Friday, January 04, 2008

Brooklyn Wine Bars: Black Mountain Wine House

Black Mountain Wine House is located in a townhouse on the corner of Hoyt and Union Streets, right across from a large purple brick school building and on a still rather lonely stretch of Union. This is an area that was mostly Gowanus Canal industrial until recently, and although the home values have risen and lots of people have moved in, bars and restaurants have been a bit slow to follow. Which is fine, since it's about a 5 minute walk to bustling Smith or Court Streets. And in fact, this place is owned by a guy who also owns a whole load of restaurants, including Patois on Smith Street. But don't let that turn you off - this is a really nice place.

I love the location, and I hope that nothing else opens up right nearby. It feels tucked away and private. There is no sign or awning, nothing on the outside, except for a stack of firewood, to indicate the great little world going on inside. You might easily miss Black Mountain walking by, as I did several times, until I became curious enough about what was going on to knock on the door one rainy afternoon.

BrooklynLady and I got to go out on a date the other night, courtesy of my parents the babysitters, and it was absolutely pouring outside. Walking into Black Mountain was like coming into a warm cottage in the countryside. There was a fire roaring in the back, flattering low lighting and candles flickering about, exposed wood beams, cozy looking wooden furniture, a big open kitchen, and many wine bottles tucked away on various shelves. And at this early hour on a rainy Wednesday night, we were among the only people there. We got a table right next to the lovely fireplace.

This is a sit-across-from-your-wife-let-go-of-the-troubles-of-the-day kind of atmosphere, completely warm and inviting. A great place for a date, but we also saw a table of four old friends, guys in their mid to late 40's seeing each other for the first time in a while, hanging out over a bottle of wine and some dinner. We saw younger and older couples on dates, we saw Williamsburg orange tinted glasses and carefully mussed hair types, and at least one person hanging out solo at the bar. A nicely diverse scene, in other words.

Service was excellent in general. Our server was knowledgeable, very friendly, and there when we needed her. She was almost overeager with recommendations, which was sort of endearing anyway because I take it to mean that she really likes the wine and the food she is representing. Our only complaint - the only complaint period - about Black Mountain, is that management should train the staff not to try to clear plates from the table too quickly. Don't you hate it when they come by and take your friend's empty plate while you're still eating? Makes everyone uncomfortable, and it shouldn't be done. But this is surely quite easy to fix.

Really, that's the only complaint from a curmudgeon like me? That's right - the wine list was so good, and the food so nice. Just look at this wine list. This one is actually from the summer, but you get the idea. The Manager Shane loves natural wines and the list is full of them. Really interesting ones too, something for everyone, no matter what style of wine you enjoy. Wines from Greece to Uruguay to Walla Walla to Willamette to Marche to Puglia to Rioja to Switzerland, and more. And thoughtfully selected wines too.

We started with glasses of sparkling wine. BrooklynLady went with the NV Chateau Bethanie Cremant du Jura, $9, a slightly gamy and very earthy blanc de blancs, with nice citrus and lots of chalkiness. Really a nice aperitif. I had the NV Bereche Brut, $14, grower Champagne made of about 60% Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay, and a special pour that evening. This was also just lovely, with a rich sappy red fruited ripeness to go along with the minerals and yeast. Can you imagine how happy we were at this point - warmed by the fire, sipping our bubblies, remembering how we used to go out on dates all the time before BrooklynBaby came along...

Then our first course arrived. We ordered white bean crostini, $10, which came with a think layer of pesto, tiny chunks of red onion, and a dreamy warm ricotta and almond gratinée that will reduce even the most polite among you to cleaning off the ramekin with your index finger and licking it clean. The white beans were fresh and perfectly cooked, the flavors nicely balanced, and the whole thing was just yummy. A bit messy, as the beans tended to topple off the crostini, but BrooklynLady figured out that you spread the gratinée on top of the crostini and it holds everything in place.

We also ordered the house cold cut plate, $10, (we chose this at the last moment over the special black-eyed pea chowder with collard greens and bacon), which arrived with a few slices of procuitto, what I think was Genoa salami, and two triangles of some very tasty and pleasantly livery country paté. A nice little crock of good grainy mustard, a pile of bread and crackers, some good olives in herbs and oil, and voila - off to the races.

