As narrow and cozy as the brownstones that wind along West Village streets, The Upholstery Store follows on the heals of Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Wallsé, Blaue Gans, and Café Sabarsky. Without the Austrian effect of the other three, it’s a somewhat eclectic 34-bottle wine bar on Washington Street, with warm globe bulbs and candles, and a bar with seven seats.
Caitlin and I sat at the counter to admire the jars of pickled vegetables–bright colored green beans, radish, and carrots–while waiting for Kelleigh to arrive. Our glasses were small and filled to the brim (making it impossible to enjoy aromas until our glasses were half full); but there was exposed brick at our backs, background tunes that included Tom Waits and The Clash, and carefully arranged bottles of wine along the ceiling and wall.
And though I prefer the limited wine options at Café Sabarsky, the list at The Upholstery Store includes affordable options, such as Syrah, Syrocco Thalvin, Morocco 2006 for $6 a glass. Unfortunately for me, the whole list of reds lends itself to big and bold and/or fruity wines, including Cloudline (Oregon) Pinot Noir, Malbec, Shiraz, and Zin. The by-the-glass options includes a Southern Rhone Syrah, which I normally enjoy but tried and didn’t like, Carmenere, and Blaufränkisch. The whites here are more to my liking, or at least with greater range, and therefore appeasable to more tastes.
Caitlin, who arrived first, ordered the Hans Wirsching Sylvaner, Franken Germany 2007, which is crisp, dry, and zippy. I, for the sake of ordering something different, steered clear of the oaked California Chardonnay and opted for the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc (or Steen), Stellenbosch, South Africa. After attending last week’s Cape Classics–a tasting of South African wines that I’ll write about next week–I ordered this Steen with confidence, since I’d then tried a handful that I’d liked.
Oaky with oak on the nose and apple, and maybe a touch of pine spice, it has an astringent oak finish, that screamed for palate cleansing when it was gone. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but nothing like hyperbole to emphasize taste!) Thankfully, a few olives rid the oak and transformed the Steen into something elegant.
And so, all along, I should have gone Croatian instead. Scribbled on the blackboard beneath the other special wine of the night–Spumante Rosé–was Zlahtina, Croatia 2008 (producer unknown). A white grape that’s native to the island of Krk, this Zlahtina is slightly effervescent and refreshing, with notes of minerality and pear. The finish has a slightly bitter grip, but it did the trick and cleansed the Steen from my mouth.
[Where: The Upholstery Store, 713 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014]