that are serious about wine education and stock 20 or more labels by the glass, as well as restaurants that feature a dozen or more revolving wines for tasting. The best wine bars offer wine flights, which involve tasting a particular wine over several harvests.
"I don't know much about wine, and this is a good way to learn," said Susan Engle of Pelham Manor while sipping a Mont Redon from France's Côtes du Rhône at The Gnarly Vine in downtown New Rochelle. "I write down the wines I like and try to find them locally or order them."
Whether you, too, want to increase your knowledge of wine, or are just looking for a relaxing spot for good food and drinks, here are six area wine bars worth checking out.
Crush Wine Bar is a fun spot to relax with a glass -- or a flight of several glasses -- of quality wine before catching an event at the Larchmont Playhouse next door (1985 Palmer Ave., Larchmont; 914-834-6600; crushwinebars.com). More a lounge than a formal restaurant, the year-old spot reinforces its vinous theme with purple walls, comfy window seats, a fireplace, well-separated tables and a spacious bar. The crowd is largely older and well dressed, at least in the early evening.
"People like the idea of coming in for samples of food and wine rather than a whole dinner," said owner Jennifer Deutsch, whose business career has included 20 years in the wine trade, and it shows.
An extensive list of first-rate selections is available by the glass or the bottle, and at fair prices. For example, you can have a bright and acidic Spanish Albariño from the producer Martin Códax for $11, or a lush Pouilly Fuissé from producer George Duboeuf in France's Beaujolais region. Among reds, there is a sweet-tinged Moscato Villa Pozzi from Sicily for $9, and a fruity merlot from Geyser Peak in California's Alexander Valley. The list is organized by flavor characteristics, and Deutsch will be launching a wine club next month that will include weekly food-and-wine pairing dinners.
Crush's menu carries an assortment of "Nuevo Latino" small plates (many can be ordered as main courses), each with wine recommendations. On the current menu: Spanish style garlic shrimp; mini meatballs with Gorgonzola and almond cream; roasted Brussels sprouts with maple syrup and crispy pancetta; and baked ravioli with mushrooms, fontina and sherry.
THE GNARLY VINE IN NEW ROCHELLE
Opened in 2007, this hip, low-key cafe done in Tuscan blue and amber, is a popular hangout for the after-work crowd, as well as those who enjoy matching inventive small plates with international wines (501 E. Main St., New Rochelle; 914-355-2541; thegnarlyvine.com).
The mood is comfortable and unpretentious, with brick walls, a beamed ceiling, artsy lighting and long banquettes. Mexican-born chef and owner William Leon is an energetic promoter of local provender, and his menu is designed to challenge the palate with many ying-yang pairings of food and wine. The crowd is mostly young and casually dressed, and the place fills up for happy hour on Thursdays and open mic night on Mondays; live music is featured on Saturdays.
There are 25 wines by the glass in the $10 to $12 range, including a semisweet Red Tail riesling from New York State for $10 ($28 bottle); the crisp Errazuriz sauvignon blanc from Chile for $9 ($34 bottle); the Mont Redon Côtes du Rhône for $10 ($38 bottle); and a Heron pinot noir from California's Mendocino region. Curiously, bottle prices are quite high, particularly for a place that encourages experimentation, with relatively few labels under $70.
Small plates on the winter menu include a quesadilla of wild mushrooms, Gruyère and truffle oil; tuna tartare; crabmeat cocktail; and a number of unusual flatbreads with toppings like sweet sausage and hot cherry peppers, prosciutto and arugula with Balsamic vinegar, and spicy shrimp with oregano and chilies.
The affable servers are well versed in the food and wine.
This romantic, 6-year-old wine bar and cafe is housed in a rambling 19th century house in the center of town (241 E. Main St., Mount Kisco; 914-864-0606; pourmtkisco.com). With cushy sofas, votive candles, soft lighting and framed wine posters, you almost feel as if you are stopping by for a drink at someone's home.
An invigorating way to start is with a glass of the Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco, for $10, or a tart Muscadet from France's Loire Valley for $9. If you like lush and fruity reds, there is Cahors from Southwestern France for $11, and from Sicily, a ripe red called Etna Rosso for $15. The moderate-sized list carries some unusual selections from boutique winemakers in Spain, Italy, California and France. Check the website for special tastings and other events.
Pour is also a destination for whiskey aficionados, with 40 labels from the U.S. and Europe. And what is whiskey without cigars? You can choose from a wide variety and enjoy them on the charming Victorian porch.
The menu carries a nice selection of charcuterie (cured pork, wild boar, pork shoulder), as well as artisanal cheeses, flatbreads and dips.
This ornate wine bar and restaurant has an inviting setting, with exposed brick walls, sectional couches, antiques, high-topped tables and a handsome onyx-topped bar (10 Marble Ave., Pleasantville; 914-769-4040; batonnagewinebar.com). It's an ideal place to have a drink and some nibbles before a show at the nearby Jacob Burns Film Center.
Battonnage has a serious wine list (with a large by-the-glass selection) that presents many boutique producers from California, Spain, France, Argentina, Italy and more. Most wines are organically and sustainably produced. Consider a bright and flowery Bodegas Muga rose from Spain for $9, or fruity Chateau St. Jean merlot from the Sonoma Valley for $10. If you're a fan of sweet wines, you'll find Ports, muscats, Sauternes and sherry. There are also a number of half bottles, a welcome feature that few bars offer. A good selection of whiskeys and cocktails round out the drink selection.
The menu highlights charcuterie, artisanal cheeses, individual pizzas, salads and panini. There is live acoustic music on Fridays and Saturdays.
This hip spot in downtown Peekskill offers a little something for everyone: It's a wine bar, a small plates eatery, an ambitious restaurant, and a first-rate music venue (12 N. Division St., Peekskill; 914-737-6624; 12grapes.com). The brick-lined dining room is comfortable, though it can be loud later in the evening, with high-backed chairs, well-spaced tables and purple tablecloths. French doors open to the street.
In the back is a chic little bar where you can sample from 24 wines by the glass -- 12 red and 12 white. The wine list is well rounded and suitable for all budgets, and the wine keeper system allows for more than the typical number of options.
The food, including small plates, deserves attention as well. On the winter menu you'll find Coho salmon with mustard dill sauce, duck confit with red-wine poached dried fruits, seafood linguine, and pork tenderloin with a rosemary-merlot plum sauce.
The 12 Grapes owners are advocates of local musicians, and on any night there may be rock, blues, funk, soul, jazz and more. The live music schedule changes from week to week and is updated online.
BAR'LEES IN MAMARONECK
Owners Colin and Deb Goundrey, Australian expats living in Larchmont, recently opened this modern and artsy wine bar on the second floor of an old commercial building in the center of town (157 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck; 914-630-7512; barlees.us). It's a good place to unwind with a game of backgammon or take in a game on the widescreen TV.
The 400-bottle wine cellar concentrates on top tier California wines from the mid-1990s on, although there is a little of everything. A revolving by-the-glass selection is more compelling than those found at typical wine bars, and whiskey drinkers will enter a distiller's heaven, with 120 labels ranging from the most traditional to the more exotic available (samplings range from $5 to $50).
At the moment, the menu features charcuterie, cheese, flatbread pizzas and desserts.