Our date with the City, part 2: the best natural wine bar in the U.S.?

beaujolais

Above: I may be going out on a limb here when I say that Ten Bells seems to have captured the title of the “best natural wine bar in NYC” but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. The selection of stinky cru Beaujolais was pretty impressive, even after affable owner Fifi Essome had sold out of many of the labels for his Beaujolais festival the Thursday before our Sunday visit. Photos by Tracie B.

Whether it’s Saignée, Wine Digger, Eric, Alice, or McDuff, it seems like all of my fav bloggers are either writing about or hanging out at The Ten Bells on the Lower East Side of New York City (which takes its name from the homonymous and notorious London pub).

So after Tracie B and I finished lunch with Michele at Kesté, we took a stroll over to the east side and picked up Alice in SoHo and walked down the Bowery to Broome and Orchard on the Lower East Side and tasted a few of the by-the-glass Beaujolais selections that were leftover from the wine bar’s Beaujolais festival the previous Thursday — and what an impressive, if picked-over, list it was!

alice feiring

Above: Alice Feiring is one of my dearest friends and one of the persons I have known the longest in New York. Her book The Battle for Wine and Love was recently released in paperback.

Beyond Lou on Vine in Los Angeles, which remains my favorite American winebar, I can’t think of anywhere else you will find a greater selection of natural, stinky wines. And while Lou can trump nearly any joint for the hipster celebrity sitings on any given night, The Ten Bells seems to have become the official backdrop for the natural wine dialectic of our fine nation and seems to be the official satellite office for visiting natural winemakers.

I liked the way McDuff put it best: “The Ten Bells is mysterious… The Ten Bells is dark… The Ten Bells is Dangerous…” Just quickly scanning Fifi’s hand-written chalkboard wine list as Tracie B, Alice, and I caught up after our last meeting in Paris at Racine’s, I eyed at least a score of labels that I wanted to try. The oysters looked fantastic, too.

We had lots to catch up on but the main topic of conversation during our all-too-short visit was Alice’s recent and heated exchange with The Wine Spectator’s James Suckling, who was finally hipped to natural wine by our mutual friend (and jazz guitar great) Anthony Wilson. I’ll be connecting with Anthony early next month and I’ll be sure to get the juice behind the juice he turned Suckling on to!

Our date with the City was too short and there were so many folks and places that we would have loved to have seen. I can’t say that I miss living in New York but you gotta love the buzz of that city, the energy, and the wine. With London, Paris, and Rome, New York is right up there as one of the great wine destinations of the world — whether you’re drinking old Nebbiolo at Manducatis in Queens or stinky, natural Beaujolais on the Lower East Side at The Ten Bells. I sure don’t need it everyday… but a beautiful, crisp, clear fall day in November, with some yummy Beaujolais in our tummies, catching up with some dear friends, felt just right…

5 thoughts on “Our date with the City, part 2: the best natural wine bar in the U.S.?

  1. Completely agree with Cory….I’d put Terroir up there, too. Was waiting to hear which wines you tasted, though! Ugh!!

  2. @Katie you know I love me some Terroir in SF and some Terroir in NYC as well… :-)

    The wines we tasted were the ones in the photograph above and they were both excellent…

  3. Guys you think Terroir doesn’t fall in this category.

    It can be a little……… but natural in most cases is/are…

    I would like to hear your comments

    and Alice, this is Giorgos ex Cafe Katjia
    by the way darling thanks for saving the world from Parker-ization.

    How about no oak,
    long live balance &
    no Parker-ization

    Aphrodite loves u Alice

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