Maybe you know your way around a wine list, or maybe you pick your glass blindly and hope for the best. Either way, you probably want to find somewhere to spend an evening this fall with a nice glass of something you might not have thought to try.
That’s why we got Nicole DeCicco, who studied oenology in the Finger Lakes and currently works for an New York City-based wine importer, to give us a rundown of where and what to sip this season in Brooklyn. From new spots to classics, here’s where to drink wine this fall:
Aska (Downstairs Bar)
The basement at the new tasting-menu-only restaurant from Frederik Berselius is my new Zen spot/hide-out for wine sipping. No reservations are needed downstairs, where you can cozy up in one of the low chairs next to a seal skin throw or grab a crew and monopolize one of the round tables. Classic Gruner Veltliner from Austria is my go-to white wine pick for fall — fuller-bodied with spices like white peppercorns, fresh ginger, sorrel and peachy notes. There’s one on tap here that does the trick.
If I’m sharing, a bottle of Lemasson P’tit Rouquin ’15 — Gamay is the variety I love best during these changing months and this one is a perfect vin de soif (as Olivier labels it such) from the Loire Valley, but be on the lookout for others from Beaujolais in Burgundy. Gamay is medium-bodied and fruited with cranberries and fresh cherries, wet leaves and dried flowers are all in the aromatics. It’s all of the fall flavors in the most refreshing glass of wine.
In an old farmhouse in between Carroll Gardens and Gowanus on a quiet corner sits Black Mountain. You’ll notice stacks of wood when you enter the gate to get to the front door and those are for the fireplace. There are plenty of small tables and a nice high bar; it’s an ultra-cozy spot to grab a glass of red wine and read or have a good chat. It’s a simple list that won’t overwhelm with most options by-the-glass and half-bottle. Nebbiolo from Northern Italy is another fall favorite for reds and I think the rustic version here — Sandro Fay Nebbiolo ’12 from Valtellina in the foothills of the Alps — pairs well with the vibe. Dusty dried roses, juicy black cherry and licorice, cedar and mint. It’s a lighter bodied wine that’s complex and warming on a cool night.
Glass selections are on the pricier side here but don’t shy away, as they are well worth it for the esoteric offerings and things you won’t be able to try pretty much anywhere else. There’s a separate section for skin-contact white wines, “Orange Wines,” that have some weight (and most have a orangey hue). These are white wines that have some time on their skins, like a red wine before they are pressed off and fermented. This style typically shows off dry and savory notes of hay and almonds, and are generally a bit cloudy. Franco Terpin Pinot Grigio Ramato ’15 is on the glass-list here, and it will deliver all of the autumn flavors with a precise hit of white peach and plum.
One of my all-time favorite spots to grab a glass and relax at the long slate bar. Tucked away on the corner of Kent Ave and North 3rd, the glass list is chock-full of classics and cool options. Sit and stare out the window toward Manhattan while you still can (there’s a vacant lot that will be another one of those big apartment buildings soon enough). There’s also lots of table seating for groups: This is a spot in which you can hear across the table for once. Austrian reds are underrated and underplaced on wine lists, but Camlin has Judith Beck (hail, finally a woman winemaker!), Blaufrankish ’14, which has deep notes of berries and cassis, is light-bodied, earthy and elegant. Wines made of this grape can be super-charming and while refreshing have the fresh earth and black pepper notes to satisfy your need for warmth.
Recently opened in Crown Heights on Franklin Avenue, this is a satellite spot by Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg. All wines are made by the winemaker Conor McCormack in the Williamsburg location from grapes they purchase from mostly local growers and some California. It’s a fun spot to try a wine from our Empire State. There’s a Cabernet Franc from both the North Fork on Long Island and upstate in the Finger Lakes, to give you a sense of what our state really has to offer. Cabernet Franc is the parent grape to the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, so it’s silky and medium-bodied with notes of raspberries, green olives and sometimes a leafy green herbaceousness. And if you’re ready for the richer and fuller-bodied stuff, there’s a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel that are sure to please.
Sparing you my lecture about how everyone needs to be drinking sherry, except to say, what else can warm you up with nutty, dry savory notes better than a Manzanilla? La Vara is an exceptional spot to delve into Spanish wine (and sherry) and there are a lot of options on this list, but the main reason I’m going here is the Guimaro Tinto ’14. Grown on the Sacred Banks of the River Sil in Ribeira Sacra, this is Mencia at its finest and it’s all fruit-punch, sea salt and smoke.
Finally, I’m a year-round drinker of bubbles. My obsession spans from La Croix seltzer to grower Champagne. If you are treating yourself to bubbles, with a burger or fried chicken or oysters, or just because, then you’re missing out. Sauvage is the new kid on the block (the northwest corner of McCarren Park) from the crew at Maison Premiere and it’s one of the more exciting places in Greenpoint to drink wine. There are lots of great glass-list options here (mostly French), but check out a lightly sparkling rosé Pet-Nat from the Loire producer Frantz Saumon, “La Cave se Rebiffe.” This might also be a bit cloudy, but it’s generous with flavor — hints of grapefruit and cranberry, while still crisp enough. There’s also a red on pour out of Magnum (1.5L), currently the Eric Texier Pergaud ’13, which is a not-to-miss red for the season.