The Wine Drinker’s Guide to New York’s Top 25 Wine Bars in Every Borough
Wine is back. Not that it ever went away, but in my 10 years as an advanced certified wine professional, wine writer, retailer, and honorary cavaleiro (knight) in the Brotherhood of Port Wine, I’ve watched the public trade out cheesy wine bars for hipper watering holes mixing artisan cocktails or pouring craft suds. The ‘90s-slash-early-aughts versions of wine bars -- distinguished by a design fetish for cork art, dusty fake cellar cages, or plastic and vinyl grapes -- were dated, many serving juice bombs of fruity, flabby cabernet and buttery-as-movie-theater-popcorn chardonnay. Not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of wines, but if you can just as easily grab them at your parent’s local grocery store, why would you go out to drink?
Then, as this decade started, a batch of young, bright sommeliers, retailers and wine importers started to change the game. Bars and restaurants started to get hip to lighter, fresher styles of wine -- the French even have a word for these drinkable, easy-to-pound sippers: glou, or glou-glou -- from all over the world. Global offerings from places as varied as Slovakia, Georgia (the country, not the state), the Canary Islands, Chile, and Mexico, now find shelf space alongside classic regions from France, Italy, and Spain. Changing tastes also ushered in the natural wine movement, a style of wine making that eschews heavy-handed winemaking for wines with nothing added, nothing removed. (Think of it as wine’s answer to craft, though the farming practices and winemaking techniques are as old as wine itself.)
Today? Wine bars are cool, without any of the pretensions of the past. Whether you’re looking for a date spot or looking to learn a thing or two about what’s in your glass, wine bars in all five boroughs offer a refuge from rowdy sports bars and trendy cocktail spots. Coupled with chef-driven food, cozy, modern decor, and affordable prices, wine bars have come a long way. Here are our favorites throughout New York City.
Lower East Side
One of the city’s OG wine bars, since 2008, Ten Bells has been a Lower East Side mainstay for folks in the wine trade and lovers of natural wine alike. You’ll mostly find wines from smaller French producers -- the name of the game is offbeat and funky wines, which balance a knife’s edge of earthy flavors and electric acidity. With generous happy hour deals serving oysters and vino, plus tapas-style bites, this darkly lit boîte is perfect for an afterwork hang, or a late-night date.
Yes, this Williamsburg natural wine den is co-owned by LCD Soundsystem frontman, James Murphy. Open since 2015, Four Horsemen was not the first natural wine bar in New York, but it’s certainly one of the best known. The small, comfortable spot -- blonde woods, warm orb lights -- sports more of “Bumble date” than “group birthday dinner” vibe. The kitchen’s dishes may read simple -- think sourdough and cultured butter, butter beans with garlic yogurt and cucumbers, and marinated mussels -- but are perfect partners to the easy-drinking, high-acidity France-heavy wine list.
Located at the foot of Fort Tryon Park, below the Met’s Cloisters in northern Manhattan, teeny Tannat is a snug canteen for natural wine, without having to trek downtown for more trafficked spots. The bar takes its name after the French grape varietal -- appropriately, if you haven’t heard of it before, one peek at the wine list and you’ll find plenty of new-to-you discoveries, too. (Cinsault! Traminer! Malvasia di Candia!) Prices here are fair, and you can easily taste your way round the world thanks to pours priced by splash, by glass, or by bottle. Chef William Emery mans the kitchen, churning out eye-poppingly affordable four course ($38), three course ($32), and entree ($21, with toast and house pickles) dinners, created from local Hudson Valley produce.
Lower East Side
Lower East Side haunt Wildair is a favorite of celebs like comedian Eric Wareheim (who is now a winemaker himself, btw), but it’s also a draw in its own right. You’ll never know what Wildair’s knowledgeable, passionate servers are pouring on any given night, but rest assured that it’s affordable, interesting, and downright pleasant. Something of an offshoot of high-end sibling Contra right next door, Wildair benefits from that kitchen’s talent while delivering a convivial, welcoming personality that’s all its own.
MADE IN NEW YORK:
One of the city’s top wedding venues also happens to be a great urban winery and bar in its own right. If you dig the reclaimed wood-meets-industrial vibe, this spot’s for you. Winemaker Conor McCormack sources grapes from vineyards all over the country, but the ones to try are those award-winning wines made from New York-state grapes. The unoaked chardonnay is a particular delight, consistently fresh and bright, while the reds from Long Island’s North Fork -- single-varietal merlot or cabernet sauvignon, or the blends themselves -- are also deliciously praise-worthy.
Red Hook Winery
This is a working winery in the right here in urban NYC, and we’d be remiss not to steer you toward the tasting room for a day-drinking adventure. Take a tour, sure, but for $18, you can try four of the winery’s offerings. Showcasing New York state’s proclivity for grape-growing, you can also just taste through the 12 local wines by-the-glass or bottle, like riesling, skin contact wines, and blends. And you can’t beat the view: the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan skyline and waterfront provide the perfect backdrop.
