In 1974, a new watering hole brought a wacky idea to the Financial District. London Wine Bar on Sansome Street (which has since closed) was modeled after the common European tasting room and boldly dubbed itself “America’s first wine bar”—a claim that’s widely believed to be true among the vino-scenti. Pamela Busch’s now defunct Hayes & Vine made a similar statement when it opened in Hayes Valley in 1994. But it wasn’t until 10 years later that Hotel Biron, District, Nectar Wine Lounge, and Busch’s second wine bar, Cav, galumphed into town like a cork-popping brat pack begging to be followed.
Eric Asimov has a blog post today on The Ten Bells, his favorite Manhattan wine bar. His advocacy of this place really hit a mark, as it has been tweeted and re-tweeted all afternoon. What makes Ten Bells so cool? Well, the headline says it's a "place for wine without the lecture." Asimov adds that "the Ten Bells is just a great place to hang out" and that "perhaps most telling, you can always find a few people at the Ten Bells with no interest at all in wine."
I share Eric's appreciation for the unpretentious. What he wishes for, as do I, is a world without "wine bars," per se. Instead: a world with great bars that also have great wine lists.