Sunday, November 22, 2009

New York Manhattan Wine Bars -- Bar Boulud, The Ten Bells, Terroir and Clo.

I have checked out 4 wine bars in Manhattan: Bar Boulud, The Ten Bells, Terroir, and Clo.

Bar Boulud
Bar Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s wine bar and bistro located across from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. Daniel Boulud is a star and plays almost in the same league as Alain Ducasse He is a chef, owns now a little restaurant imperium across the globe and just got his third star Michelin. In contrast to Alain Ducasse, however, he is not at all established in his home country, France.

The name says Bar, but the Bar Boulud offers full dinners, not just bar snacks, like a typical French wine Bistro, such as Willi’s wine bar in Paris, where you also can have a full meal. When we were there, everyone was eating a full meal, nobody was standing at the bar just with a glass of wine.

I like the place very much. We sat down at a large communal bar table and started with some terrines, of which there are many on the menu . It was excellent, very French. I then had a steak tartare and my wife had the special of the day, delicious peasant. We finished with a fabulous Ile Flottant, with Pernod in the Vanilla crème, which is very unusual, but delicious.

The cellar of the Bar Boulud is dedicated to the wines of the Rhone Valley and Bourgogne, north and south of his native city Lyon. The selection of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Bourgogne and the Syrah, Grenache and Grenache Blanc and other grape varieties from the Rhone valley are impressive, with some bottle costing up to $ 5000. But you can also get wine at reasonable prices. We ordered

2008 Appelation Cote Roannaise Controle, Cuvee Troisgros, 100% Gamay, $ 38

While placing special emphasis on the Cote du Rhone and Bourgogne wines, the Bar Boulud also offers “cousin” wines produced outside of the Cote du Rhone and the Bourgogne. These include superb Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other grape varietals from the New World. The Pinot Noir from the wine estate Knipser in Germany caught my eye. But the offer of New World wines is limited. The focus is on the Old World and one should take advantage of the excellent wines offered there.
Bar Boulud, New York City

The Ten Bells
One of the hot wine bars in Manhattan is currently Ten Bells, 247 Broome Street (Ludlow Street), (212) 228-4450, on the Lower East Side. The Ten Bells was opened in 2008 by three Frenchmen as an organic, sustainable restaurant and wine bar. But when I was there it did not really feel like a French Wine Bistro, as I know them from my days in Paris, it felt more like a British Pub. There are no tables to sit down for a full dinner, only bar tables. You can sit there or stand at the bar. Many people stood. It is a very intimate place. It was crowded when I was there and noisy. The wines are excellent. Ten Bells focuses on off-the-beaten-track wines from Europe, in particular from France. They also have a couple of wines for people with a big wallet, like Corton-Charlemagne and Charmes-Chambertin. The food is largely Tapas along with a good ham selection, excellent American cheese and oysters. The wine list and the food menu are written on two blackboards hanging on the wall.

This place is run by three Frenchmen who know what they are doing. I adore the French. They have it in the Jeans when it comes to what is good food and wine and what is bad food and wine. I have only been there once, but I could immediately sense that this is a place that serves great food and wine in the best French Bistro tradition.

I had a 2007 Riesling dry, Rheinhessen, Germany, Wuertz with Fisher Island Oysters

The Oysters and the Wuertz Riesling were a perfect fit. The wine was light-yellow in the glass, wet stone and floral notes with lemon-lime citrus on the nose, attack of green apple on the palate, very fresh and spritzy, with lasting finish. The oysters, with lemon juice, were fresh, firm and deliciously salty in the seawater, with a hint of soem sweetness.

Almost no new world wines and all the wines are supposed to be organically and sustainably made. Many wines are off-the-beaten-track as is the wonderful 2007 Riesling dry, Rheinhessen, Germany from Wuertz. I talk about the Wuertz Riesling at the Ten Bells in my In the Glass series here.
The Ten Bells, New York City

It a very futuristic place, not a cozy wine bar. It is very different from everything else I have seen so far in terms of wine bars. Only limited focus on food-- the focus is entirely on wine, on excellent wine.

It is all self-service. You get a kind of an ATM card at the beginning and you use this card throughout the evening, when you pour yourself your wine.

The wine menu is very special. It is an inter-active visual wine menu displayed on the communal table in the middle of the bar, like on an I-Pod. There is a projector beaming down the selection on the communal table and it reacts to finger movements. You find the grape, region, color you are interested in, and the location of that wine amongst the four walls of wines around you.

For drinking wine, you bring your glass over to the eno-system on the four walls, insert your ATM card, place your glass under the spout corresponding with the wine you want to enjoy, press a button, and out comes a perfectly-metered 4 oz. pour. The automatic dispensers includes an impressive selection of about 100 wines selections. The inter-active visual wine menu is fun, but one needs a bit of experience to operate it; I ended up taking a look to the "paper" menu.

Knowledgeable staff are there who are obviously into the wine, though ironically their involvement with customers is minimal, because it is self service.

A big advantage is that you can look at the wine bottles although ordering by the ounce. You can stroll along the bottles and take a glass here and a glass there.

The selection of wines is outstanding, although it is not cheap. Wide and interesting wines selection. Italian, Spanish, French among others and even some dessert wines including Porto. Don’t forget it is sandwiched between Per Se and Masa. And you get a view of the inside of the Time Warner building and Columbus Circle. Definetely a tasting wine bar.
Clo, New York City

Terroir is a French word often referred to as a “sense of place” in a wine. A wine bar with a sense of humor. The staff wears red Che Guevara t-shirts, only Che’s image has been swapped out for Bartolo Mascarello, a producer of Barolo wines. Charming, cute, cozy, great servicer!

The wine menus are graffitied, 3-ring binders - and the menu is printed on lined loose leaf. The three-ring binders are plastered with wine-centric graffiti, crudely drawn cartoon figures, and Hello Kitty stickers. Inside, each page has a different theme, and a different font to reflect it, like scary Gothic lettering for German wines. A lot of love and personality went into their creation. The loose leaf notebook/menu with scribblings make for fun reading while enjoying your glass.

The list is very heavy in European wines, as they are generally of the more terroir driven style. Almost no New World Wines. Their emphasis is Riesling, but there are many other wines. Several pages on German Rieslings. One full page on Hermann Wiemer wines from the Finger Lakes alone with a description of the wine estate, one page on Rieslings that are on the sweet side and have a noticeable a mount of remaining sugar.

We had cheese, which was excellent. If you're in the mood for dessert, try the panna cotta with cherries!
Terroir, New York City

Here are reviews of wine bars that I posted in the past couple of months on my Blog in

Paris, Berlin, London, New York
Frankfurt am Main/Germany


  1. great reviews. my fav is terroir - the tribeca location just opened and is awesome.

  2. I will check out the Tribeca location of the Terroir in a couple of weeks, and want to go over to Brooklyn. Any recommendation?

  3. This was indeed a nice review of Manhattan's perfect Wine bars! Once I got there I'll definitely check out "Terroir" . Hmmm, it seems to be a supper funny place to enjoy wine.

    Chocolate, Dessert and Wine

  4. Great reviews, thanks. Certainly going to check out Terroir on my visit this weekend.
    For the record, Clo is now closed.