New York City is hands-down the best place to drink wine in the United States. It’s true: no other city in the country boasts such a crowded field of importers, restaurateurs, wine directors, and sommeliers who are working tirelessly to support wine culture in every possible way. These people want you to drink more, drink better, and drink new things, without spending too much or stressing about how to pronounce a wine’s name.
But in the massive mix of venues that make up the New York City restaurant and bar scene, it can be difficult to know where to go, and how to find places that are legit and not just advertising themselves as “wine bars” because it’s on-trend, or to be intimidated by a wine list of biblical proportions. Here are some recommendations for the most exciting and approachable places to drink wine in New York City. This list is far (very far) from exhaustive, but it should get you off to a great start. Cheers!
(Photography by Justin Chung)
THE FOUR HORSEMEN Gone is Williamsburg's OG vegan fast food spot and in its place, a chic new wine bar by former LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and three partners. With a rotating cast of natural wines—a "personal" selection curated by the entire team—you can find something new here every time. Reservations are recommended, as is great thirst and an appetite for the food menu by Franny's vet Nick Curtola.
Four Horsemen is located at 295 Grand Street in Williamsburg, 718-599-4900; fourhorsemenbk.com
JUNE WINE BAR Cobble Hill’s nightlife has spiked since June opened in January last year, although it’s not just people in the ‘hood who are enjoying the sophisticated ambience, delicious seasonal food, and amazing wines and cocktails at June. People come from all over the city to relax with friends here; be careful, a 7:30 p.m. meet-up can wind up lasting until midnight—especially when the patio’s open, which is most days thanks to heat lamps. Wines are the specialty, of course, with a sizable amount available by the glass or quartino and even more by the bottle. Expect pours from Europe—Tuscany, Rhone and Loire Valleys—but domestic bottles from California and New York make the cut as well.
June Wine Bar is located at 231 Court Street in Cobble Hill, 917- 909-0434; junebk.com
MAISON PREMIERE Two words: oysters and Muscadet. Not to be confused with Moscato, the sweet fizzy Italian wine, Muscadet is a lovely, crisp, mineral white wine from the furthermost western part of the Loire Valley in France. The vineyards absorb the saltiness of the sea, and you can taste it in the wine, which equals major happiness when paired with the succulent raw bar at Maison Premiere.
Maison Premiere is located at 298 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, 347-335-0446; maisonpremiere.com
WILDAIR Ever since pretty much every New York City restaurant reviewer has lavished Wildair’s food with utmost praise, the Orchard Street joint is packed night after night. Edge your way in and talk to Jorge Riera, the veteran wine director who will authoritatively pick out a stunning bottle made from a grape you’ve never heard of. Wines from Spain are a particular attraction here—ask about a wine from Laureano Serres. If Riera's not there, the staff knows the list and you’ll be taken care of. Sister restaurant Contra on the same block also boasts an inspired wine selection.
Wildair is located at 142 Orchard Street on the Lowe East Side, 646-964-5624
VINATERIA This “sceney little Harlem spot,” as one wine lover I know called Vinateria, has something for everyone: Finger Lakes Chardonnay from Fox Run ($48) for those who want to try something local; skin-contact Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia ($60) for those who are itching for some oddball excitement in their evening; and a delicious Loire Valley red blend from Clos de l’Elu ($40) for people jonesing for something fresh and affordable to sip on, no fuss. With an extensive cheese and charcuterie program, as well as composed dishes ranging from small to medium to large, this just might be the best wine bar north of 34th street.
Vinateria is located at 2211 Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem, 212-662-8462; vinaterianyc.com
FANCY NANCY This new Bed-Stuy spot serves snacky foods like tater tots, “hearty Caesar salad,” and other casual dishes like burgers and so on, with lots of cuteness paired with plenty of fresh, tasty natural wines by-the-glass, ranging from $10-13 (as well as a selection of “dranks.” The convivial atmosphere is good for a casual introduction to wine and its versatility from fine dining to pub grub.
