At six o’clock on Thursday, Casellula Wine and Cheese Bar was full beyond capacity with members of the button-down after work crowd. After putting our name on a list and leaving for a drink elsewhere, Farrel, Ellen, and I returned when called by the host, and were promptly sat. Within the first ten minutes, I perused their extensive wine list and quickly learned that the staff at Casellula does not take the cheese element of their wine bar lightly.
While I was quite impressed by their creative wine list that offers over twenty whites and thirty reds by the bottle, and by their offerings of cheese, with over forty detailed description of each fromage, I was surprised by the service. Casellula is not the kind of wine bar that one visits to sit back and enjoy a few glasses of fine wine while visiting with a friend. After sitting for fifteen maybe twenty minutes, we were told by someone other than our waiter that tables were for dining only (on items like Grilled Cheese and Pig’s Ass Sandwich), and then asked to relocate to the bar stools by the door. Had we known, we would have sat at the bar when we entered, to which he replied, We don’t expect people to wait around for an hour to sit for a glass of wine.
That said, I must say that this interaction was most unfortunate, and that perhaps we visited on the wrong night. The space, though too small to handle the crowds, is lovely. With high ceilings and soft lights that warm the brick wall behind the bar, Casellula is cozy if you have a table away from the throngs hovering around the entrance with glasses of wine in hand.
It is clear that a lot of thought went into the creation of their wine list. Of the six reds offered by the glass (at $10-$14), there were three from the US, including 2005 Matchbook “Tinto Rey” from Dunningan Hills, California and Yamhill Valley “Estate” Pinot Noir, 2006, Williamette Valley. Their offerings by the bottle include wines from Romania, Croatia, and Chile, alongside the standard European greats.
The Matchbook “Tinto Rey”, made from Tempranillo, Syrah, and Malbec, was deep ruby with an earthy bouquet and full of red fruit. Velvety smooth with a touch of spice, it was a perfect choice (if a little pricy at $13) on a cool fall night.
The Urban Uco Malbac 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, was slightly herbacious and in possession of red fruits, cocoa and spice.
The Yamhill Valley Pinot Noir 2006, generously poured by our second (and more genteel) heavy-handed waiter, was delicious, but at this point I was so engrossed in conversation (sanctioned now that we were seated by the door) and absorbed by the barrel of wine in my glass that I failed to take notes. Oops!
[Where: Casellula, 401 W. 52nd St., New York, NY 10019]