By New York City Correspondent Sasha Smith
When Vintage New York opened in 2000, it seemed like a pretty remarkable gamble to open a wine store devoted entirely to New York wines — and in Soho no less. Even I, a longtime New York state wine booster, thought its best shot at survival was to play up the fact that it was open on Sundays, a rarity at the time.
But thanks to some smart decisions like offering a $1-a-pop
tasting of any wine in the store, as well as good timing — the store has
certainly benefited from the rise of the “eat/drink local” movement — owners Susan Wine and Robert Ransom
have been able to create a Vintage mini-empire, expanding the Soho store to
include a wine bar/restaurant and opening a second retail location on the Upper
I’ve visited the store periodically over the years and have always been cheered by the friendly, laid-back atmosphere. I stopped by the store on a recent Saturday and found the staff to be as helpful and knowledgeable as ever. However, there were a few unpleasant surprises.
First and foremost, the price of tastings has now doubled — five tastes for $10. I don’t entirely begrudge them the increase, as I can only imagine how expensive it is to run any type of retail operation in Soho. But with a 100% price increase, I’d also expect a little improvement in quality and/or service.
Unfortunately, I had no such luck.
The reds were served way too warm, a particular problem for cabernet franc and pinot noir, both of which are common varietals for New York wine — and both of which are much more pleasant to drink at lower temperatures. Macari Vineyards' 2002 Bergen Road (a Bordeaux-style red blend) at $30 a bottle was one of the more expensive offerings we tried. And it was corked.
No problem, it happens. But the bottle had already been opened and sampled by other customers, who probably came away with a negative impression of the wine, rather than the understanding that they had just happened upon a faulty bottle.
Printed tasting notes contained typos as well as at least one error — the Lenz Winery's Gewürztraminer was misidentified as being from the Finger Lakes—and it would be helpful to provide more general materials on New York viticulture and winemaking for curious neophytes, not just notes on individual wines.
On my last several visits, I’ve found that numerous
otherwise knowledgeable staff
members have never been to a Long Island winery. It would seem like a smart investment to require all employees who have been at the store for at least six months to make the two-hour trip out to the East End and reimburse them for the effort.
I realize these complaints might sound nit-picky, but, without sounding overly dramatic, there’s a lot at stake. New York wines have improved dramatically in the past seven years — they deserve a store that shows them off to their best advantage.