New York City's Top Wine Lists

Great picks to make any occasion special


Wine lists. The truth is that I like reading them more than ordering off one! I don't like the exorbitant markups and limited selections that characterize the majority of wine lists I am faced with, but sometimes a great BYOB option is not on the table. While most of my dining out is, in fact, done BYOB, there are certain situations that call for ordering off the list and the truth of the matter is, that in these situations I am always choosing a restaurant based primarily on what that list has to offer.

After all, if you're going to drop a load of cash on a bottle of wine, it better be good; but beyond that, it better be part of a killer meal. I do have a short list of some spots I've favored in the past and while this is by no means a complete list, it is a start. I am hoping you all can help me fill it out, both in New York as well as in the cities that you know best. Feel free to add your favorites to the comments belo, and if you'd like to take it one step further and submit your own selection for inclusion in future editorial features on Snooth, please check out our Editorial Submission page.

Photo courtesy: yajico via Flickr/CC

Fun for Anytime

Otto Pizzeria
1 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Sometimes, you don’t really feel like going all out for a meal out. In fact, sometimes keeping things super simple is the remedy for all that ails you. Unfortunately all too frequently if you want to enjoy a good glass of wine with that simple meal you’ll be stuck with brand name plonk at restaurant markup prices. Of course, there are some exceptions to prove this rule. Want to know the best place to go in New York City to enjoy a simple, affordable and easy meal, and pair it with great wines at great prices?

The name is as simple as the concept; it’s Otto. While nominally a pizzeria that does produce wonderful individual pies, it also turns out some superbly simple pastas like Bucatini all’Amatriciana (made with guanciale, black pepper, onion and tomato) or Linguini alla Carrettiera (baby plum tomato, black pepper, garlic chives and basil) that are the perfect foil for the restaurant’s killer wine list. Augment your pasta with your favorite choices from the extensive antipasto menu and you’ll be eating like a king, with plenty of money left over to splurge on one of their super affordable bottles.

Recent great buys off the list include:

2009 Terre Nere Etna Rosso $39
2010 Valle dell’Acate Frappato $34
2008 Coenobium Cistercensi $44
2004 Sella Bramaterra $54

Living Large

43 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003

It’s hard to think of another restaurant in New York City where wine lovers would rather go to drop some dough on their favorite vintages. Veritas has been at the top of its game for years now and the wine list is the huge draw. The current menu is full of familiar classic, well-prepared and properly seasoned to work with wine, naturally.  Just think what magic wine could bring to a typical dinner composed of a Warm Morel Mushroom Salad followed by a Pan Roasted Veal Chop served with Short Rib Ravioli!

Of course, what they really should start each table out with is some beef jerky, as you’ll need time and sustenance to get you through the mammoth wine list! Patience is a virtue here, and knowing what you want helps too because you might otherwise spend your entire night reading through the thousands of selections. There are few steals on the list, but the values abound, particularly when you consider the perfect provenance of these bottles (many were sourced from the private cellars of founder and partner Park B. Smith).

Some recent values on the list:

1992 Dunn Howell Mtn Cabernet in magnum $370
1993 Edmunds St. John Grand Hermitage in magnum $250
1986 Chateau Gruaud Larose in magnum $370
1995 Jasmin Cote Rotie in magnum $220
1989 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva in magnum $470

There were some other values in single bottles on the list as well, but it looks like if you want to get the most out of Veritas, go large or go home!

The Safe Bet

Union Square Café
21 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10013

Durability is a great way to judge a restaurant, particularly when it’s located in a hyper competitive market like Manhattan. Though in truth, durability frequently has its drawbacks as well. Union Square Café has watched proudly from its perch on East 16th Street as the neighborhood has literally transformed itself over the years! What was born as a breakthrough restaurant has become familiar, warm and safe, with a menu that could easily have been handed out on its first day.

But that warmth is sometimes all you’re looking for, in addition to the rock solid food and impeccable service that are the real reasons behind USC’s continuing success. Just take a look at the menu and imagine tucking into the BBQ Spice Duck Prosciutto starter then following that with Grilled Lamb Chops Scotta Ditta. You know you’re going to like this, and it will be expertly prepared, so now all that’s left is to scour the well thought out and presented wine list for some great deals!

