The Crawl, as it's called, started last summer and was ingeniously planned by both Grieco and the man behind @grapesandgrains, David Flaherty. After coming in second place last year, I'm back for more and I'm in it to win it. Here's how it works: throughout the month of August, you must visit 16 different wine bars throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, try a different Riesling and get a stamp on your official passport. At the end of the month, all those who turn in their completed passports are emailed two fairly inane questions and the winner chosen receives a Riesling tasting dinner for six people at Hearth, the restaurant also owned by Grieco.
With about two weeks left in this year's crawl, I have already racked up 8 stamps. Here's a little recap of my experience thus far:
Night One: City Winery, Blue Ribbon Downing Street, Bar Henry
Heading out on this vino adventure, I was excited that City Winery was the first stop. I had never been before, but had heard all good things about the venue, with its lively backyard BBQs and unique concert space. I also knew that they made their own wine and was excited to try it. I met my friend Katharine and we found a space at the bar in the newly opened Barrel room. The wine selection here was: Riesling "Uptown," Uva Blanca Vineyard, City Winery, 2009, Finger Lakes, NY. I found this glass to be a fairly straightforward Riesling, tasting like crisp apples and on the slightly sweeter side. We lucked out because it was happy hour so our glasses were each only $5. For food, we snacked on the Mediterranean Flatbread which had a fair kick of spice, but was definitely delicious.
For Stop #2 we headed north and found the cozy Blue Ribbon Downing Street. We managed to find two seats at the bar, right next to a couple clearly on their first date. It made for very interesting eavesdropping as we snacked on our buttery breadsticks (gratis!). The bartender here was extremely nice and attentive. He told us about how the winemakers of the wine we were trying (Riesling Spatlese, Hochheimer Daubhaus, Schloss Schonborn, 1996, Rheingau, Germany) had been doing so for 27 generations. This wine, I wrote in my passport, is "the reason why I love Riesling." It had an almost offputting aroma of petrol, but once you start drinking it, it's interesting and complex in a way that no other variety of wine seems to be, at least in my experience.
For a Monday night, I was proud that Katharine and I made it to the subterranean Bar Henry for a third glass, and this was perhaps my favorite stop of the night. As we tried the Riesling Spatelese, Erdener Treppchen, C.H. Berres, 1997, Mosel, Germany, we talked with the bartenders who told us about their plans to do the crawl in two days. (Here's proof that they actually did it!). The bar, also a jazz venue, had a very chill feel and the bartenders were both very knowledgeable about both the wine we were there to try and a sweet Ice wine they let us sample. I would definitely come back here the next time I'm out in Greenwich Village or Soho.
Night Two: Terroir E. Vil. and Edi & the Wolf
For my second Riesling adventure night, my friend Rebecca and I hit up the location in the East Village. First stop was Terroir where we each had a glass of the Riesling Spatelese, Oberemmeler Hutte, von Hovel, 2004, Saar, Germany. This wine I described as "peachy and honey-y with well balanced acids." As the place where this whole crawl started, I definitely appreciated the relaxed vibe (their menus are in 3-ring binders for goodness sake) and the friendly bartender. We tried the smoked trout salad here as part of the Riesling-specific menu and I would definitely recommend it.
We then walked a mere two avenues over and five blocks down to Edi & the Wolf. I had been told to visit this Austrian restaurant before and I was very excited to finally venture over there. It's decorated to feel like a rustic and homey wine tavern, complete with lights running above the wood plank ceiling, giant ropes draped out of the ceiling, and a big burly bartender with an accent. It almost felt like I'd hopped a plane to Vienna until Rebecca reminded me that we were in New York and everyone was speaking English. The wine we tried here was the Riesling, Ried Alsegg, Mayer am Pfarrplatz, 2010, Wien, Austria. I loved this wine and thought it tasted like apples and honey, which went very nicely with the cheese plate we also ordered.
Afternoon/Evening 3: Anfora and Colicchio & Sons Tap Room
My first weekend outing began in the late afternoon, and honestly folks, that's the best time to start drinking Riesling. My girlfriends and I had had a wonderful day exploring the West Village and decided it was time to find a place to rest our feet for a while. Luckily, we were around the corner from Anfora, a dark lovely little bar in the heart of the West Village. There we tried the Riesling Spatlese, Urzinger Wurzgarten, C.H. Berres, 1997, Mosel, Germany. I found it tasted like honey and nectarines and we especially enjoyed it with the free ricotta crostini we got for checking in on Foursquare.
Because it was a Saturday and there was still much more fun to be had, we headed north to Colicchio & Sons, just under the Highline. Unknowingly, we were in for a treat at this famed restaurant owned by none other than Top Chef's Tom Colicchio (who I met at last year's Star Chef's Gala). Walking in behind a couple dressed to the nines, I almost thought we should come back another time when we'd taken our cocktail dresses out of the backs of our closets, however we soon figured out that we would fit right in at the bar, located in the Tap Room at the front of the restaurant. We sat down at the empty bar and ordered glasses of the Riesling, Auten Vineyard First Harvest, Bloomer Creek, 2009, Finger Lakes, NY. This wine first tasted almost sparkling, but then I realized that was just the wonderful acid and fruit, Granny Smith apples to be exact. As the bar began to fill up, the awesome Sommelier and Beverage Director Thomas Pastuszak (someone who's good side I definitely need to stay on!) came by to introduce himself and treated us to samples of the other two Finger Lakes Rieslings the restaurant was featuring. The first, Argetsinger Vineyard, Ravines, 2008, Seneca Lake, NY, was perhaps the driest Riesling I've ever tasted. It would definitely pair well with a hearty meal and I loved it. The other, Magdalena, Vineyard Herman J. Wiemer, 2009, Seneca Lake, NY, was also drier than the Bloomer Creek, but definitely on the fruitier side. What was so weird to me was that the first wine we had and loved so much really tasted like pure juice when we went back to it after the drier wines. It's funny how comparing like wines side-by-side really enables you to discover these nuances. So thanks Thomas!
Night 4: The Tangled Vine
While I love visiting these establishments two and three (maybe four!) at a time, it's also nice to just plop down in one spot for the night, enjoy some food and pair it with some Riesling. So that's what a girlfriend and I did at the year-old Tangled Vine in the Upper West Side. I love this place. It's relaxed, comfortable and fits right into the neighborhood, but the staff is super knowledgeable about the wines they offer and I once heard that the desserts were all homemade by the owner's wife (literally in her home). On top of our Riesling, the Riesling Kabinett, Trittenheimer A Harchen Ernst Clusserath, 2008, Mosel, Germany, which was fruity with very round notes of pear and grapes (yes, wine can taste like grapes), we sampled the menu. Starting with the happy hour $1 oysters, we made our way through an order of the crab croquetas (think round mini-crabcakes with saffron aioli) and bites of the tuna and fennel crostini. I'd also recommend ordering their homemade paprika potato chips. Lastly, we didn't forget to check in on foursquare and claim our free glasses of Cava, a sparkling white wine.
So that's it for the first half of the crawl. With less than half the month left, I better get a move on the last stops!