Perhaps I’m the last New York wine lover to write about Ten Bells on Broome Street, but I might be the first who didn’t leave the bar pledging my virginity to it’s greatness; and I certainly wasn’t compelled to leave an offering of my first born. In fact, though the space is lovely, romantic, and rustic in a tenement kind of way, Caitlin and I both left not as converts…but rather a little disgruntled and questioning the hype.
Since May 2008, when it first opened, Ten Bells has been on the breath of every wine aficionado’s kiss. And while we loved the decor, the darkness, the pressed tin ceiling, and the unmarked doors, the list of wines on the board–though initially intriguing, did not deliver immediately on the palate.
There is an interesting selection of wines on the chalk board…perhaps we experienced bad karma or luck. Still reeling from the Cru Beaujolais high of last week’s Wine Club, we thought of ordering Morgon, but we were curious to see what our “server” (I hate that word) might suggest.
We’re looking for something dirty, we told him. Some high acidity and rusticity…and so he suggested a blend of nero d’avolo and frappato–a Sicilian native–Occhipinti SP68 2008, to which we said yes. At the table, he decanted, swirled, and sniffed, poured us each a glass and left. For ten minutes or so, we followed suit…I did my best to climb inside the wine in the glass. But each time I tried to enter, I found it so tightly wound, so austere and impenetrable, that I was simply ejected from the glass. Full of fresh cranberry, and enough acidity to melt my skin, I kept swirling, hoping to find a way in.
The man beside us asked what we thought of the wine and we told him…swirling and sniffing and beginning to feel impatient. Bottle variation, he suggested, because when he’d once tried the wine, he found full of dirt and earth. After a few minutes more, I detected a hint of evolution, but for Caitlin it wasn’t enough. I myself wasn’t loving it at this point, but I suspect that if left to breath for an hour or so, the SP68 would most certainly open up.
Back to Beaujolais, we ordered a bottle of Morgon Marcel Lapierre 2008. A soft expression of Gamay, light and light and drinkable, and not incredibly complex. It went down easy with our conversation, but would I seek it in the future? Probably not.
It’s interesting, these extremes. One wine needing time, the other probably fine to feed an infant. The question is–how much time are you gonna give a bottle in a bar to breathe? When a drunk bends forward and off his stool to spittle in your ear as he speaks…how much time are you gonna give that?
Would I try the SP68 at home? Yes. But when I’m in a bar and talking with a glass before me, I don’t want to practice Buddha patience…I want to drink up!
[Ten Bells, 247 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002]