Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wandering the Village wine stores on a Friday night, one good, one bad

MFWC needed to restore a sense of equilibrium after walking out of Parm on Friday night. The meal was so good it reduced him to expletives: a slice of toasted garlic bread topped with salami and a shirred egg to start, then an utterly satisfying plate of slightly spicy sausage and sweet peppers with a side of ziti run under the broiler and topped with a scoop of fresh ricotta and to finish an ice cream cake of coconut, chocolate and almond. F'ing awesome seemed the most appropriate tribute to a meal meant to evoke traditional Italian-American cuisine, and that was exactly the tribute MFWC paid to the guys behind the bar.  

After heading up Mulberry and crossing Houston, MFWC decided to contemplate the meal and compose himself at Astor Wines, which has as deep a selection as any wine store in New York. Astor Wines has a selection of bottles from the Jura and the Loire in the same lightly refrigerated room where it keeps its reserve bottles, but it also has plenty to appeal to those who favor the the new world and classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy.

More importantly, the salespeople know the stock, or know someone who does. I asked one of them if the 2005 Chateau Montus, a robust Madiron from southwest France was ready to drink. He replied that it was a lot better than he thought it wouudl be when he tasted it but would improve with age. I asked another about a Beaujolais, and he directed me toward a colleague who discussed three Beaujolais in detail, recommended against buying a 1994 Savennieres that the store was offering for $35 or so after finding a few cases in storage, and for good measure threw in a few well-considered opinions about sparkling wines - buy the Huet sparking brut petillant 2005 and when in Germany keep an eye out for sparkling rieslings, which the Germans love so much that they keep it all for themselves.

Don't expect that kind of service - or any service, for that matter - at Union Square Wines a few blocks north, whose staff is so disinterested that they could be shipped straight to an Italian post office. Union Square's pricing is generally on the expensive side, but a few times a year they offer 30% discounts on mixed cases, events where the careful shopper can find some deals.

MFWC took up the challenge and was pleasantly surprised by the 2008 Niepoort Twisted for $12.60, a Botani Muscatel from Malaga for $12 and the Cos Frappato for $22, among others. A Gahier 2009 Trousseau for $24.49 may not have been a great deal (the $35 at which USW initially offered it was absurd), but it's probably not an easy wine to find. A few bottles of the 2000 Lopez de Heredia Rose helped round out the case, no thanks to the slugs behind the counter. USW is a very good wine store when it's running a sale. Otherwise, go elsewhere.         

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