There's a strange irony in the wine world: as much as women drink wine (visit any wine bar and the numerous tables and stools occupied for a girls' night out will confirm this), much of the wine industry is still seen as a boys' club. However, there are a few female pioneers that are out to change this, not to mention revolutionize the whole wine bar experience itself.
One of the most noteworthy places to drink wine in the city is at Corkbuzz Wine Studio, the creation of Laura Maniec. Until 2011, Maniec was the youngest person to hold the title of Master Sommelier and only one of 18 women with this prestigious title. Although she had extensive experience as the Wine and Spirits Director for various restaurants across the country, she notes on the Corkbuzz website that she " 'retired' so I could create and run my own own wine studio." What's a wine studio? It's hybrid wine bar/restaurant/classroom/event space that's holistically awesome. With classes such as "A Tour of Italy," "Blind Tasting 201" and "Sparkling Wine Around the World" there's a diverse range of topics for novices and aficionados alike to dive into.
One of Laura's passions is Champagne and she strives to bring this sparkler out to the public in a fun and accessible way. Every night after 10pm, a bell is rung and Champagne Campaign begins, where every bottle of the bubbly stuff is 1/2 price. Late night not your thing? Then head over for brunch, where Champagne Campaign will assuredly make running errands later in the day much more fun. On tops of all this, there are clambakes in the summer, blind tasting happy hours and a roster of other unique experiences.
I've been to Corkbuzz quite a few times ever since it opened in 2011 but have been delinquent in making a return visit in recent months. With the opening of the new location in Chelsea Market, it was about time to see how the original has evolved. Having made a reservation on OpenTable, I headed down to reacquaint myself with this unique venue.
The staff is more than well-equipped to guide guests through the constantly rotating 30+ wines BTG (By The Glass, for those looking to get down with the lingo). Educate, not intimidate, is the goal here.
First up was the Palmina, Arneis, Santa Ynez, CA, 2011. Arneis is a white grape indigenous to the Piedmont region in Italy but is now being grown domestically in Santa Barbara. There was a good amount of acid along with some honeysuckle, basil and a savory spiciness.
The sign of a great wine bar is a sommelier who knows his or her stuff and loves to bring out something unique to guests. Lusenti, Bianca Regina, Malvasia, Colli, IT, 2008, was a ripe, aromatic Italian white from the Colli region. There was a slight note of wet wool on the nose along with hazelnut. Again, there was a good amount of acidity and body on this fun n' funky wine.
These bad boys needed some food, so my friend and I started with the brussel sprouts, which were roasted to al dente and topped with a flurry of pecorino cheese, and followed with the fideos tossed with squid, tomato, pepper and topped with a large prawn. Savory and satisfying, the food made fast friends with our wine.
Clang! Clang! Everybody stopped and looked around at as the bell reverberated throughout the bar: Champagne Campaign! Having made friends with two people next to us, we decided to combine forces and partake in a bottle. Chartogne-Taillet, Rose, Champagne, FR, NV. Yeasty with a bit of a brioche tone, strawberry tones and mousse-y bubbles, this was the perfect wine to end our Corkbuzz experience with.
After three years, Corkbuzz continues to impress with its unique concept, oenophile staff, and exciting wine and food; Maniec's vision is definitely redefining the way people learn, consume and understand wine.
(And P.S., in addition to the newly opened Chelsea Market location, a Corkbuzz in Charlotte, N.C., is due to open very soon).
Reservations can be made on OpenTable