A Tale of Two Wine Bars

15 Aug

CorkBuzz, Greenwich Village, NYC

In any other city, Corkbuzz would be the hottest ticket in town. In NYC, it’s only a busy, thriving, wonderful resource of wine. We need more places like this, and more Laura Maniecs out there creating destinations that become bigger than size allows, by educating, supporting, and creating more passion.  Beautifully and tastefully decorated, one enters into a sleek wine bar with small tables, long bar top, and chill-out sofas in the front. The back of Corkbuzz offers both group and private tables that appear magically placed in an old-world wineries’ new world tasting table. For cramped NYC spaces, this is spacious and comfortable, yet intimate- as if you’ve been brought into a close friend’s living room.

corkbuzz-wine-bar_0

The list of available wines (by glass or bottle) changes often but you can preview online with the up to date menus, which I find quite helpful. The wine lists are deeply considered- with only 50 wines available by the glass, you can find any style in a good quality bottle at what I consider a reasonable price -most in the $9-16/glass, with some higher end pours reaching up to $20, and currently the champagne offerings include two $27/glass choices for the super-high end.

Food from executive chef Hayan Yi is designed not only to be beautiful and delicious, but moreover to specifically pair with wines at Corkbuzz. Prices range from $6 for small plates up to $30 for the NY Strip; the largest charcuterie and cheese plates range up to $38 but include very high end, mouthwatering and stunning delicacies that are tough to find.  If you’re a foodie, you’ll find a great selection that matches the time of year and sates your palate nicely. Don’t take my word for it- look online at the current offerings and recent photos.

corkbuzz-studio-1

Corkbuzz is so much more than a wine bar, and simply calling it such would be an insult in my opinion. They provide wine education, tasting classes, wine events- it is indeed a total celebration of all things wine, and includes education and developing the wine community. Pricing is on the medium to upper range, but the quality of excellent service offsets any concern customers might have about price. Their staff are both incredibly pleasant and knowledgeable about both wine in general and the offerings they have in-house. I was impressed with the speed, knowledge, and intelligence I found from bar to table servers about available product, how wines or dishes paired or compared. Lagrein? They have it. Wines from Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Oregon, Long Island? They have them. And if you’re a novice, this is the place to come to learn and feel comfortable in not knowing- you don’t have to be an MS to enjoy Corkbuzz. But you might feel smarter after you’ve been!

 _____

Tastings A Wine Experience, Downtown Indianapolis, IN

Recently while traveling on business, I had an opportunity to visit Tastings A Wine Experience in Indianapolis.

Upon entering, we were told to “sit where you like” so we chose a quiet area along the back bar which features food service prep.  We walked gingerly through the tables and chairs which were packed much more densely than what is shown in the photos below and the series of wine vending machines. The concept is easy: you put money on a card and then use that card to withdraw 2 oz pours of wines that vary in price. I saw pours ranging in price from $3.50 for two ounces of  entry-level wines up to about $12 for wines that are pretty decent. You can also order wine by the glass and bottle, and spirits and beer are available if you’re not into wine.

