Funky, unfiltered – two words to describe natural wines (and Williamsburg hipsters).
The Brooklyn neighborhood boasts a vast variety of small wine producers, rediscovered varietals, and underrated regions – becoming a top natural wine market today.
“The original promise of natural wine was that wine can be exciting and full of discovery, without pretension or gate-keeping,” shares Rafa García Febles, beverage director and sommelier at Bar Blondeau.
Below are seven “natty” wine spots in Williamsburg, including The (sulfur-free) Four Horsemen and menu-free Sauced, for modest sipping and even extensive wine learning.
Bar Blondeau is a très chic bar from notable chef partners Aidan O’Neal and Jake Leiber (Le Crocodile, Chez Ma Tante) and prolific restaurateur Jon Neidich of Golden Age Hospitality. Perched on the 6th floor of the lauded Wythe Hotel, the alluring space has tall virgin oak walls; built-in banquettes below and gold-accented ambient lighting above. In the center stands a sea green-tiled, marble-top bar with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
Natty wine flows as freely as the East River. The wine program consists of compelling natural wines from all over the world. Pét-nats, chilled reds, rosés, and orange wines which are used in cocktails like L’Orange, with orange wine, Lillet blanc, Swedish-style aquavit, and orange oil. “We want [it] to be fun, approachable, and offer pleasant surprises, whether you’re an experienced wine drinker or someone dipping their toes into the world of wine for the first time,” García Febles continues.
The Four Horsemen essentially established the natural wine scene in Williamsburg. The part bar, part restaurant from James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem serves small plates (and small wine producers) among wood-planked walls and “streatary.” They are laser-focused when it comes to wine varietals, so if their wide-ranging, impressive selection becomes overwhelming, fret not as half-glasses are available for abundant sampling. The result: Unfiltered, unsulfured, and unbelievable.
Disco Tacos wraps the corner of North 6th and Berry with wall-to-wall horizontal windows. Pops of local pop art – including a collection of framed album art from the team’s favorite 70s and 80s vinyls – fill the mod-industrial room revering one of the most influential New York City disco clubs, Paradise Garage. A multi-colored neon sign beams “natural wine” onto the sleek cement structure.
“We focus on natural wines that surprise you, wake you up, and shake you. Wines with a lot of freshness that can pair with any of our salsas and tacos,” owner and on-site somm Tamy Rofe adds. The natty wine list is labeled Funky Pours and provides one producer per style – opening with a dry and herbaceous bubbly pét-nat from Willamette Valley, Oregon, then white, orange, rosé, and closing with a chilled red Zinfandel from El Dorado County, California (a delight with the dusted cinnamon-sugar churro doughnuts with Mexican chocolate sauce).
Strangeways serves “strangely” great dishes, like the chopped chicken liver flatbread, and super-natural wines in a magical garden. The wine menu is staggering and split among four categories: Bright, Funky, Juicy, with two subcategories below each (white and red), and Effervescence & Pink – enter Lambrusco and Blaufränkisch. Strangeways is the place to douse in low-intervention wines from around the world – kudos to co-owner Jamie Webb and Nate Lithgow (Holy Ground, Cafe Altro Paradiso) on the program collaboration and continued wine conversation.
Sauced is a small and relaxed wine bar on Bedford Avenue. The majority of the wine offerings line the shelves behind the bars (with prices written directly on the bottles). There is no written or printed menu, yet celebrated winemaker Jordan Veran greeting guests and requesting preferences to curate a personal wine line-up based on what they are looking for. He wants guests to feel less intimidated by new wines that they might not be familiar with, and so, he hand-picks and pours minimal intervention bottles from unrecognized winemakers and regions.
There is live music, karaoke, and DJ nights inside and ping pong, backgammon, and other lawn games outside in the backyard – like hanging at home with a glass in hand.
Have & Meyer (on Havemeyer Street) is an all-naturale experience. Sustainable Italian food is served at the romantic wine bar with four tight tables and fifteen barstools, and lush sidewalk seating. Did we mention 100-plus natural wines by the glass? The vino selection spotlights conscious winegrowers, reflecting many personalities tied with individual purpose and passion – the beauty of small wine production. Have & Meyer believes “there is a story behind every bottle and every single ingredient we use, and [that] this is what we love to do; [to] fulfill our heart with emotions.”
Gertie is a colorful, counter-service cafe with everything from coffee and pastries in the morning to rotisserie meats and rotating wines at night. Natty wine is pulled (via tap) and paired with a large list of new Jew-ish fare like the house-smoked turkey “pastrami” club on caraway rye sourdough bread. Groovy bottles are gettable to-go for further natural wine discovery.