Set in the heart of Queens, this humble little wine bar pays homage to wines made in New York’s own Finger Lakes region, borrowing its name from one of the famed lakes. While the list represents global regions (Italy, California, Spain), curious drinkers can also zero in on the red and white flights featuring wines from some of the Finger Lakes’ top producers: Ravines, Lakewood Vineyards, Boundary Breaks, and McGregor. An extensive food menu is also available, either for casual noshing or a full meal.
Relaxed digs, thin crust pizza, natural wine and… cake. What more can you ask for? Tailfeather is the chill, modern wine bar of our dreams. Stop by during happy hour (4-7pm), and you can kick off your night with $7 glasses of stuff the staff is crushing at the moment. Regular by-the-glass pours, too, start at $9, with many bottles fairly priced below $60. A chilled reds and orange wine section is a welcome change from classic styles, while interesting varietals like saperavi from Georgia, listan negro from the Canary Islands, and trebbiano romagnolo from Italy invite a tongue-twisting global adventure through regional, indigenous grape varieties worth trying.
June’s gorgeous marble bar and its spacious back garden are as close as you’re gonna get to an escape to Paris in south Brooklyn. The by-the-glass (BTG to wine pros) changes every couple of days, and an extensive natural wine list spans some of wine’s most interesting regions, like France’s Jura, Austria’s Styria, even Mykonos (shout-out to Lindsay Lohan). If you’re looking for skin-contact wines -- that is, white wines that have been made like reds, to extract flavor and texture from their skins -- be sure to check out producers like Milan Nestarec’s selections from Czech Republic, or Champagnes by Jacques Lassaigne.
The best wine bars are inviting, delivering hospitality and knowledge without any airs. You’ll find that and more at the 20-seat Ruffian, along with 200-something wines from all over the world (with a focus on Eastern Europe), 30 or so by the glass. The move, though, is to bring a couple of friends and ball-out over bottles -- the prices here are fair, with some options coming in as low as $50. A small-but-focused food menu by chef/partner Josh Ochoa is inspired by Mediterranean flavors, and smoked olives, zucchini bread crostini, and ratatouille tarte go beyond standard fare.
The latest project from star somm Joe Campanale, LaLou just feels civilized. With loads of natural light and soft, neutral tones of grey, taupe, and natural wood throughout, it’s an escape from a mad world. The bar is stocked with wines from fascinating regions like Hungary and the Canary Islands, though you’ll find more classic varieties like gamay, tempranillo, and cabernets from Beaujolais, Spain, and Bordeaux, among others. Knowledgeable staff are on hand to help guide your BTG selection, like winemaker Louis-Antoine Luyt’s refreshing red Pipeño Carrizal, a traditionally made Chilean natural wine. Or opt for a bottle, like one of the many softer bubbled petillant naturels, or “pet-nats,” the easy-sipping cousin of Champagne-style wines.
Coast and Valley
In the pantheon of wine regions, the New World stronghold of California is as well-known as any region in France or Italy, depending on who you ask. You’ll find a love letter to the Golden State’s diverse wine-growing regions in the form of a 100-bottle wine list at Coast and Valley. Available in 2- and 5-ounce pours, the wine list invites you to try everything -- literally all the bottles are available by the glass or incorporated into flights -- including natural wines, traditional cabs and chardonnays. Don’t miss wines from noteworthy producers like Donkey & Goat, Bellus, and Arnot-Roberts, while chowing down on Cali-appropriate fare like poached chicken, lemongrass coconut curry, and cauliflower and leek soup.
Home to wine world celeb Paul Grieco and chef Lesley Rivera, Terroir is best known for its “fuck it” approach to wine consumption. Yeah, sure, you’re gonna find great wines here -- yawn! You’ll also get impeccable hospitality without any airs, where guests are clearly enjoying themselves while enjoying a sherry from Spain or exploring the true and wondrous magic of riesling. (Spoiler alert: Everything you know about riesling is wrong, and you should trust Terroir to set you to rights.)
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
An offshoot of apex restaurant Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is named after the restaurant’s famed wine director and wine world celeb. Sohm and his team pour upwards of 40 wines by the glass, with 200 bottles available as well. Selections are global but classic -- from France, Germany, Spain, and Sohm’s native Austria -- and decidedly more upscale: A glass of producer Auguste Clape’s 2013 Cornas runs $80 (the whole bottle is $320). This is cool and wild: You can try rare, incredible wines without shelling out the cost of a bottle, but it’ll still set you back. Luckily, the wine list offers a range of price points.
Though it has locations in the Chelsea Market, the Hamptons, and Charlotte, North Carolina, Corkbuzz’s flagship location in Union Square still remains a draw since opening in 2012. The brainchild of Master Sommelier Laura Fiorvanti, Corkbuzz is the kind of spot you bring your cooler-than-you parents when they fly into town. Stylish but not stuffy, the vibe is as buzzy as the name suggests, with a European-focused wine list and themed, ever-changing sommelier-driven flights. The Sommelier Mix-tape, for instance, is a bespoke trust exercise between you and the somm, who will pick out some choices based on your preferences or mood, while the Back in the New York Groove flight focuses on local winemakers from Long Island, and Gimme Some Skin is a mini-lesson in skin-contact orange wines.
