After visiting Bin No 220, I’ve been thinking–What’s it take to make a wine bar? Is it the number of wines that counts, or can any establishment brand itself regardless of list length or depth? Must the wine bar educate the consumer or simply provide a pleasant place to drink? With over 130 self-professed wine bars dotting the city, have we been flooded like Chinatown by Gucci-fakes? USWineBars.com formed a committee of professionals and came to define a “Classic wine bar” as one that offers at least 20 wines or Champagnes by the glass with a bottle list that runs at minimum, 100 bottles long. That would surely reduce our NYC count in half, if that, excluding places like Bin No 220, which was actually voted “Best New Wine Bar 2007” by the readers of Time Out New York.
Bin No 220 is in the South Street Seaport, where I met Ellen on Thursday night, fueled by memories of fishmongers and Joseph Mitchell riding the elevator, “Up in the Old Hotel”. But, at this eight barstool, six table establishment, you won’t find any of that, especially not during the hours before the afterwork crowd clears out. But, if you wait, and night falls, and you happen to nab a stool on the landing outside the door, it becomes a peaceful and traffic-free place, overlooking cobblestones and red brick rows on Front Street. In colder months, if I lived in the neighborhood, or needed a place to drink in this part of town, I could easily envision myself sitting opposite the friendly tender at the bar, sharing a bottle from the list of 31 red or 14 white wines.
Would I make the trek here for the sake of sampling their selection of Italian wines? Perhaps not. It’s a bit limited by the glass, but if you’re up for a bottle, the selections aren’t bad. There are two parts to the menu, one that represents each co-owner’s tastes in wine. Calli “picks light, fruity, juicy wines”, while Sandy “picks full bodied, dry wines”. I ordered a glass of Insolia Pietra Tagliata 2007 ($9/32 and pictured above) from Sandy’s side, because I was intrigued by the description: “lots of citrus, zesty”, which is not what I’d recalled from my tastings in Sicily, where I was not a big fan of the grape. Was this a whole new Insolia, or were the tasting notes wildly different from how I’d describe the wine? I took a sip from my stemless Bodum glass, and sure enough, it was just as I remembered–oaky and nutty with aromas of peach pits, and not unlike an oaked, lees-aged chardonnay.
While inside waiting for a seat on the landing, I noticed a lot of cocktails being served, which in part inspired my thoughts on what it takes to make a wine bar. What do you think?? A little frustrated by my first glass, we decided to make the second a simple choice–because it’s hard to go wrong with rosé–a bottle of Rosé Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 ($9/32), made from Aglianico, a southern Italian dark-skinned grape. From Campania, it’s shows bright red fruit–strawberry, raspberry, and a bit of cherry. Nothing complex, but it’s got the right acidity for a sweltering summer night.
[Where: Bin No 220, 220 Front Street, New York, NY 10038]