NYC's Best Value Wine Lists

By Charles Antin  |  February 7, 2014

Defining value in wine can be difficult - some think value means cheap, others think that if a bottle of Chateau Lafite is below market price, it’s good value, even if it’s still $500. To us, good value is a little bit of both. There are very few for whom Lafite is good value at any price, and the cheapest wine available is unfortunately often cheap because it tastes cheap - not because it presents good value. A key to value: the wine, whatever it is, should over-deliver. Drinking value-driven wines should make you marvel at how inexpensive it was, considering how it made you feel. With that in mind, this is a list of restaurants in New York - some new, some old, some famous, some not - that offer plenty of bottles in the $40-$60 range that taste like twice that price.

  • Casual Food, Serious Wine: La Pizza Fresca

    Guiding Principle: An encyclopedic guide to the best wines of Piedmont. Value is all over the place, with quirky and interesting bottles in the $40-$60 range, and (since you’re saving money on the food) amazing deals on back vintages from Italy’s most famed producers, if you’re willing to spend a bit more.

    Behind the Scenes: Brad Bonnewell, formerly an advertising executive, began his foray into the restaurant scene with coffee. Now, wine is his beverage of choice, with many older bottles sourced at auction.

    The Food: Neopolitan pizza, certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana in Napoli.

    Best Value:
    Farnese Sangiovese from Abruzzo ($24).
    Easy drinking and fruity pizza wine - if you want quaffable wine to keep the food the focus, this wine will have you thinking you’re at a pizzeria in Napoli.

    Unusual Finds:
    Morellino di Scansano (Sangiovese), 2011, Morisfarms ($38)
    Morellino means Sangiovese in the Tuscan coastal region of Maremma. Some believe the word comes from the Morello Cherry, a sour wild cherry. This intensely fruity, unoaked wine is a great choice for easy drinking.

    Etna Rosso (Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio), 2011, Tenuta delle Terre Nere ($38)
    From some of the highest vineyards in Europe on Sicily’s Mount Etna, Tenuta delle Terre Nere’s wines have garnered attention for some time now. The high altitude allows for direct sun but cool temperatures, which result in this elegant wine made from indigenous Sicilian grapes.

  • For Francophiles: Reynard

    Guiding Principle: The victim of an infamous rant by New York Post critic and wine curmudgeon Steve Cuozzo a couple years back, Reynard focuses on small-production wines, mainly from France. The general regions (Loire, Burgundy, Champagne) are not as obscure as Cuozzo might have you think, but some knowledge of producers can be helpful in navigating the list - or that’s what somms are for.

    Behind the Scenes: You are in good hands - wine director Lee Campbell has wide-ranging experience in the wine business, and she also oversees the lists at the other Tarlow restaurants: Diner, Achilles Heel and Roman’s.

    The Food: Bistro classics and “American nouveau,” from chef Sean Rembold and the team behind Diner, Marlow & Sons, and other Brooklyn-defining restaurants.

    Best Value: 
    Jeremy Quastana Buena Onda Sparkling Rosé 2011 ($46)
    Rosé champagne is a rare treat, and the price reflects that, which is why it’s always nice to find a pink bubbly that doesn’t break the bank. Sparkling gamay from the Loire is pretty obscure, but that’s part of the fun.

    Unusual Finds:
    Philippe Tessier, La Porte Dorée, Cour-Cheverny 2009 ($46)
    Romorantin is one of those grapes they don’t cover in the wine classes - mainly because it’s only found in the Cour-Cheverny AOC of the Loire River. Tessier is the star of the small region, and this is a rich, almost viscous treat.

    Alice & Olivier de Moor A Ligoter 2012 ($46)
    Made from Burgundy’s “other” grape, aligoté, these wines are a sort of hidden secret of Burgundy. Often dismissed as tasteless and boring, there is a small group of winemakers, including de Moor, making excellent examples for those of us who can’t afford Montrachet.

  • Mediterranean Classics: Alta

    Guiding Principle: A wide variety of French, Italian and Spanish classics to pair with the Mediterranean small-plate menu.

    Behind the Scenes: Alta has been a destination for wine-bargain-hunters for a long time, and their list, as well as their food, is always affordable.

    The Food: Mediterranean small plates. Pasta to ceviche and braised short rib.

    Best Value: 
    Getariako Txacolina, Antxiola 2012  ($33)
    Natural fermentation in stainless steel results in a crisp, refreshing white from local varieties Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the wine or the grapes - just point to the menu. The Basque country is an often-overlooked value-driven wine region.