Fancy Nancy is located at 1038 Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy, 347-350-7289; fancynancybk.com
LIC MARKET This neighborhood New American restaurant boasts small plates, a cozy atmosphere, and wonderful affordable wines, with a staff that knows about them and loves drinking them. There are some pretty special bottles here, such as Elisabetta Foradori’s red wine made of Teroldego ($56), or the light, fresh, unfiltered Venello Tinto from Catalonian winemakers Partida Creus ($45), both a great value and will go perfectly with your risotto, burger, salad, or just some pleasant conversation while you enjoy the distressed furniture and terrariums.
LIC Market is located at 21-52 44th Drive in Long Island City, Queens, 718-361-0013, licmarket.com
SUNRISE/SUNSET Bushwickers (Bushwickians?) have made Sunrise/Sunset their living room since it opened about a year ago. Owner Henry Glucroft is passionate about biodynamic wines, and he pours something for every palate, whether you’re just trying to hang out with some friends or you’re an aspiring wine nerd on a quest to find the most unusual bottle out there. Try the orange wine “Chilion” ($60) from Evan Lewandowski, a young natural winemaker in Salt Lake City who buys grapes from Mendocino and names all his wines after Biblical characters, or a pét-nat Sauvignon Blanc from California ($39) for something light and refreshing.
Sunrise/Sunset is located at 351 Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick, 347-442-5880; sunrisesunsetbk.com
HOTEL DELMANO Delmano's reputation as a longtime Williamsburg destination bar (and first date spot) for great craft cocktails is well-established. But the wine, too, is fantastic. For example, Delmano is currently serving one of Germany’s best producers of organic dry Riesling, Dressigacker, by-the-glass at just $12. Plus, they have a separate section for “Amber” wines made in “Quevri"—as weird and good as it sounds—and the rosé section is divided into “fresh and crisp” and “winter,” which is just brilliant.
Hotel Delmano is located at 82 Berry Street in Williamsburg, 718-387-1945; hoteldelmano.com
(via Pearl & Ash)
PEARL & ASH Recently equipped with new chef Trae Basore, the Bowery restaurant helmed by wine director Patrick Cappiello is one of the best places in the city to explore wine. Not only is Cappiello a super nice, friendly guy, but so is his whole team of sommeliers, and they are all excited to help you find the right bottle. At Pearl & Ash, you can find amazingly affordable bottles, such as the sparkling Tissot Crémant de Jura for $65. From 5-6:30 p.m., there’s an oyster and wine happy hour special (15 percent off bottles) for bar or patio diners.
Pearl & Ash is located at 220 Bowery in Nolita, 212-837-2370; pearlandash.com
MOLYVOS Long a staple for lunch and dinner in the Central Park South area, Molyvos is not only a great place to have a filling but light Greek meal featuring the high quality ingredients—like sardines that melt in your mouth, and sumptuous meatballs in savory sauce that rivals any grandmother’s cooking—but it’s an amazing place to explore Greek wines. Though they may be made from exotic grape varieties, Greek wines are incredibly interesting, as it’s a country with diverse microclimates.
Wine director Kamal Kouiri is a wealth of knowledge about his home country’s wine culture, and he has constructed a great list featuring classic and newer producers alike. To immediately fall in love with Greek wines, try a white Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini ($47 and up); for something weirder, ask for a pine resin-aged Retsina wine ($39-44); for a crowd-pleaser, go for a beautiful light red wine from Thymiopoulous, in the Naoussa ($52).
Molyvos is located at 871 7th Avenue in Midtown West, 212-582-7500; molyvos.com
GRAMERCY TAVERN A classic Manhattan institution that remains relevant today. Wine writer Jon Bonné even went so far as to pen an essay proclaiming it possibly the best wine list in the entire country. The problem, for many of us, is that Gramercy Tavern’s full tasting menu isn’t the most affordable way to have dinner. The secret: grab a seat at lunch in the more casual, yet totally chic tavern, where you can indulge in the expansive offerings curated by wine director Juliette Pope, who is a veteran sommelier and champion of New York State wines in particular. Go for the lightly fizzy Channing Daughters pét-nat ($12.50 for a glass) to be très of-the-moment.
