No other restaurant on—or just off—the Bowery embodies the new era of this notorious stretch of NYC concrete better than DBGB. The area once considered to be New York’s version of San Francisco’s Tenderloin (which is still awaiting its own revival) and more recently, America’s cradle of punk rock, has traded prostitutes, poets, and punks for bankers and big-time restaurateurs.
Walking into to DBGB—a play on CBGB of course, the legendary music club which existed inside what is now John Varvatos, just down the block—is, on any given night, like crashing a frat party for grown ups. The music is loud, someone is hollering for another Heineken, and women are loitering about in attire that can only be described as a tramp’s take on business casual. In some strange way though, the “tramps” are the only fixtures that still link this place to the Bowery’s past.
However, if you manage to get beyond the somewhat depressing scene and the overwhelming smell of cologne, an excellent beverage program awaits. The wine list was originally styled by Colin Alevras (formerly of the Tasting Room and now the Beverage Director of the Momofuku restaurants) as a short, but sweet homage to France’s country wines. But in the year that the restaurant’s been open, they’ve had time to realize that much of their clientele is coming there to spend, and the vin de pays wines of France aren’t necessarily what the expense accounts are hunting for. Still, with the additional grip of wines over $100 and further expansion into California, Spain, and Italy, DBGB’s current Wine Director, Kerrie Obrien, hasn’t lost focus. The markups remain quite low, the quirk factor remains high, the strength of the collection still lies in the outer-regional French wines, and the extensive beer list—with over twenty beers available by the 250/370ML and the liter and over fifty by the bottle—remains one of the program’s defining features. So whether it be for a liter of beer or a bottle of wine, if you’re willing to push past gaggles of floozies and frat boys, it’s one heck of bar toward which to belly up.
Bang For Your Buck
Grand Cuvée MV, Krug $60 (375ml)
This is about as cheap as a 375ml gets on a list around these parts. A classic, tactical date opener.
Saint-Bris 2008, Alice et Olivier De Moor $54
Alice & Olivier De Moor are part of the new guard of Chablis’ progressive winemakers. They farm organically and biodynamically and use native yeasts, large Burgundian barrels, and little to no sulfur. For their 100% Sauvignon Blanc Saint-Bris, they use tanks, and the wine often takes over a year to ferment naturally. Rich and opulent, yet precise and hauntingly aromatic—a loner in the best possible way.
Irouléguy Blanc ‘Herri Mina ‘ 2005, Jean-Claude Berrouet $51
Jean-Claude Berrouet, the acclaimed former winemaker at Château Pétrus, has gone south to Irouléguy, a tiny village of fewer than 250 people in France’s Basque country (Southwest). The ‘Herri Mina’ is a traditional white blend of Petit Courbu, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng and its beefy, slightly oxidized nature simply begs for Boudin blanc.
Côteaux du Languedoc ‘Puech Noble’ 2007, Domaine de Puechaud (René Rostaing) $68
René Rostaing is one of the great names in the Côte-Rotie appellation of the Northern Rhone, with ideal plots and a distinct style that defines itself as “englightend” (i.e. employing both modern and traditional techniques). In the early 90s, Rene and his wife acquired this estate near Nimes in the Languedoc. This blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre is now widely considered one of the region’s best wines.
Mondeuse Cuvée Excellence 2004, Domaine Veronnet $44
The Savoie region is better known for its great skiing and white wines, but this bottle of red, made from the obscure Mondeuse grape, is proof that this Alpine region is a more diverse bargain bin than we imagined. Those that have beef with Cabernet Franc best stay away, as the varietal has a similar greenness to its aromatic profile.
Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Chulscan’ 2006, Eric Texier $41
Relatively new to the scene, Texier is already gaining buzz for his raw, biodynamic wines that often boast elegance on a Burgundian scale and almost always drink above their price point. This wine—a blend of Syrah and Grenache—is an excellent entry-level intro to Texier’s unique approach to traditional winemaking from one of the four original Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Off The Beaten Path
Clos De Belle Croix ‘Rive Droite’ NV, Reynald Héaulé $66
An oddball interpretation of Chardonnay from a trippy winemaker based out of Orleans (one of the newest designated appellations the Loire Valley). Though he is known for his use of obscure varietals and motley blends employing simple, natural techniques, this rendition of Chardonnay is hardly familiar.
Assyrtiko 2009, Sigalas $56
The island of Santorini has been producing snappy whites for centuries and we have finally caught on. Conjures memories of Sancerre with its high acidity and trademark chalky minerality.
Blaufränkisch ‘Vom Leithagebirge’ 2007, Kollwentz $65
Vinified using all natural yeasts, and aged in neutral barrels this is an approachable, honest representation of Blaufränkisch, a grape that has been the Kollwenz family’s muse for more than 50 years. Punchy, versatile.
The list bears only one wine under $40; if you’re looking to keep it cheap, dig into the extensive collection draft beers available by liter. The Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde at $38/1L or the Jenlain Ambree from Brasserie Duyck at $30/1L should do the trick.
Break The Bank
Blagny 1er Cru ‘La Piece Sous Le Bois’ 2002, Domaine Matrot $110
Meursault’s master Thierry Matrot is obviously apt when it comes to Chardonnay, but has gained a special following for his red 1er Cru Le Piece Sous Le Bois (if Chardonnay is planted in this vineyard area it is simply labeled “1er cru Blangy”). Matrot is one of only five producers who make a Blangy La Piece Sous Le Bois and, needless to say, it is fairly rare. From the excellent ’02 vintage, with gentile pricing.
Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru 1988, Joseph Drouhin $250
This guy should just be starting to unwind. One of several back vintage Drouhin wines on the list here, all priced well enough to warrant the splurge.
There isn’t much to taunt here. Not a ton of infanticide or unwarranted inclusions of random wines from, say, South Africa, or egregious mark-ups. If anything, keep your hands off L’Arlot’s ’07 Clos de Florets. Not worth killing for a few more years, at least.
Note: Later this month look for a full page dedicated to the wines of Rioja and a new wine on tap from Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery to replace the current selection.
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