A friend and I met for a few glasses of wine the other night at The 8th St Wine Cellar, in the heart of the West Village, right down the street from Electric Lady Studio, conceived and created in 1970 by Jimi Hendrix (left), perhaps the first major recording artist to own a studio in the modern era of rock ‘n’ roll. Every time I walk down 8th st., I can’t help but think of the countless classic recordings that were made on this historic block, now lined with head shops and tattoo and piercing parlors (check out the clients page on the studio’s website).
Even after all these years, the West Village has retained its free spirit and the sense of openness that began to form here in the late 1950s and early 60s. The easy-going bartenders at The 8th St. Wine Cellar were friendly and generous with their pours and when I ordered a glass of Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo 2006 Agamium, our waiter said he didn’t mind at all opening a new bottle for me.
Above: bacon-wrapped figs with mascarpone with a glass of Agamium.
Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo (Ancient Vines of Cantalupo) is one of my favorite producers of Nebbiolo and it makes a fairly wide range of traditional-style wines, from their single-vineyard Collis Carellae and Collis Breclemae to the Agamium, their entry-level label. One of the things I love about Cantalupo is the winery’s interest in local ancient history, which expresses itself in the names of their wines: Agamium is the Latin name of Ghemme (a township in the province of Novara) where the grapes are grown and the wines are produced. Ghemme is one of the great, to borrow a Manhattan-centric phrase, “outer-borough” expressions of Nebbiolo (i.e., Nebbiolo grown outside the more noted Barolo and Barbaresco appellations; look for an upcoming post on the historical role of “outer-borough” Nebbiolo).
The 2006 Agamium was fresh and light in style and I believe that the winery limits maceration time in order to rein in the grape’s tannin, thus making it more approachable at such a young age. Check out the winery’s website. Although the English translations are sometimes awkward, the otherwise excellent site is easy to navigate and highly informative.
Above: 1480 – 1819 were the start and end dates of the Inquisition, one of the waiters told me. I inferred that his t-shirt’s message was meant to remind us that the Inquisition is indeed over. (For the record, I’m not really sure what information those dates are based on because it’s generally accepted that the official dates of the Spanish Inquisition were 1478 – 1834. A quick Google search revealed that the t-shirts was created by Humanitarians Not Heroes.)
I really liked the vibe at The 8th St. Wine Cellar and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a handful of wines that I liked on their relatively small list, including a half bottle of NV Taittinger La Française and Teodobaldo Cappellano Barolo. Honestly, I didn’t expect to find a cool little wine bar on 8th St. between Gray’s Papaya and the bong and tattoo shops. I guess it’s time for me to “cast all my hang-ups over the seaside,” as Jimi once sang (in a song he recorded right down the street).
The 8th St Wine Cellar
28 W 8th St
(btwn 5th and 6th ave)
New York, NY 10011
Have you ever been (have you ever been) to Electric Ladyland?
The magic carpet waits for you so don’t you be late
Oh, (I wanna show you) the different emotions
(I wanna run to) the sounds and motions
Electric woman waits for you and me
So it’s time we take a ride, we can cast all of your hang-ups over
While we fly right over the love filled sea
Look up ahead, I see the loveland, soon you’ll understand.
Make love, make love, make love, make love.
The angels will spread their wings, spread their wings
Good and evil lay side by side while electric love penetrates the sky
Lord, Lord I wanna show you
Hmm, hmmm, hmmm
— Jimi Hendrix