We decided to share the special beef stew, $15, and have a cheese plate afterwards. So many nice reds to choose from that would go well with beef stew. I asked if I could taste the 2005 Vinedo de los Vientos Tannat from Uruguay, $8, kind of in homage to Joe who likes Tannat, and they brought me a nice little pour. I liked it, much less bulky than I thought it would be, but I just didn't feel like a whole glass. This is lame of me, but instead of trying one of the interesting wines that were new to me, I went with an old favorite, a 2006 Domaine Cheveau Beaujolais Villages, $10. So sue me. It was juicy and light bodied and nicely perfumed and it turned out to be a great counterpoint to the rich beef dish. BrooklynLady chose the 2005 Georges Côte du Rousillon Villages, $8, and it was fresh and ripe with a pleasantly rustic kind of earthiness to it, also a good match with the stew.

The stew was served with creamy polenta, mushrooms, and cippolini onions. It was perfectly fine, but not special, as the texture was sort of Dinty Moore-ish - a bit gloopy, and the flavors were not very clear. Fine, so that's my other little complaint, but honestly, it just didn't matter because it was good enough and everything else was so nice. In the end we didn't even want the cheese plate - we were sated. We might have ordered dessert, but there were none listed on the menu, so we got our check and headed out. By that time the space had pretty much filled up, but somehow it was not loud at all and we could easily hear each other. On the way out we noticed a blackboard where the desserts of the day were listed, and they sounded quite nice.

And that, to me, sums up the charms of Black Mountain. You want something - ask for it because you can probably have it. And use all of your senses because they are all catered to in this most comfortable of places. Including your sense of romance, because that's exactly what this charming little unsigned spot on a quiet street with firewood stacked outside embodies.

13 comments:

David McDuff said...

Sounds like a great neighborhood hang, Neil. In addition to a decent, thoughtful list, the pricing appears to be quite fair. The Bereche NV, which I also enjoy, retails for $40-ish so $60 in a restaurant is a pretty solid value.

Brooklynguy said...

hi david - i agree, the prices are pretty good. i mean, $8 might sounds like a lot for a glass of wine, but not here in the northeast. and $14/glass of high quality grower champs...i'll take it.

Joe said...

Hi Neil. I hate the hurried clearing of plates, unsat. Thanks for the tip - I certainly like tannat with a winter stew or a summer steak, where the tannins and acidity melt the meat like butter, but it is a temperamental beast that only skilled vignerons know how to work with. Uruguay seems to have taken the easy way out - blend it with merlot - but in Madiran they seem to be religious about destemming, etc. to make them accessible. Someday we'll sit down with a 10+ year old Madiran and see what the fuss is about...

Brooklynguy said...

i didn;t realize they are blending. that's not a terrible thing, in my opinion. destemming...i'm not yet sure where i come doen on that. esmonin's wines have improved tremendously since she started keeping the stems. hard to say what the hell is going on with the stems. i'm in on the 10 year madiran kick.

Joe said...

Destemming is not necessarily a bad thing, and Tannat is notoriously tannic so destemming or blending is almost necessary. Not a big deal in my opinion, that's what the French have taught us. At ten years+ the tannins should soften out regardless. I have a 3L bottle of 1996 Montus, and I have no idea when to open it!

Brooklynguy said...

agree, agree. how did you happen to come upon a 3 litre montus?!? you should have a big BBQ this summer and open it. and make sure its the weekend when the brooklynlady and i are in mont-royale.

Joe said...

I think I paid like $119 for that at the SAQ. Only a Madiran nut would buy 3 litres of that (not a notable vintage). I would love to crack that open for you, Marcus, and the Brooklynlady - I promise to save it (I have the four decanters worth!) - steak on the barbie.

Marcus said...

Hi there, I'm a nutter.

Joe, keep the steaks free of peppercorns. I once submitted myself to an SAQ experiment with Tannat and pepper. (Were you there that day?) Ah, it was agony! But lesson was clear: Peppery foods and heavily tannic wines are enemies.

Neil, I could find my way to this wine bar based on the helpful directions you gave me last visit. Sounds lovely. But I have to recommend that you and BLady come and submit yourself to this place in Montreal at your next scheduling opportunity. Our wine prices have gone down now so it's time you visit Pullman (or any of our great BYOs)!

Brooklynguy said...

sounds good. that must be the best way to drink that wine. i wonder what they do in uruguay, but i'm guessing some sort of festival of meat as well.

when in montreal i go where you tell me, gents. pullman or anywhere else.

PJ said...

This blog is getting WAY too serious. And that post was really long.

Anyone wanna go steal some wine?

sarahreiko said...

Great blog. Do you know a good place to do a wine tasting class in the area?

Brooklynguy said...

thanks sarahreiko, much appreciated. tell me what sort of experience you are looking for and i'll let you know what i know.

Chaotic Harmony said...
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