My way of getting a feel for a new place has always been simple: find the bookstores and wine shops. The former are glowbugs of enlightenment; the latter an opportunity to explore the world, a bottle at a time, and pick up local knowledge (a wine store employee who doesn’t know the best neighboring bars and restaurants is an FBI plant.)
Having had the good fortune to spend a few days in Brooklyn, here’s the scoop on the wine situation, with a couple bookstores thrown in for good measure for y’all wordy types.
The Natural Wine Company
211 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
We wandered in here after dinner and quickly discovered a realm of oenological goodness that rewarded the wind-whipped walk. Their selection of organic, biodynamic and nature wines is far to extensive to appreciate in a week, or a year. This joint would reward repeated visits. We picked up a Riax Baixes red that was mostly Souson, an grape almost unknown outside of Galicia, plus a zippy Blaufrankisch and a fresh young Pinot Noir. The automatic 5% discount for buying three bottles was a nice touch, too.
105 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Northside became a bit of a go-to, thanks to hotel proximity. Despite its petite size it has an interesting range of bottles, most in the $15-$25 range. Among the bottles were tried were Corvina, a lesser-sold Italian red and an appealing, earthy Pacific Pinot. Familiar labels included an Argyle Pinot Noir and a biodynamic Montinore white, both from the Willamette Valley.
D.O.C. Wine Shop
147 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
A stone’s throw from the roaring conduit of Williamsburg Bridge, this cozy little shop is one of those places that makes me wish I could drink more without ruining my liver and mental health. The abundance of interesting, unusual bottles made for tough decisions. In the end, we had a nice Arneis, an aromatic Piedmont white . With its selection of offbeat varietals, orange wine and more, it is shop for explorers.
- IG: @docwineshop
176 N 9th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Have to mention this charming Thai restaurant with an extensive vegan menu alongside its conventional dishes. The wine list is super-reasonable and the glass of Gruner Veltliner I had with my green curry was excellent: crisp, fresh, well-paired and inexpensive. Definitely worth a visit if you like your wine with food.
309 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003
Not in Brooklyn, but well worth hopping on the L and heading to the lower East Side for this 100% gluten free Italian restaurant. The Melotti family are rice growers and the restaurant concentrates on dishing up mouth-watering risottos. In true Italian fashion, ingredient quality is everything. This is reflected in the wine list which we did our best to sample:
McNally Jackson Booksellers
76 N 4th St Unit G, Brooklyn, NY 11249
As a native Oregonian I have a bias towards the view that Powell’s is the Best Bookstore in the World (TM). McNally Jackson Booksellers might just upend that view. Their Williamsburg shop, despite being the approximate size of Powell’s map room, has the best selection of international fiction and poetry I’ve ever seen. Full shelf after full shelf broken down by author origin, with as much space given to African, Asian, Russian, Middle Eastern, etc writers as to British and Irish. Revelatory. I picked up The Ruined Map by Japanese novelist Kobe Abe, a surreal detective tale that is half-hardboiled, half-hallucinogenic.
Spoonbill & Sugartown Books
218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249
This place has the feel of an old-school used bookstore, all teetering stacks of prints and odd gems waiting to be plucked from a low shelf. S&S actually stocks both new and used, making for an intriguing melange of random and arty. The only challenge was limiting myself to a number of volumes that might conceivably remain under the airline baggage weight limit. Among the inexpensive goodies were second-hand Flannery O’Connor, Vita Sackville-West and John Dos Passos.