By New York City Correspondent Sasha Smith

When Vintage New York opened in 2000, it seemed like a pretty remarkable gamble to open a
wine store devoted entirely to New York wines — and in Soho no less. Even I, a
longtime New York state wine booster, thought
its best shot
at survival was to play up the fact that it was open on
Sundays, a rarity at the time.

But thanks to some smart decisions like offering a $1-a-pop
tasting of any wine in the store, as well as good timing — the store has
certainly benefited from the rise of the “eat/drink local” movement — owners Susan Wine and Robert Ransom
have been able to create a Vintage mini-empire, expanding the Soho store to
include a wine bar/restaurant and opening a second retail location on the Upper
West Side.

I’ve visited the store periodically over the years and have
always been cheered by the friendly, laid-back atmosphere. I stopped by the
store on a recent Saturday and found the staff to be as helpful and
knowledgeable as ever. However, there were a few unpleasant surprises. 

First and foremost, the price of tastings has now doubled — five
tastes for $10. I don’t entirely begrudge them the increase, as I can only
imagine how expensive it is to run any type of retail operation in Soho. But
with a 100% price increase, I’d also expect a little improvement in quality
and/or service.

Unfortunately, I had no such luck.

The reds were served way too warm, a particular problem for cabernet
franc and pinot noir, both of which are common varietals for New York wine — and both
of which are much more pleasant to drink at lower temperatures. Macari
Vineyards’ 2002 Bergen Road (a Bordeaux-style red blend) at $30 a bottle was one
of the more expensive offerings we tried. And it was corked.

No problem, it happens. But the bottle had already been
opened and sampled by other customers, who probably came away with a negative
impression of the wine, rather than the understanding that they had just happened
upon a faulty bottle. 

Printed tasting notes contained typos as well as at least
one error — the Lenz Winery’s Gewürztraminer was misidentified as being from the
Finger Lakes—and it would be helpful to provide more general materials on New
York viticulture and winemaking for curious neophytes, not just notes on
individual wines.   

On my last several visits, I’ve found that numerous
otherwise knowledgeable staff
members have never been to a Long Island winery. It would seem like a smart
investment to require all employees who have been at the store for at least six
months to make the two-hour trip out to the East End and reimburse them for the

I realize these complaints might sound nit-picky, but, without
sounding overly dramatic, there’s a lot at stake. New York wines have improved
dramatically in the past seven years — they deserve a store that shows them off
to their best advantage.