What makes a great wine bar?
The Ambience, the Wines, Food Selections, Service,
or the interesting Artwork on the walls.
In NYC, it’s easy to find great wine bars, they are becoming very popular and are usually crowded with smart, interesting wine lovers! Each year we visit several wine bars in the city and rate them based on wine selection, food, service, price and basically how much fun each was to visit and share a night out with friends.
In December we present the best wine bar with the prestigious “Wine Voice, NYC Wine Bar of the Year” award.
The Ten Bells ★★★☆☆
247 Broome St, New York, NY 10002
web site: tenbellsnyc.com
The Ten Bells
This old style New York City bar, is located downtown on the lower east side between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. This is one unique place.
To begin with there is no name on the door so if the doors are closed it is a bit confusing if this is actually a wine bar. Inside it looks as if it has not changed in 100 years. A lot of old NY bars still have the tin or metal ceilings, but this place has metal walls, marble counter tops and chalk menu boards. The feeling is so old style New York that you expect to see Vito Corleone sitting in the back with Hyman Roth talking about importing molasses from Cuba. Incredible look and feel, even has a full size tree growing inside.
We arrived early on a Friday night and the place was pretty full, mostly couples, this appears to be a great “date night” place. The waiters were the best part of the evening, great guys with tons of wine knowledge and very helpful. The food was also off-the-chart-good. I had the Crab and Avocado dish with bread and it was way past awesome. Other members of our group had vegan friendly dishes which they seemed to enjoy. The menu is mostly tapas style dishes that pair well with their wine offerings, they specialize in Oysters at $1.00 each during happy hour.
The wine collection was extensive and moderately priced, almost all Old World wines and interestingly on the wine list they have a category called “Orange Wine” and another for “Honey Wine”. They thrive in introducing their customers to the world of Natural Wines, wines produced from organic or biodynamic grapes. The wines are served a bit chilled and their by the glass selection is pretty complete.
The highest price red wine is Vin Jaune – Chateau-Chalon-62cl Domaine Bourdy 1947 at $600.00
The highest price Bubbly is Cremant Brut Zero – Auzerrois, Pinot Gris & Chardonnay Balentin Suxxlin NV at $990.00
The only drawback was the lighting, the place was very dark, so much so it was hard to read the menu and even see across the bar. Also it is a bit on the smallish side, and hard to move around once inside.
They have a great old style table it the back area which is perfect for large groups which they will accommodate with your reservation. And if you want a great place for a unique office party this is the spot.
We award The Ten Bells three stars for its unique character and the welcoming and casual ambiance. The staff makes you feel welcome and are eager to answer any questions you might have about the wines.
By the way, the photos on the walls are worth a visit.
Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar ★★★★☆
11 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001
web site: ayzanyc.com
Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar
We have had this place on our list of wine bars to visit for quite awhile and on Thursday night we finally got a chance to drop in and it was an unexpected pleasure. Sitting outside on a beautiful spring night with a bit of chill in the air made this drinking and dining experience very special.
Thursday night is a popular night so arriving early or late is a good strategy. The wine selection is unbelievably good, we started with a glass of Bordeaux ($11.00) with a delightful appetizer of chocolate and coconut truffles, and it just got better from there. We moved on to a California Pinot Noir ($13.00) paired with a salmon dish, then a glass of Barbera ($13.00), finished with a glass of Spanish Rioja ($15.00) paired with a chocolate cheese cake. The Salmon was awesome, sitting on top of a bed of guacamole, but the chocolate cheese cake was the reward. The deep fruit and sharp notes of the Barbera worked beautifully with the chocolate sauce and was a great way to end the night.
The crowd was a mixed of tourists and NYC business types, the seating is close but not uncomfortable and the service is extraordinary. There are several waitresses working the crowd like a politician hoping to win your vote. The location is the only downer, 31st street between 5th and 6th avenues with the familiar traffic noises and pollution, however the seating is comfortably secluded from the sidewalk so the noise is hardly noticable. And if you are lucky enough to get a seat inside you are in for a wonderful evening.
Monday is Jazz night, and happy hour is from Monday – Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. They even have a ladies night and a special lounge room you can book for a private event.
Three of us drank and dined for several hours and the bill came to just over $200.00 with tip. Very reasonable considering how much wine and food we consumed. We highly recommend this place and can not wait to return for more wine and chocolate.
Located on the lower east side of Manhattan.
179 3rd Ave, (corner of 17th and 3rd ave.) New York, NY
web site: follianyc.com
When you first walk in you are immediately greeted by two very nice hostesses who make you feel welcomed. The interior has more of a restaurant feel than a wine bar and has a family type of atmosphere. In fact several children were seated in the dining area and in the back area where patrons who are more likely to order appetizers and not complete dinners are seated.
As we talked with the manager we learned that most of the customers are from the neighborhood, and are frequent patrons. That might explain the noise level which was off the charts loud. Seating was not great, tables and choices were good, but the size of the crowd made it a bit uncomfortable. Outdoor seating is available in the warmer weather which should help manage the crowd and the neighborhood is great, just two blocks from Union Square Park, a few blocks from NYU and close to Gramercy Park.
The wine selection is mostly Italian, ranging from $40 to $100, the most popular selection is
“Montepulciano D’abruzzo, il cont, abrouzzo 2015, and it is listed for $42 or the bottle and $11 per glass.
Note: This wine can be purchased online for around $10.00 a bottle.
Characteristics: Ruby red with purple hues. Powerful intensity in flavor, with lots of ripe red fruit.
Taste: Very rich in fruits, lively, with in the background a discreet touch of wood.
Dishes suggestions: Italian dishes, barbecue.
The food selection.
This is the best part of Follia, the pizza. All pizzas are hand-made in their Italian wood oven. A bit thin on the crust but the selections are great and the oven roasted flavor pairs perfectly with their selection of Italian wines.
Overall we gave Follia a rating of three stars. Could have been higher but the mark up on the cost of the wines was bit high and the noise level was uncomfortable. Maybe if we went there during the week and not the weekend we would have added a star. But the pizza is worth a visit.