icva-icva-folders-media

Here’s my $0.02: I liked the concept of Tastings. I had checked the place out online and really wanted to go and experience this approach they had. And so we went, and I found I like it much better as an idea than I did in reality. I found the space both cramped and loud, in spite of the fact that it was less than half full. I pored over the wine list while at the counter, finding too many grocery store variety wines (possible entry-level for first timers?) but eventually found several wines that I was interested in, to note that I found the 2 oz. taste to be quite expensive, perhaps not worth the taste. So I looked back at the menu for glasses of wine, after realizing that most wines by the glass were priced at exactly what I knew the bottle should cost, steeled myself and finally found two California red blends I was interested in. One was considered “wine of the week” and had listed next to price:  “ask your server for price” so I did, and she didn’t know the cost. She returned with the cost: $25/for a glass, so I declined. I finally decided a $17 glass for small-volume California wine producer (Saldo by Orin Swift) that I thought overpriced (a local store carries it for $21/bottle) but something I’ve wanted to try-and it was delicious.  My dining companion tasted Marques de Caceres “Duesa Nai” Rais Baixas Alabarino for $11/glass, this was a good example of the grape but this tasted like the bottle had been open for too long, which is frustrating given that you’re paying basically the bottle price for a single glass.  Also I noted there were few wines over 5 years old in the menu, but recent wine was in high volume: one could taste Chateau Montelena 2010 Cab Sauv for $29/glass, $12/ 2 oz pour, or $70/bottle. Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2011 was available at $25/glass or $65/bottle. Frankly I was surprised at the cost of the wine for glasses and pours given that the bottles were in dispensers that replace the wine used with argon gas, allowing the bottle to remain “fresh” for up to 60 days.  Perhaps the price of the glasses and pours are simply to offset the cost of the dispensers, which look pricey and very high-tech, and were quite popular among ladies the evening I visited.

Food at Tastings was very reasonable in price and had an array of options from tapas to apps to small entrees.  We enjoyed small pizzas and salads but passed on the cheese plates we saw other diners order nearby; they looked like garden-variety grocery market cheeses at gourmet pricing, though a quick look at the menu demonstrated that they had a wold-wide  selection of cheeses that might not be familiar to the local clientele.

tastings

I regret to say that I was disappointed with the service at Tastings. We started out fine with a waitress who explained quickly how the bar worked and tried to suggest some wines for my dining partner. After our initial order, I couldn’t flag down anyone for water and had to find and pour it myself, expecting a barman to offer assistance at any moment… but nope. When we had a problem with the food order (only half of our order arrived) I mentioned it to the kitchen staff who found a different server to re-confirm our original order, which was quickly (thank you!) fulfilled. I found a fourth server to request our check and make payment, though our original server finally returned, bringing back my credit card receipt and hovering nearby as I wrote in the tip and signed. Curious, indeed.

The wine pricing at Tastings is expensive, made greater by the lack of service so customers are paying a premium without any added value.  Knowing what wines cost and what they should cost in a restaurant, the owners have made a point to charge more than a premium for their products. In case it should appear to the contrary, please understand that I have no problem with a $25 glass of wine, but I’ve previously experienced wonderful value for that price at great wine bars where that $25 pour came from a bottle that costs well over $100 in a store, not $35. A shorter list with greater regions or style choices would make sense instead of listing segments as I found wines grouped evidently for the uninitiated:  “Enticing and Eclectic Whites”, “Enticing and Eclectic Reds”, with regional varietals listed as: Italian, Spanish, German. Hold the phone there. Control, are we missing something? Never heard of Austria? Australia? New Zealand? How about FRANCE? I did a slow walk around the store to find some Aussie wines, and finally a couple of Rhône varietals near a lone Chateauneuf-de-Pape (finally) but felt like someone had missed the boat on wine history.

I’m told they are quite busy after work and I wish them good luck and continued success, while I do hope they will expand their repertoire of wines to include more classic French wines as well as more regional wines.  If you’re looking for a wine/singles bar, this may be the ultimate that Indianapolis has to offer, and it’s a place worth going. Yet I hope they can make some  improvements to the breadth of wines on their already long list of offerings and I hope to experience a higher quality of service than my last experience. If not, I’ll still go back, as the pros still outweigh the cons without a doubt in my mind. When I’m in town next, I will set my sights and return, and hope to enjoy Tastings as I’m sure it is intended to be.

à votre santé!

Advertisements

One Response to “A Tale of Two Wine Bars”

  1. gtquarles August 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    We hope you are doing well. I signed up for your wine blog. Scott now owns a Wine Accessories Business, http://www.WineEssentials.com

    I do the Marketing and web development. Scott runs all the day to day operations.

    We’d love to post your blog on our site. And if any of our items sound interesting, we’ll send you a sample to evaluate.

    You can contact Scott at the Office, or me at 678-361-4863 or return email.

    Thanks, Taylor Quarles

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: