John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society?certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
Brooklyn Winery's team crafts small-batch, artisanal wines in Williamsburg?and if winemaking in an urban environment sounds odd to customers, they can always find out how it works during Tuesday winery tours. The tour guides walk groups through their entire process, from the moment the grapes arrive at the facility to when the cork goes in the final wine bottle, trapping the wine genie inside for good. Of course, the process varies from wine to wine. The team ages some vintages in stainless-steel containers, while the barrel-fermented riesling is aged, predictably, in oak barrels, an old-school technique that originated in prerefrigeration Germany. The result? A quirky riesling with hints of soapstone, mushroom, and honey.
The team doesn't just reclaim old German traditions, though. For their unpretentious 1,200-square-foot wine bar, they also reclaimed most of the building materials. In the cozy, unpretentious bar, visitors sip vintages pulled from wine racks that were once World War II ammo boxes; the walls, meanwhile, were barn wood in a past life, and the bar itself is made from old church pews, completing the aura of modernity rooted in history.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
When Joan Schaming and Ronald Williams opened Balic of Clinton in 2004, they wanted to make sure their clientele understood the importance of sampling wines before they commit to a bottle. In their shop, they hold daily tastings of their rotating selection of reds, whites, dessert wines, and specialty potables, which they recommend to pair with selections from their inventory of gourmet foods and chocolates.
Fast Eddie’s Billiards Cafe takes playing pool and drinking beer to the next level. Sure, the standard domestics are available, but besides the expected lagers and neon signs, Fast Eddie’s boasts an impressive menu of craft brews. More than 50 choices include Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Allagash White, and Smuttynose Robust porter. Imported beer, wine, and premium liquor are also available to add entertainment to billiards tournaments.
At Thirst Lounge, glasses of draft beer and wine complement a menu of American pub food and Latin American favorites. Dishes range from beef sliders to mofongo, a Costa Rican specialty featuring fried plantains. Cubano sandwiches and buffalo wings pair particularly well with a pint of beer, whereas pepperoni or barbecue-chicken pizzas make for good coasters for the glass.