Back in the day, there was a bar on Greenwich Avenue called “The Bar.” It was truly a neighbourhood dive, with a great jukebox and a man called Johnny with a long ZZ Top-style beard behind the bar. Open until 4am, it attracted all kinds: nurses getting off their shifts, servers, other bartenders, writers, artists and the occasional lost soul.
I used to go in there for the odd dirty martini and put coin after coin in the jukebox, listening to The Cure and The Rolling Stones over and over.
I remember once asking Johnny for a glass of wine and he looked at me and raised a sardonic eyebrow.
“Lady, this is a bar,” he said.
That was in 1995.
A few years later, just as I had begun to gravitate towards the wine world, I happened to be at “The Bar” late one night and asked Johnny the same question.
“What color?” was the reply this time.
“White…” I said, shrugging slightly.
He bent down and pulled out a box, put some ice in a rocks glass and poured some of the golden liquid over the ice. “Here you go,” he pushed the glass towards me. “Wine.”
15 years later, after a particularly superb dinner of paella with Maria and Angie, two of my closest gal pals that included five bottles of vintage Burgundy and Bordeaux, I decided they needed to know about “The Bar.”
We piled into a cab and off we went downtown.
It was just as I remembered it. A real dive. Except that the jukebox now took debit cards and Johnny proudly served Pinot Grigio, Sancerre, Pinot Noir and Cabernet.
All this to say that wine is now a beverage of choice, and not just among aficionados and connoisseurs, but it is now accessible and available to all. And wine bars have cropped up all over the city. But they’re not all alike.
These days, I hang my hat at Somm Time, a wine bar par excellence, that is the brainchild of Maria Rust. A sommelier and wine maverick, she had always wanted a wine bar where wine was celebrated and enjoyed…and not for any particular reason, but just because.
When we worked together several years ago, we always said, we would have such a bar and lo and behold, now there is Somm Time.
Somm Time is a wine bar with a list that is extraordinary, filled with wines that appeal to everyone: from the sommelier and master of wine to the young law student who lives next door. But it’s not just about the wine: it’s also about the atmosphere, the ambiance and the sheer warmth that emanates when you walk in. People say it feels like their living room…and there may be some truth to that. But that is what we want. We want people to feel comfortable and happy…whilst they try new wines and teach their palate about something new.
None of us who work at Somm Time (and there are only three) preach about wine…it’s a conversation; we put people at ease with a smile and let them tell us what they want before we make gentle suggestions.
And for us, the greatest reward is when someone’s eyes genuinely light up when they take that first sip. That is what makes the very hard work we put into Some Time worthwhile.
Somm Time isn’t just any wine bar. It is a quintessential wine bar run by people who care not only about the wine but about the experience…because while the average person may or may not remember the wine, he or she will most certainly remember how we made them feel and hopefully come back again and again.