    Unusual Finds:
    Raisins Gaulois, (Gamay), Marcel LaPierre 2012 ($33)
    Easy, light Beaujolais from Marcel LaPierre, the man who (before his passing) was partly responsible for helping to bring his region back to a position of respect among wine lovers. Marcel passed away in 2010, but his son Mathieu has been running the estate for many years.

    Morava, Milijan Jelic 2011 (Pocerina, Serbia) ($38)
    Did you even know they made wine in Serbia? Our theory, one that we've tested time and time again: if there’s a wine from a region you didn’t know made wine (Canary Islands, Mexico, Northern Africa, Serbia), chances are it’s good value (as long as you’re at a restaurant with a serious wine list, which Alta is). The reason for this is twofold. One, it won’t suffer from luxury pricing, like Burgundy or champagne. Two, some sommelier went out on a limb putting a Serbian wine on his list, so he must really love it.

  • Credit: All'onda

    For Italophiles: All’Onda

    Guiding Principle: Value and focus. The Italian-focused list has all the big names present - the Barolos and the Barbarescos - but the exciting stuff is slightly off the beaten path from Friuli, Alto Adige and Emilia Romagna.

    Behind the Scenes: Restaurateur Chris Cannon wanted to make sure this northern Italian restaurant was one of the most anticipated openings so far in 2014. He’s particularly proud of the extensive sparklers and has taken a stand on Italian sauvignon blanc (he likes it).

    The Food: Northern Italian with some slight Japanese influences by former Ai Fiori chef Chris Jaeckle.

    Best Value: 
    Onda Claudio Morelli NV($34)
    From the northern coast of Marche (on the Adriatic side), this nonvintage blend of Bianchello and Falanghina is a simple, crisp and refreshing crowd pleaser.

    Unusual Finds:
    There are too many to list. Orange wines, extensive Italian sparklers and Italian Sauvignon are all things not often seen on wine lists.

    Lambrusco Reggiano “Concerto” Medici Ermete 2012 ($46)
    Single-vineyard, low-yield lambrusco shows how wonderful this fizzy red can be.

    Sangue di Giuda "Paradiso" Bruno Verdi 2008 ($36)
    Croatina, Uva Rara and Barbera are blended together for those who prefer their fizzy with a touch of sweetness.

  • Steakhouse Reds and More: Landmarc TriBeCa

    Guiding Principle: A wide variety of wines and older vintages; all marked-up closer to retail than typical restaurant prices.

    Behind the Scenes: Beverage director David Lombardo says his lists are all about accessibility. To him, while food trends come and go, “a great product at a great value will never go out of style.” He’s particularly proud of the half-bottle selection at his restaurants, which Landmarc offers in lieu of by-the-glass.

    The Food: Chef Marc Murphy's TriBeCa icon has a broad menu of what they call “contemporary neighborhood French bistro with Italian influences,” but lots of wine geeks use Landmarc as a great place to pair weighty reds with great steak.

    Best Value: 
    Olivier Leflaive Aligoté 2010 ($24/half bottle)
    One of the best things about Landmarc is the huge selection of over 100 different wines by the half bottle, so you can try without committing. This one is special because it’s bottled specially for the restaurant - you won’t find it in half bottle anywhere except on their list.

    Unusual Finds:
    Stadlmann Pinot Noir 2011 ($24/half bottle)
    Finding reasonably priced (and tasty) Pinot Noir can be tricky - Burgundy’s out, as is much of California. Even Oregon Pinots can be expensive on a restaurant list. For a Pinot that has bright acidity and good fruit without being overly concentrated, turn to Austria.

    Terre de Gryphée, Domaine de la Tournelle 2007 ($44)
    Don’t let an aversion to ubiquitous, homogenous Chardonnay (or overpriced Burgundy) turn you off from the grape entirely. The winemakers of the Jura region of France have truly made the grape their own, turning it into sparklers, dessert wines and this distinct white with a bit of bottle age.

  • For the Natural Wine Crowd: Rouge Tomate

    Guiding Principle: Organic, biodynamic and natural wines have a prominent place on the extensive wine list, along with expressive bottlings regardless of where they’re from - hence selections from Vermont and Michigan along with those from more-expected wine-producing countries.

