At five o’clock on the dot Caitlin and I met at Terroir, located at 413 East 12th Street and open since March, for happy hour where five wines are available at $6 a glass. Our concerns about getting a place at the bar weren’t unfounded, as last time we tried to visit, the space spit us out on the sidewalk before we could get through the door. This time, punctuality paid off. In less than an hour, the skies tore open in a downpour as I looked around the room and saw that there wasn’t a stool left free in the house.
A tiny bar with punk rock menus and a clean edge, Terroir serves wines that represent the elements of the time and place at which they were made. The summer light passing through panel glass windows as the sun set across the sky complimented the earthy essence of the wines and space. Terroir’s happy hour, which lasts exactly 60 minutes, offers one white, one rosé and three reds. The St Ludwig Riesling Kabinett 2006, from the Mosel-Sarr- Ruwer region, however, seemed like an odd choice. Too fruity, too jammy, and with a floral essence of concord grapes, this wine was a surprise. There are so many rieslings, to choose from…why this?
The rosé on the other hand was delicious. Matthias Dostert, Roter Ebling, 2007, also from Mosel-Sarr-Ruwer, is colored powder puff pink and in possession of a kicking bouquet. With lots of mineral and strawberry on the nose, the flavors were crisp, but the dry finish lingered long.
Moving on to explore the summer of riesling, I asked the tender behind the counter for a good wine that wouldn’t cost me $20 a glass. Without a bat of the lash, he pointed us toward the bottom of the menu, to the Binner Riesling, Kaefferkopf 1994, from Alsace for $11, and offered me a taste. An unusual golden hue for a riesling, this wine was full of petrol on the nose with a little fruit (again a hint of concord-esque), that delivered a refreshing kick. With a touch of spice (mild chili) bound to the petrol with anise, these bold flavors came together harmoniously. No need to think twice before ordering a glass.
The bartender that night was personable, pleasant, and engaging with knowledge when we asked. To our question of what we should order next, he suggested the Stadt Krems Grillenparz Riesling, 2003 from the area of Kremstal in Austria, for $14.50 a glass. After a single whiff and sip, we were both sold, on a greenish straw riesling full of mineral and fruit (the producer suggests citrus, pineapple, and banana, we again sensed grape) that was super silky and smooth; a taste that lost none of its well composed complexity when paired with the Cremini Mushrooms.
With such an interesting selection of wines (and we didn’t make it past page three), Terroir offers plenty enough reason for my return.
[Where: 413 E. 12th Street, New York, NY 10009]