Gramercy Tavern is located at 42 East 20th Street in Flatiron, 212-477-0777; gramercytavern.com
DIRT CANDY When Dirt Candy re-opened at its new Lower East Side location, it had a new addition on the menu: a section of the wine list reserved entirely for “natural wines.” It’s a small list in general, and it’s cool that chef-owner Amanda Cohen is taking strides to highlight hand-crafted, chemical-free wines that seem to be a perfect match for the vegetarian cuisine she’s serving. When I ate at Dirt Candy, I drank a bottle of Grolleau, an indigenous grape from the Loire Valley, by a producer called Domaine des Sablonettes ($44) and I can still remember its silky, mildly fruity perfection. Recently, Dirt Candy has launched natural wine dinners, with tasting menus paired up with natural wines.
Dirt Candy is located at 86 Allen Street on the Lower East Side, 212-228-7732; dirtcandynyc.com
THE DUTCH My favorite thing about the fact that The Dutch has an all-domestic wine list is the fact that it keeps a selection of Champagne on there, which is a bit like a vegetarian who holds an exception for foie gras. But I am down with Champagne (and foie gras) as supporting characters to what is otherwise a truly broad exposition of the very best wine in this country. Wine director Chad Walsh really knows his stuff, and the entire restaurant staff is expert in making guests feel right at home, so you can come here with not even a lick of knowledge about the U.S. wine scene and they will make sure that you’re pleased with what you’re sipping.
The Dutch is located at 131 Sullivan Street in SoHo, 212-677-6200; thedutchnyc.com
MU RAMEN This tiny ramen joint in Long Island City not only has a wonderful selection of sake, but also a secret wine list. Chef-owner Joshua Smookler has a serious wine obsession—particularly for fine, aged French and Italian wines—and he offers a few bottles from his private collection for the discerning diner who is willing to drop $200 on a beverage to accompany his bowl of noodles
Mu Ramen is located at 12-09 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, 917-868-8903; ramennyc.wix.nyc
FUNG TU So many delicious, easy-drinking, light wines at this seasonal Chinese-American Lower East Side spot. Beverage director Jason Wagner could never be accused of choosing obvious, boring wines for his list—there’s everything from sparkling Alsatian, to Gruner Veltliner from Austria, to bright and fruity Beaujolais wine made from the grape Gamay. Right now, there’s a very unique wine made from the Semillon grape, by a boutique California winemaking operation called Dirty and Rowdy ($56); it’s delicious and they no longer have access to this vineyard so this may be your last chance to try it. Do it! It will be great with the food at Fung Tu, no doubt. Also, on Sundays there’s a 20 percent discount off bottles of wine.
Fung Tu is located at 22 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, 212-219-8785; fungtu.com
SEMILLA Most of the mountains of acclaim that’s been heaped on Semilla over the last year, since it opened, has been directed toward its food. But the 10-course mostly vegetarian tasting meal would be lonely without the beautiful natural wine selection offered at this cozy chef’s counter. It’s a small list, and mostly Old World, with a lot of light, fresh wines that won’t overpower the delicately flavored food. The wines change often, and you’ll be able to count on whomever’s pouring to guide you toward a stellar bottle.
Semilla is located a 160 Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, 718-782-3474; semillabk.com
M WELLS STEAKHOUSE How else could you devour all the decadence offered at this Montreal-style steakhouse without washing it down with some excellent wine? But M Wells’ wine director, Étienne Guérin (who hails from Québec) has done a great job of providing diversity, far beyond the classics. So, in the sparkling arena, there is a delicious Chenin Blanc crémant from the Loire Valley for just $49. Or try the beautiful, darker-hued, food-friendly rosé from Provence by Henri Milan ($54)—rosé like this is great year-round. Or course, there are plenty of fuller-bodied reds to go along with your venison T-bone, but they are far from limited to oaky Napa Cabernet Sauvignons; I’d personally opt for the 2002 Bandol from Chateau de Pibarnon ($131), which is really a steal given the age and quality of this robust red wine.
M Wells Steakhouse is located at 43-15 Crescent Street in Long Island City, 718-786-9060; magasinwells.com
Honorable Mention With such a strong wine culture in NYC, it's impossible to acknowledge all of the places doing it right in one blog post. Here are others absolutely worth seeking out, too: Cassette and Glasserie in Greenpoint; Cosme in Flatiron; xYz in the East Village; Ten Bells in SoHo; and Roberta's in Bushwick.