Some recent values on the list:

1993 Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva $86
2008 Bartolo Mascarello Barbera San Lorenzo $74
2005 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses $35
2000 Chateau Bel-Air Ouy St. Emilion $105
1978 Rocche dei Manzoni Vigna Roul Barolo Riserva  in magnum $500

Gotta be a Steak House

BLT Prime
111 East 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010

No restaurant requires a great wine list like a steakhouse does. One of the great maxims for pairing wine with food is that a complex dish requires a simpler wine, while a complex wine shines with a simpler dish. I don’t know about you but I am a steak house purist, so while I can appreciate the intense complexity of a dry-aged well-marbled steak, my steak is all about the beef, the perfect partner for a complex and layered wine.

That’s not to say that the steaks at BLT Prime have to be simple. They can be accompanied by classic steak sauces; chimichurri works for me, though the Roquefort might make your wine really pop! Round your entrée out with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, Provençal tomatoes and jalapeno mashed potatoes for full-on steak house overload! Looks like you might want an intense red wine when dining at BLT Prime!

Some recent values on the list:

2008 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee $67
2007 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains $99
2001 Chateau Pontet Canet $180
2006 DRC Echezeaux $778
2007 Franck Balthazar Cornas Chaillot $105

Out of the Ordinary

403 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10009

Sometimes you really want to make your meal a special experience. Not overstuffed armchair, silver-domed entrée special, but special in the classic sense: ‘different from what is ordinary’! So sometimes you need to find a restaurant like terroir. Led by Paul Grieco’s wild spirit, which is evidenced by his Summer of Riesling campaigns, the list at Hearth is not only a wine list, but it also a beer list, a Tequila list, a mead list, a cider list, and a primer on all things alcoholic. It shows the almost obsessive passion that manifests itself in this quirky, decidedly neighborly spot.

The menu is gently Italian, with flourishes from around the globe. I can’t resist the housemade Charcuterie for two (too much amazingly cured meat to list, but don’t miss it!), followed by Veal and Ricotta meatballs over house-made Spaghetti and to cap it all off, a cheese plate filled with artisanal samples from around the globe! Sounds like we’ll need some rustic but not too rough wines with enough character to handle these assertive flavors, but not too much weight so that we miss all the nuances of each morsel.

Some recent values on the list:

NV Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose $135
2008 Hatzidakis Nikteri Assyrtiko $68
1993 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spatlese $106
2009 Ligure di Pontente Riserva Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti Rossese $58
2008 Quinta das Tecedieras Douro blend $80

Wine Bars

8th Street Wine Cellar
28 West 8th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wine bars promise so much, but frequently stumble when it comes time to deliver. I mean, it’s not really too much to ask, is it? All we want is some Charcuterie, Gorgonzola Stuffed Sirloin Sliders, a Wild Mushroom Quesadilla and some cheeses. I mean, is that too much to ask for? Oh yeah, and wines, lots of good wine too. Not if you’re dropping onto the 8th Street Wine Cellar.

The menu is relatively simply, befitting the place’s wine bar status, but perfectly suitable for cleansing the palate and challenging some of the wines, and any preconceived notions, you may have carried in with you. Arrive early and enjoy the relative quiet of the space before it fills with men, women and voices; but if you don’t mind sharing your space and your wine, bring a smile and a generous hand as things can get pretty cozy, especially around the bar.

Some recent values on the list:

2009 La Fiera Pinot Grigio $29
2006 Chateau Famaey Cahors $37
2009 Dobbs Family Grande Assemblage $55
2006 Paumanok Merlot  $35

Want to learn more?

Check out some Unusual Wine Bar Offerings around the country!

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  • Snooth User: Hana Choi
    Hand of Snooth
    803609 935

    Ditto on Otto! We had a thoroughly enjoyable meal with delicious, fairly priced pairings.

    Thanks for including 8th Street Cellar - with its great happy hour (I think $18 bottles, 4p-7p), it's a favorite and reliable neighborhood gem!

    Aug 30, 2011 at 3:21 PM

  • During happy hour they @ 8th Street Wine Cellar, they offer $18 bottles, and a decent selection too. This is where I got my friend, a die-hard pinot grigio drinker for the 10+ years I've known her, to try something different ... and the rest is history. We continue to go here and she relies on me to pick the bottle from the happy hour list.

    Aug 31, 2011 at 9:29 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    Love the love for the wine bar! It's a great place to try something new, which is part of what makes a good wine bar good!

    Aug 31, 2011 at 11:16 AM

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