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Have liver, will travel

Friday, March 31, 2006

Rally's-Pride of our Alley; Chambers Street Wines; Melville Vineyards & Winery

There's a little convenience store/deli around the corner from our place. It's got a red awning with large white letters proclaiming its name: Rally's. Upon closer inspection, one gleans that the store used to be called "Sally's," and the thrifty owners who purchased the joint from Sally simply patched over the "S" on the awning for the store's new appelation. So it's that kind of place—hardly what you'd expect to read about on a hooch snob's blog. At first sight, Rally's looks like the kind of place you'd go to get change for the parking meter, or a weak coffee when you've run out of beans.

But appearances, says the cliché, are deceiving.

Fact is, Rally's has a killer beer selection, hand picked by the owner himself. It's not a Bevmo-style lexicon mind you—there's no room for that—it's just a few choice bottles in a little cooler in the back, many of which are so esoteric, you'd never even see them at a wholesaler. We picked up a some Dogfish Head brews the other night—90-minute IPA, 60-minute IPA, and an ApriHop (yes, an apricot-infused IPA). They were even selling World-Wide Stout ($9.99 for a single 12-oz bottle). We decided to save that for another time.

They also have an extensive selection of Belgian Ales, particularly lambics, a couple sixers of Brooklyn Brewing Company's best brews, a few real German and Czech lagers, and some California mainstream micros like Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam. Rally's one little cooler has more to keep a discerning beer lover busy than any ten grocery stores.

In Tribeca, I ran into another find: Chambers Street Wines. On my way home after work, I stumbled into what appeared to be a little mom & pop place, lured by a display in the window that pimped "mixed case specials"—they do a mixed Red case for $200, and $100 mixed cases of Reds, Whites, or both. Inside, I was pleased to see $10 bottles sitting next to $300 bottles on shelves arranged by region. This portends one of two things: taxonomical errata, or insightful curation of stock based on, in the case of inexpensive wines, extraordinary value for money, and in the case of expensive wines, hard-to-find gems from the great and emerging regions. Fortunately for me, the latter applied. I was delighted to see Pinot Noir from Melville Vineyards and Winery, one of our favorite Sideways country producers.

Perhaps this belongs in another post, but when we tasted at Melville, there was a couple there with a baby and a toddler. Darling children, but the toddler must have had a sour tummy, and dropped messy bout of diarrhea all over the tasting room rug. The obvious olfactory challenges proved to be a testament to the quality of Melville's wines—not even a fog of baby shit could quell their exceptional character. Next to the remarkable, inimitable Sea Smoke Cellars, Melville has the most exciting Pinot program in Santa Barbara County.

Sac's cheese pie, courtesy of Slice NY
I found a nice bottle of Monpertuis 2003 Vin de Pays du Gard La Ramière Counoise for $10, and a $20 Sobon 2003 Amador County Zinfandel Fiddletown next to a wine shop placard that comically praised this 15.1% monster's lack of "alcohol heat," and a $14 Ocone 2001 Aglianico del Taburno. The Monpertuis was dense with blackberry fruit and a little herbal sting. The Ocone was the first Aglianico I'd tried, and it was rustic and impressive with top notes of sour cherry and a shaggy texture of dry cocoa and black raspberry compote—we had it with pizza delivered from Sac's Place, which turned out to be an inspired pairing. I'm saving the Zin for a doghouse day when I need the assistance of a proven aphrodesiac. I'll keep you apprised of how that goes, dear readers.

Anyway, don't judge a book by its cover, appearances can be deceiving, the ugly duckling is a swan in disguise, and all that. And maybe that's my lasting impression of New York in general—there's so much going on here in every corner of the city that no one could hope to apprehend it all. As a country mouse, I grew up thinking the city mice had it all bad—murderous cats, Victor traps, and urban blight. But those are outward appearances—penetrate them, and the streets really are paved with cheese.

—The Alcotourist


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