Vin Sur Vingt
Ever have a friend message you “wanna get a drink? I have the wildest story” and you’re scrambling for a place to meet up? You’re in luck. With locations in Tribeca, West Village, the Upper West Side and a couple of others, it’s an accessible spot for a last minute date, meet-up, or gab fest when you’re all out of ideas on where to go. While essentially a mini-chain of wine bars, Vin Sur Vingt feels anything but. With happy hours before 6pm and bottle discounts after 10pm, each location also affords a cheaper-than-usual night out. The wines span the whole of France, exclusively, offering curious drinkers a chance to sip the funky offerings of Jura and Savoie, or the playful-yet-complex sippers from Beaujolais.
Lifelong New Yorker and Harlem resident Yvette Leeper-Bueno opened Vinatería in 2013, and it has since blown up into a destination spot highlighting Spanish and Italian wine and food. Recognized by Wine Spectator and Michelin for its wine list, Vinatería focuses its buying efforts on small producers you’d be pressed to find elsewhere. The perfect spot for a date night, Vinateria’s chalkboard menu of daily specials turns up the charm -- as if the cozy dark walls, indoor plant boxes, and large, airy windows didn’t already.
D’Antan was founded by the same folks behind Have & Meyer and Terre. Expect a mostly Italian wine list of more than 100 natural wines by the glass, plus a full-service kitchen. A sleeper hit, though, is the vermouth menu, which highlights bottles from Turin, spiritual home of the aromatized, fortified wines. Whether you’re checking out the draft vermouth-driven cocktails or sipping through the multiple styles of Italian vermouths as an aperitivo, you can’t miss with this casual, stylish little bar and restaurant.
Vinum Wine Bar & Restaurant
Chef and restaurateur Massimo Felici has built his career on tapping his Italian roots and training at restaurants here and abroad. After moving to Staten Island, he opened Vinum, where he helps guide the kitchen in crafting house-made small plates, breads, and pastries. The wine list, too, is tightly focused on Italian grapes like falanghina, vernaccia di San Gimignano, negroamaro and many more. White tablecloths, exposed brick and soft lantern lighting round out the warm and inviting trattoria experience.
BLVD Wine Bar
Long Island City
Head to BLVD for one of the best deals around: During happy hour, all wines by the glass are $7.50. With twenty wines by the glass, including some on tap, this spot eschews pretension for a good time, empowering guests to skip the formalities if all they want to do is drink and carouse. New and Old World producers make up the list, underlining the bar’s focus on drinkability, while knowledgeable staff can just as easily steer you toward some local craft brews, if wine isn’t your thing.
Air’s Champagne Parlor
A temple to accessible decadence and all things sparkling, Air’s Champagne Parlor is the wine bar of Dionysian dreams. The menu shifts and morphs as quickly as bubbles trail up the side of a flute, such that your favorite bottles may not be available on subsequent visits. Rest assured, though, that the irreverent but expert staff can steer you towards life-changing bottles of bubbly from, yes, Champagne, but also places like Germany, Greece, and Italy.
ADVENTUROUS AND NOTEWORTHY REGIONS:
Come for the epic Greek seafood, stay for the wine list. Since 1996, this Astoria destination has been transporting diners to the country’s sunny isles via the glass. A glance at the wine list yields bottles from Italy, France and California, but don’t skip the Greek single-varietal or blended offerings made from moschofilero, assyrtiko, or retsina wines, a uniquely Greek wine style that incorporates pine resin in the production process. Signature dishes -- think grilled swordfish, ortikia (grilled quail), or fried sardines -- all pair perfectly, especially with the whites.
Upper East Side
Look, we hate to break it to you: The Upper East Side is terminally unhip. Which is all the more reason you should make your way to Kaia, a one-of-a-kind wine bar that focuses exclusively on the oft-ignored wines of South Africa. Daily happy hours ($6/glass) are enough reason to make a beeline up here. Boasting one of the most extensive South African wine lists, well, anywhere, you’ll find méthode cap classique wines (sparkling wines made in the Champagne-style) by storied producers like Graham Beck, dessert wines by Stellar Winery, and diverse reds from throughout the country. While you’re at it, don’t sleep on the farm-to-table meat pies, ostrich sosaties (skewers), and wild boar toasties (grilled sammies) from chef Billy Dineen.
Sayra’s Wine Bar and Bier Garden
Locally owned Sayra’s is small but mighty. The 28-seat Rockaway wine bar is a rarity in this part of the city, but its affordable offerings (bottles from $20 to $40) are enough of a reason to swing by when you’re nearby. The large patio is a draw unto itself -- the bar hosts regular movie nights, while a seasonally driven wine list features refreshing pours from places like South Africa and New Zealand, or mulled wine in the winter.
The Lit. Bar
OK, so this isn’t a wine bar, but rather a bookstore that serves wine. Opened in spring 2019, this spot is the Bronx’s only independently owned bookstore, built by Noëlle Santos following the shuttering of the borough’s only bookstore, a Barnes and Noble. Fast track to today, and The Lit has become a community anchor specializing in highlighting African American, Latinx and other diverse voices but also a venue for wine-tastings (a small cafe is in the rear), community events, book signings and more.
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