I am seeing wine bars in major cities, and what I am seeing, I like. In the past few days, I have been to two cool wine bars, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City, that are hip, fun and satisfying. The crowd is young, energetic and into wine. And the wine and food are equally impressive.
I am excited.
Until these experiences, I would seldom go to a wine bar. A few exceptions existed, like Juveniles in Paris, but in general I found them sort of underwhelming. Either the food wasn't very good or the wine selection was weak – or both. I honestly thought the idea of a good wine bar was over …
But West Hollywood’s Bin 8945 is restoring my interest in the whole genre – and it’s thanks to David Haskell, the young hipster owner. Last night I also stumbled into a new wine bar in NYC’s Greenwich Village, across the street from Mas restaurant, called Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar. Small and cozy with cool music, the vibe was there, along with a good selection of wine and good food. Bruce and Eric Bromberg, the owners of the Blue Ribbon family of restaurants, are behind it. In fact, they were pouring the wine behind the bar last night.
For me, a wine bar is only as good as its owner. That guy or woman has to be literally behind the bar not only serving you the stuff in the glass but also delivering lots of information about what’s on the wine list. Haskell does that and more at Bin 8945. I doubt that the Bromberg brothers are often behind the bar, but they say they are going to have the right person, and Sean Saint Amour, who was managing the bar last night, really knew his stuff.
A lot also has to do with ambiance. For example, Bin 8945 is small, with about 40 seats inside and a terrace for outdoor seating. It’s right in the center of an eclectic part of Hollywood where the people watching is just as fun and interesting as the wine and food. It’s open until past midnight, or as late as Haskell is ready to let you stay. LA is not a great late-night city, but it’s getting better with Bin 8945.
I went there last Saturday night with some friends, including a couple of movie producers/directors, as well as Luca Currado of Vietti from the Barolo region, and we had a blast. I never expected the food to complement the wines so well, and we brought some superb ones including: 2003 Vietti Barolo Brunate (93 points, non-blind), 2003 Sine Qua Non Papa, which was of classic quality and one of the best California reds I have had in a long time, and a 1984 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon that reminded me of the 1983 Pichon-Lalande (93 points.)
Haskell charges $15 a bottle corkage, but he'll waive it if you buy some wines off his list, which has hundreds of selections. It is particularly strong in old Burgundy. Many of the wines came from the cellars of Haskell’s father, so they're well-kept and he prices them very reasonably – sometimes less than retail.
Haskell worked with his chef to create tiny little dishes that complemented each of our wines, and he did a superb job. For instance the seared Kobe beef sliced with melted Gruyère cheese went wonderfully with the Barolo, while a decadent duck confit topping roasted lobster was gorgeous with all the wines.
After the meal we went outside on terrace, finished the wines and watched the world go by. What a scene. What wines. What food. What a night.
Fred Brown — February 13, 2007 7:53pm ET
Bob Golbahar — Los Angeles — February 13, 2007 8:45pm ET
Pascal Valadier — Portland, Oregon — February 13, 2007 9:16pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — February 13, 2007 9:58pm ET
Paul Chambers — February 14, 2007 1:33am ET
Pat Heffernan — Fort Lauderdale, FL — February 14, 2007 9:21am ET
James Suckling — — February 14, 2007 10:10am ET
Kelly Bivens — Chicago, Il — February 14, 2007 1:44pm ET
Ari Glazer — Florida — February 14, 2007 1:48pm ET
Christian Janssen — Lawrenceburg, TN — February 14, 2007 2:52pm ET
Jason Carey — willow, ny usa — February 15, 2007 9:02am ET
James Suckling — — February 15, 2007 9:13am ET
Pat Heffernan — Fort Lauderdale, FL — February 15, 2007 11:35am ET
James Suckling — — February 15, 2007 11:53am ET
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