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Monthly Archives: April 2012

I don’t often get the chance to review wine bars on either side of the Brooklyn-Manhattan divide… mostly because I forget to record what I eat or drink. Sheer enthusiasm wins out over journalistic devotion every time. That said, once in a while a wine bar is so good, so utterly suited to my tastes in every way, that it earns a title I only bestow once a month:

DESTINATION OF THE YEAR

Yes, it’s time for Grape Aide’s first-ever post about a wine bar that merits this elite accolade. Living in New York means having such a glut of choices, so many of which are so far beyond anything else available in the US, that when something stands out, I pay attention. Every month, I select, arbitrarily, the year’s best food and wine spots in the city, based on carefully honed metrics: how much I like the food, and how much I like the wine. Maybe I have a short attention span, maybe not, but this month The Bodega is my Destination of the Year.

The Bodega wins out, for now, for one reason: its sandwiches. Oh man. These are sandwiches crafted with the kind of care Schubert put into composing Mass no. 2; however, unlike the Mass in G, which took a week to compose (I know, right?), a sandwich at The Bodega will only have you waiting for about 20 minutes. If you live anywhere near Bushwick, and by anywhere near, I mean within three states of New York, pay a visit.

We’re talking transcendent sandwich goodness, people. Transcendent, $8 sandwiches with transcendent names, like “The Coppa Feel” (La Quercia coppa, blue cheese, cornichons, lemon aioli), “Jive Turkey” (oven-roasted turkey, cheddar, pickled jalapeño, tomato, lemon pepper aioli), and “The Vegetative State” (pickled artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, jalapeño hummus). Precursors to these bready bundles of delight include a ridiculous selection of small plates priced at $4 (favorites of mine include pickled lavender asparagus, paté, soppressata, mixed olives, etc.). I have not eaten a single item on this menu that left me wanting in any way.

You’ll enjoy these sandwiches in what is perhaps the best dining environment in any borough. Every seat in the place is comfortable, and the decor is retro without being steam punk; bunches of hanging Edison bulbs, however, are very steam punk without being stupid. Trendy, not derivative. The staff members are quite happy to taste you through whatever wine or beer catches your fancy. And this place has the most freaking awesome music of any restaurant, wine bar, bar or club I’ve ever been to, anywhere. Every time I go there on a date with my girlfriend, I’m that guy, phone in the air, Shazam-ing every damn thing I hear. Too cool.

And the pairings! 14 exceptional microbrews on tap, and a rotating wine list of 14 select wines, white, red, sparkling, and rosé, all nicely delineated by region, grape varietal, and style. For this post, I’ll profile the wine that made The Bodega my Destination of the Year of the month: the Diogene Dolcetto, produced by the cooperative Valli Unite in the Tortonese hills, is an extremely good value. Ruby red in the glass, with really pretty floral notes – think roses – and tart, juicy cherries. Springy acidity in the mouth give this wine a vibrant texture, and it finishes dry and has decent length. So: stop by, kick back with a carafe of this wine and any sandwich you prefer, and enjoy the bounty of Bushwick. Cheers.

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m crazy about Bordeaux. Not a guy who goes nuts over the en primeur tastings in April, those early barrel tastings that get wine journalists salivating, mostly because I don’t buy based on hype alone. Nor do I drink the top tier Médoc monsters – Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and so on… because who can drop $1200 on a bottle on a typical Friday? But still, something about the region – its heritage, its complex classification system, and its astonishing wines – brings me back, reliably, month after month. I can count on my hands the number of months I’ve gone without Bordeaux in the past five years.

A few points to keep us all on the same page. Most people, when they’re talking about Bordeaux wines, are talking about wines from the Médoc – the most famous wine-growing region in France, I’d say, nested along the Gironde river. All of the Bordeaux wines in the famous 1855 Classification are produced in the Médoc , with the exception of Château Haut-Brion, which hails from Graves (another favorite spot of mine for its stony, delicious Cabernet and Merlot-based reds). I won’t get into the classification system, except to note that the Wikipedia article does a good job, and don’t try too hard: it’s pointless to memorize something subject to change. Beyond that, it’s important to keep in mind that five grapes are legally permitted in red Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. White Bordeaux (especially esteemed when from Graves) can include the grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle, although you’ll find odd birds like Ugni Blanc and Colombard in the blend as well.

Tonight’s wine, the 2009 Chateau La Grolet, is an odd bird as well. For all that hubbub above about the Médoc, this wine is actually from the Côtes de Bourg, a little-known, tiny appellation located just across the Gironde river from Margaux. It is produced by the winemaker Jean-Luc Hubert, entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Shows a nice crimson color in the glass. On the nose, you find very forward, savory ripe fruit and a touch of cocoa and smoke. Nice and soft in texture, medium-bodied, with just enough acid to keep things going. In the mouth, it bursts with cherry fruit backed by definite mineral notes, kind of jammy – something I love in my wine. Medium finish, with the acidity keeping you coming back for another sip. Total crowd-pleaser. Totally Bordeaux. $12.