Wine Toast
10 Apr

DIY New York City Wine Walking Tour

NYC Walking Tour – 3 Wine Bars You Just Shouldn’t Miss

Wine Toast

Whether you’re a New York City native or visiting for the first or hundredth time, it’s a great place to explore a variety of wines from tiny wine bars to larger restaurants whose menus are built around wine selections.  What better way to learn about wine than to grab your comfy shoes and spend a few hours walking around the Upper East Side (UES) of New York City and enjoy some spectacular wines?

About The Area

New York, above the most southern neighborhoods, is an easy area to navigate.  That means no matter where you are in our wine tour of the UES you’ll be able to easily navigate from point to point without consulting anything like a map or a New Yorker.  In fact, we’ll make you look like a pro.

The Upper East Side runs on the Eastern side of the island of Manhattan (across from Brooklyn/Queens, separated by the East River), starting at about 59th street and ending at 95th street from the FDR/1st Ave to the Park/5th Avenue.  Sound like a math problem?  Here’s the way to get your bearings and navigate this pub crawl with ease.

  • The streets in Manhattan run east/west and if the numbers are going up, so are you – it means you’re walking north if you go from 59th street to 60th street.
  • The Avenues in Manhattan run north/south and if the numbers are going up, you’re walking west, toward New Jersey and the Hudson River.
  • Some of the Avenues on the East side are named… the order, east to west is: 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 3rd Ave, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th Ave.

The Upper East Side is a safe area, especially during daylight, but you should always take proper precautions when traveling in a city you’re not familiar with.  Bring a friend, have a charged cell phone, and don’t take candy from strangers.

New York City Wine Walk

Stop 1 – Il Vino (1728 2nd Ave)

Start your wine tour of the UES around noon by heading to Il Vino, located at 1728 2nd Ave between 89th and 90th street.  It’s important when doing a bit of walking and drinking to make sure that you stay both fed and hydrated, so start with a glass of water and order a few things to share.  Best on the menu?  The mushroom truffle oil pizza.

The wine list at this tiny spot is regularly noted for its impressive nature.  With a wide variety of growing regions and styles of wine you’re likely to find an old favorite or try a new, especially on Thursdays when Il Vino offers $24 all you can drink wine.

While pairing wine is less rigid than in the past, if you try the truffle pizza – a favorite of locals and regulars – consider pairing it with either the 2011 Tempranillo or, if you like white wine, the 2011 Albarino.  Bubbles your style?  Go with the prosecco.  Stay away from sweeter whites and go for the citrus kick that will cut the earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly.

Reasons To Love Il Vino:  It’s a great date spot, the outdoor seating is great for people watching, the staff will never pressure you even if you sit for hours, best happy hour on this list.

Stop 2 –Vinus and Marc (1825 2nd Ave)

Next up? Vinus and Marc, located at 1825 2nd Avenue, between 94th and 95th.  This is a chill spot that is perfect for getting together with friends.  The food is an amazing fusion of Latin and French fare (the next and final stop on the tour is a perfect dinner spot but feel free to swap with Vinus and Marc if it sounds better to you, all of these wine bars are in the same general area).  If you only had a few nibbles at Il Vino, consider a few bites here, too, for a totally different flavor.

If working from the starters menu, consider the oysters or charcuterie plate.  The oysters are served with a mignonette sauce and are made up of a mix of east and west coast oysters.  It’s important to consider this when pairing your wine.  East coast oysters are generally more briny and lean, paired best with a flinty or metallic white.  Of the standing wine list at V&M consider the 2012 Gruner/Welschriesling, a dry Riesling that will perfectly complement the briny, skinny oysters.  The 2011 or 12 Aligote also has a superb flintiness for east coast oysters.  Since Vinus and Marc has new wines each week, another option is to ask your server to suggest an acidic white to go with your east coast style oysters.  Avoid a fruity white while enjoying this dish.

With the fleshier oysters from the west coast, you’ll want to sip a dry white, but this time you’ll want something fruitier.  The standing list at Vinus and Marc doesn’t have a white that fits this profile exactly, but your server is sure to have something in mind that will work.

If you order the charcuterie have your server select a wine based on your food choices rather than work backwards.

Reasons To Love Vinus and Marc: The excellent food, an interesting staff, great music, the over-thirty crowd is calm and quiet.

Stop 3 – Kaia (1614 3rd Ave)

The final stop on our tour is also the most interesting, and where you should plan on enjoying dinner.  Kaia, located at 1614 3rd Ave, between 90th and 91st streets, is a South African restaurant featuring wines of that region.  The menu is made up of South African dishes, many of which are influenced by the Dutch and have names reminiscent of Dutch cuisine.  In addition to their dinner menu they also have an excellent assortment of cheeses and meats to build your own charcuterie.

The menu changes seasonally, depending on what is available, fresh and best served at that time.  Servers are helpful and knowledgeable and will pair based on your dish or, if you just want to have a few glasses of wine, explain what you like and they will find a South African wine to suit your tastes.

If you are a local or in town with your partner, consider Kaia for a romantic evening out.  The large front window (the entire front wall of the restaurant is a window) lets in natural light or the sparkling city lights that twinkle at night making it a great date spot.  A mixture of low and high tables, earth tones and candles allow for a warm, cozy feeling with a metropolitan vibe.

Reasons To Love Kaia: Even if you’re unfamiliar with South African wines you’ll feel right at home with the help of your servers, fresh cuisine not often found in American restaurants, despite appearing meat-heavy on the menu Kaia is very accommodating to vegetarians.

What’s your favorite wine bar?

Wine Set Up

After walking around the Upper East Side and visiting these spots you’ll have a better sense of the neighborhood and, more importantly, some new favorite wines.  There are plenty of other great spots in the area to try, with these just being three standouts.  What’s your favorite place on the Upper East Side?  If you haven’t been, which of these three is most intriguing to you?

About The Author:  Nancy Koziol is a wine writer currently based in Ann Arbor, MI, but nothing less than a nomad.  Born and raised in New York you can find her walking around town with a map of the best wine bars and a notepad.
Image Source:  Google Commons