    Behind the Scenes: French ex-pat Pascaline Lepeltier worked in France and at a branch of Rouge Tomate in Brussels before coming to New York. Perhaps a nod to her home region, the reds and whites from the Loire Valley offer some of the best value on the menu.

    The Food: Contemporary New American cuisine with a focus on local purveyors, sustainability and pristine vegetable-driven dishes.

    Best Value: 
    2011 Régnié Pur ($39)
    Cru Beaujolais (as opposed to ubiquitous Beaujolais nouveau and Beaujolais-villages) has long been the value secret of wine lovers everywhere. Régnié - as opposed to Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and Morgon - is not as common in the U.S. market, but this is a lean, pure, fresh example of what great Beaujolais can be.

    Unusual Finds:
    2009 VdF, Richard Leroy, "Chenin - Les Rouliers" ($62)
    A very small-production, funky chenin blanc. It’s extremely complex and unique, so if you’re looking for something simple, this probably isn’t it; but it’s worth a try to see what chenin can be in the right hands.

    2008 Chignin, Gilles Berlioz, Savoie ($46)
    It’s unusual already to find a Chignin (from Southeastern France, near Switzerland) on a wine list, more so one with a bit of age on it. The grape is Jacquère; Savoie is usually a light, zesty wine, so it’s unusual to find one with some age.

  • Oddities From the Old World: Amali

    Guiding Principle: An international wine list (almost entirely old-world), with a nod to natural wines and a focus on Greece.

    Behind the Scenes: The great story behind Amali is how they’ve somewhat quietly managed to become a wine destination on the East Side. The food and wine list is fantastic, but they are also open to BYOB without a corkage charge - as long as the wine is interesting (not on their list), and you’re willing to offer a taste to the sommelier team.

    The Food: “Farm-to-table Mediterranean,” with a focus on sustainability. One of the best combinations of wine and food at reasonable prices in this high-end part of town.

    Best Value: 
    Andrea Calek “Babiole” 2011 $48
    A Southern Rhône blend of syrah, grenache and carignan with a rustic appeal. Consider this the affordable, dirty brother to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

    Unusual Finds:
    Estate Brintzikis Tinaktorogos 2012 ($42)
    White Tinaktorogos grapes from the region of Ilia (Northwest) Greece make this crisp white that goes wonderfully with Amali’s fish dishes. From Dionysia Brintziki (for real) in modern, steel-fermented vats, this is not rustic old-school Greek wine.

    Domaine Spiropoulos 'Porfyros' 2007 ($45)
    Think of this as sort of the Super Tuscan of Greece: a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot (i.e. Bordeaux) and sometimes agiorgitiko blend, aged in French oak. A new take on a classic.

  • For Iberophiles: Cata

    Guiding Principle: An international but Spain-focused list to go with the cuisine. And how’s this for simplification: every bottle is $40, every glass is $10. There is also a work-in-progress “reserve” list that digs deeper into Spain.

    Behind the Scenes: From the ownership of Alta, Cata is a Spanish version of the recipe that has worked for so long at Alta. Michel Vasilevich oversees the wine, as well as the signature dozens of gin and tonics on the menu.

    Food: Chef Larry Baldwin marries his experience with Spanish food (Casa Mono, Barcelona Stamford) and his relationships with local farmers (Fromagerie) to create Catalan-inspired tapas.

    Best Value: 
    Viña Mein 2010 ($40)
    From Ribeiro, a blend of native varieties make up this crisp, acidic quaffer, perfect for that first order of boquerones.

    Unusual Finds:
    Albina Piona, Bardolino Chiaretto 2012 ($40)
    A Bardolino Chiaretto (rosé, as opposed to regular red Bardolino) is not something seen on every wine list. Made from the same grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara) as Valpolicella, a rosé with some intensity and character.

    Losada, El Pájaro Rojo 2012 ($40)
    From the Mencia grape grown in the Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain, this is an old vine, rich and meaty wine perfect when you move to the heavier, meat-based tapas.

  • For the Wine Geeks: Pearl & Ash

    Guiding Principle: A massive list featuring lots of bottles with age sold for reasonable markups.

    Behind the Scenes: Patrick Cappiello, formerly of Gilt, has put together one of the most popular of-the-moment wine lists in New York City. He’s known as much for sabering champagne bottles and his informal somm attitude (think: T-shirts, not Kiton suits), as he is for his extensive list.

    The Food: The boundary-pushing small plates (nothing is over $20) by chef Richard Kuo mix up European and Asian flavors. 

