Neighborhoods, Wine bars and an odd cast of characters in Manhattan

Lately, I have been thinking that I need to get back to the central focus of this blog – women in wine and Italy. I was set to do that today when I felt an urge to write about my neighborhood. I had no idea when I started to blog that it would be hard to keep a focus because this medium lends one to free associate, a good and a bad thing.

I was hoping to try a good Italian wine at a local wine bar this week and bring myself back to my blog roots. On my way there though, I took a really good look at my neighborhood, a small microcosm of NYC. In a two block radius we have one 30+ year old pizzeria owned by two Italian brothers who after 50 years in this country still speak with heavy Sicilian accents, one Chinese restaurant of some note, a new Thai place and a long standing Turkish restaurant, two diners (one modern, one with the same 1950s writing and posters of James Dean that it has had since they were new), a generous Mexican restauranteur who feeds the hungry after his place closes, one large homeless man, numerous drug deals in broad daylight, groups of housing projects and a few convenience stores all in a two block strip.

It was kind of hard to take all of that in as day turned to night and the wine bar blues were setting in. I recently read a good post on the Brooklyn Guy’s blog about missing a neighborhood bar where you could slip in and have a nice, reasonably priced glass of wine. I haven’t found that elusive stop in my neighborhood either but a few wine bars are at least cropping up. One relatively new wine bar is Vinacciolo.

The bar is a sleek, Milanese style wine bar with minimalist decor and white marble tables. The food is pretty good but I thought the wine list was a bit odd. Perhaps my expectations were merely upended. I was sure that they would have only Italian wines but instead found a variety of countries represented including Germany, France and the usual suspects. I had a delicious Soave by Pieropan but the most interesting wine on the menu to me was the Tokaj Furmint, a wine I really like, from Royal Tokaji. Furmint is one of the two prinicpal grapes in the great sweet wine Tokaj Aszu together with the more well known Harslevelu grape. Furmint can be and is often vinified dry. I have seen it on a number of menus and I always order it. It is generally very minerally and fruity on the nose and palate with nice floral accents and good acidity. The Royal Tokji was delicious. I have also had a good Furmint from Patricius. In terms of the sweet Tokaj Aszu, it features in one of my all time wine moments. In 2004, I did a vertical tasting of Tokaji Aszu during Miwine in Milan with wines by Disznoko. I had a 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. The 1993 wine practically stood up and sang to me with its rich, sweet, apricot, honeyed flavors. It was absolutely one of my best wine moments to date. I felt better as I left Vinacciolo about the neighborhood and its odd cast of characters. I’m not sure if it was the Tokaj that worked a little magic on me. My hood is a far cry from the left bank and the lungarno but at least I can have a nice glass of wine that transports me to far off lands that I know well and those that I look forward to visiting.

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