Drink of the Vine


Last weekend, I went to Racines in Tribeca at 94 Chambers St. It’s a new place that features organic and biodynamic wines, mostly from France.

French winemaking has such a long history of tradition and it’s nice to see it being shaken up a bit with biodynamic vineyards. While this isn’t a new practice in France, it isn’t very prevalent and I was looking forward to seeing a wine list comprised solely of these kinds of wines.

Visually, Racines is everything I want in a wine bar - hardwood floors, marble top bar, an original brick wall, reclaimed wood shelves, cool vintage lighting, and minimalist decor. I was smitten as soon as I walked in. Upon viewing the wine list, my attraction grew larger still. There was a large selection of wines by the glass, 28 choices to be exact, starting at $10 up to $20 with the average glass being priced at $14. The bottle list was quite extensive and like the by the glass list, it featured mainly wines from France with a small selection of wines from the US and other parts of Europe. And all of them biodynamic or organic! I couldn’t wait to get started on a glass. Considering that it was a scorching hot day, I felt a little crazy to be craving a red wine, but I ordered the 2011 David Duband Bourgogne anyway. The wine lived up to my expectations, however. It was a delicate and enjoyable wine with aromas of fresh berries and autumn leaves. It was dry and tasted like strawberry with a hint of baking spices, and a slightly herbal and smokey finish. The only downside was that the pour was a little small for the price point.

The cherry on top of my experience here was the service. The bartender/owner was so friendly and chatted with me throughout my stay. Most of our conversation focused on wine so I was able to thoroughly geek out. After I finished my glass of Bourgogne, he told me that I could try any of the other wines. How could I refuse that? All of the wines looked so good that I probably would have tried to taste through the whole menu if I could, so I asked him which one he would recommend. He offered a few options was a wine made by his favorite family of producers, whom he picked grapes with during harvest in 2011. What?! How cool is that? I really like how involved he is with the wines served here. He mentioned another wine as well, a Chenin Blanc from an obscure region in France called Jasnieres. I love Chenin Blanc and I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to try wine from a region that I will most likely not see in your average wine store or bar. He poured a large splash in a glass for me to taste. The wine had a really interesting candy-like aroma, almost like a saltwater taffy. It was crisp and tasted floral with notes of honey and a nice minerality. It was really lovely!

You may be wondering what a biodynamic wine is, exactly. Ready to geek out with me? In some ways, it is much like organic wine - no chemicals are used for fertilizer or pest and weed control, natural yeast is used for fermentation, and there are very little or no added sulfites.  Many of the biodynamic methods seem borderline superstitious, such as filling a cow’s horn with either manure or quartz, depending on the time of year, burying it for a season, then digging it out and mixing its contents with water to use as fertilizer in the vineyard. It even has some spiritual elements, like harvesting during a particular phase of the moon. What I can really stand behind though, is that biodynamics views the vineyard as one organism, from the soil up, and that it should all be kept healthy using natural methods with no chemical intervention. Much like “good bacteria” keeps your body healthy and balanced, a healthy vineyard begins with a soil rich in the proper bacteria, or flora. Biodynamics promotes this natural balance. The result is a wine that is the greatest, purest expression of the area it came from, or its “terroir”; the aromas and flavors of the elements in the soil are much more prevalent in biodynamic wines. Some French winemakers have used this method to restore vineyards damaged by years and years of using chemicals and found that after consistent use of biodynamics, the wine produced from that lot was even better than wine from their top vineyards that utilized traditional methods.

Back to Racines! The entire experience was what I had hoped for and beyond. I love the chill atmosphere, the knowledgable staff, and the wonderful selection of delicious biodynamic and organic wines. This is a place that I could hang out in all evening and when you’re ethically sipping, why not stick around for a few more another glass, right? Racines is my new favorite wine bar and once I’ve finished visiting every wine bar in Manhattan, this will most likely be my go-to spot. I, obviously, give it 5 out of 5 glasses.

The lovely interior of Racines

The cool shelves behind the bar

My glass of Bourgogne. Although the pours are small, this was after 5 or 6 sips...I was too focused on wine conversation and forgot to take a picture earlier. Oops!



On a rainy Saturday, I decided to stop by Zagara at 216 7th Ave in Chelsea. While they call themselves a wine bar, they also offer brunch on the weekend and the rest of the menu made it seem very restaurant-y instead.

I walked in during prime brunching hours….and I was the only one there. Not a good sign for their food, but we’ll see what the wine list looks like. I was seated at a table and asked if I would like to see their brunch menu. I said that I was just stopping in for a glass of wine. The waitress handed me a menu and I thumbed through some food options, but didn’t see any wine list. The waitress had disappeared at this point and I began to think about lunch, then proceeded to get hungry. As I waited for her to return so that I could ask for the wine list, I decided to get some soup to gulp down along with my hopefully impending glass of wine. The waitress made an appearance and asked me if I was ready to order. I think at this point I gave her my soup order and then asked for the wine list. At last, it was in my hands. Aside from the wine list delay, the service was professional and prompt during the rest of my time there.

The bottles were mostly from Italy and were listed by region, but the by the glass list didn’t provide any country or region information. Glasses were $8 to $15 and bottles were $35 to $515. It’s spring, so I felt like drinking a glass of rosé. Tis the season! Now, I hate wine snobbery, but I have to admit that I am a bit of a rosé brat. With a small handful of exceptions, I only seem to like French rosé. Italy has surprised me before with a delightful rosé, so I took a chance and ordered the 2012 Bombino Pungirosa Rivera Rosé. It was intensely pink colored, smelled like fresh strawberries, and tasted very similar on the palate. It was a pretty simple rosé, with a short finish, but it had a good acidity. Overall, I thought it tasted too juicy, a little watery, and it was lacking in complexity. I prefer a dry, floral rosé with delicate flavors of fresh fruit and a zesty acidity. Like I said, I’m a rosé brat.

Rosé is made from red grapes that are left to soak with their skins for a short amount of time – from a few hours up to a couple of days. The skins give the wine its color and also add tannin. The grape variety will determine not only the color of the wine, but the flavor characteristics of it as well. Rosé can be made from virtually any red grape varietal. French rosé is typically made with Grenache, Cinsault, or Mourvedre which produce a dry wine with flavors of grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, and red currant. Italian rosé, called rosato, is often made with Sangiovese (the same grape used in Chianti) or Negroamaro and is more fruit forward and can have a fuller body than French rosé. While I very much enjoy these grapes as red wines, I’m not a fan of them as rosé. And that is why I prefer French rosé :)

Unfortunately, like the rosé, Zagara failed to impress me and I found the experience to be quite average. Decent service, decent setting, decent atmosphere, ok wine, but it didn't stand out to me in any way. With the plethora of Italian wine bars in NYC, this one isn't anything special. I give this place a rating of 3 out of 5 glasses.

My glass of fuchsia rosé

The lonely interior of Zagara