    Best Value: 
    Les Faverelles, Bourgogne Vézelay 2011 ($45)
    Sometimes the only way to get good value is to go into what some affectionately call "the boroughs," far away from the pricier Côte-d'Or. This is pretty far into the boroughs (think Jamaica, Parkchester or White Plains, really). So far that the area of Vézelay has only been allowed to append "bourgogne" to its white wines since 1996 - which, in Burgundy, is the blink of an eye.

    Unusual Finds:
    Saint Glinglin 2012 ($49)
    We've gotten to the point in New York where an inexpensive bottle of Bordeaux in NYC becomes an "unusual find." Star somm Richard Betts and his partner Francois Thienpoint (Le Pin, Vieux Chateau Certan) teamed up to make a wine whose name roughly translated means "when pigs fly." In other words, finding delicious affordable Bordeaux - when pigs fly.

    Triennes, "viognier-sainte fleur", 2011 ($45)
    Triennes is all about pedigree. Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of a legendary Burgundy estate teamed up to make a group of wines from Provence. An intense viognier that retains its finesse as you'd expect with two Burgundians at the helm.

  • For Seafood Junkies: Maison Premiere

    Guiding Principle: At a restaurant known for its extensive absinthe list, the wine list deserves equal attention. The list is put together with an eye toward wines with finesse and balance that pair well with the oysters and seafood menu, so if brawny, powerful California Cabernet is your thing, stay away.

    Behind the Scenes: Co-owner Krystof Zizka has long had an interest in value-driven wines of the Loire Valley. Hard-to-find magnums of muscadet are of particular interest.

    The Food: Seafood. Known for their oyster selection, the dinner menu branches out into crabs, fish and all sorts of fruits de mer.

    Best Value: 
    Manzanilla, La Cigarrera, (375 ml)  ($24)
    Crisp, cold and refreshing dry sherry from the tiny seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, manzanilla is said to have salty-ish notes reminiscent of the sea - this is not your grandmother’s sweet cream sherry. If you’ve been shy about joining the recent sherry hype, oysters and sherry are a can’t-miss pairing.

    Unusual Finds:
    Touraine, Clos Roche Blanche, “No. 2,” 2011 $45
    From a tiny estate on the Loire River where no chemicals are used in the vineyards, this sauvignon blanc pairs well with the seafood but isn’t affected by the price inflation of branded Sancerre.

    Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Jo Landron, “Hermine D’Or,” 2010 $40
    From the melon de Bourgogne grape grown where the Loire River meets the Atlantic, the best examples of muscadet are crisp and refreshing but not insipid. Muscadet and oysters are a classic pairing, since the mouth of the Loire is the unofficial oyster capital of Europe. For a treat, spring for one of the back vintages of Muscadet on the wine list - muscadet isn’t often thought of as a wine that can age, but the best examples develop depth and complexity over time.

  • The All-American: Buttermilk Channel

    Guiding Principle: Named after the strait between Brooklyn and Governor’s Island, Buttermilk Channel features wines (red, white, rosé and even sparkling) from the U.S.

    Behind the Scenes: Doug Crowell, owner of Buttermilk Channel, says that since the restaurant is an American bistro, "it made sense to me to serve American wines. Our list is filled with wines that are modeled after the best of old-fashioned, old-world wines but that also taste distinctly American. We're forced to mark our wines up less, but fortunately we're in Brooklyn, so my rent is cheaper too!"

    The Food: Comfort-food classics with a twist. The meatloaf is duck, the fried chicken comes with cheddar waffles.

    Best Value:
    Pinot Gris A to Z 2012 ($38)
    Oregon is known for its Pinot Noir, but if you see that other Pinot on a list, the Gris, it’s often a pleasantly aromatic, safe choice for apéritif.

    Unusual Finds:
    Alsatian Field Blend, Bloomer Creek 2011 ($46)
    From the east side of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, husband-and-wife team Kim Engle and Debra Bermingham make a variety of Loire Valley-inspired Cab Francs, as well as Rieslings. This field blend, a nod to the Alsatian tradition of making wine from whatever mix of grapes is commingled in the vineyard, is something unique for the region.

    Brut Rosé, Gruet NV ($44)
    A bit more widely available than some of the other rare U.S. finds on this list, it says a lot that the Buttermilk Channel team decided to sell this sparkling wine. Don’t be put off by the New Mexican provenance - Gruet makes excellent American sparklers in the champagne style.