Where to Look for Wine List Deals at Our 99 Essential Restaurants

As we prepared to write about our 99 Essential Restaurants™ in Lower Manhattan, we spoke to the chefs and owners behind these places, asking them to discuss their history and unique place among the other eateries in this town. But we were also thinking of your wallet, dear readers, and so we asked them, too, to divulge the deals on their wine lists. Thinking about dining out this weekend? Use this info as a guide to pop a good, affordable cork.

Balthazar general manager Erin Wendt: Bargains in terms of price point: Our carafes are all $20 for three to four glasses of wine, and all are typical expressions of the regions they are from (Muscadet, white Burgundy, Beaujolais, and southern Rhone). Half bottles are a great bargain in terms of getting a taste of something higher in quality than a glass of wine but at a more affordable price than a full bottle, particularly the premier cru Chablis from Christian Moreau at $50. A third category to look for bargains in are wines from some of the lesser known regions of France (i.e. outside of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Rhone). Check out Loire valley reds and whites, gems from the Jura and Savoie (which are rarely seen on wine lists), as well as reds and whites from the south of France, which includes lesser known regions within the Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence, and Corsica.

Balaboosta chef-owner Einat Admony: "Rayuelo de Altolandon" 2009, Manchuela (bobal-tempranillo-monastrel) from Spain, $55. Amazing value. Elegant balance of juicy dark red fruit and spice.

Little Owl chef-owner Joey Campanaro: Savuto, which is a Calabrian red, pairs really well with the majority of the menu for $44. David Giuliano, who is our beverage director at The Little Owl as well as Market Table and the recently opened The Clam, always makes sure to keep a well-balanced wine list at all of our restaurants with plenty of affordable options.

Buvette chef-owner Jody Williams: Drink near the top of the wine list. I hope the prices are generous. They aren't marked up. We want to promote wine drinking in general. We want people to drink wines we really like. I don't think we try to mark them up. The more the wine costs me, the less I'll mark it up. There is a lot of value to be found in the top of the list.

Aquagrill owner Jennifer Marshall: We make this easy to identify. Our best value wines are designated with an arrow.

Hearth owner Paul Grieco: Hearth offers a great selection of affordable wines from the world over, from Slovenia and Uruguay to the classic Old World regions. During happy hour, select wines by the glass are only $7 each, and a glass of Manzanilla sherry, a fortified wine, is only $2.50. Regardless of what time guests arrive, though, they're sure to enjoy several reasonably priced wines by the glass and the bottle.

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria owner Donna Leonard:
1. Contra Soarda Marzemino Nero: A delicious wine from the Veneto from a small producer and a little known grape varietal, Marzemino Nero. Related genetically to Cabernet Franc, this wine reminds me of a lighter Loire red like Pineau d'Aunis or Gamay, but with a little more grit that you would expect from Northern Italy. $50
2. il Chiosso Fara 2007: A very cool wine from the Alto-Piemonte, a blend of Nebbiolo and Vespolina from the town of Fara (which is lesser known but close to Gattinara, Ghemme, and Boca). A small production wine you don't see out too often. I don't want to compare this wine to Barolo (because they are both Nebbiolo), but with the age on the wine, I think it is a great value. $55
3. Domaine Economou Sitia 1999: While we are known as a destination for Italian wine, we feature wines from around the world. We are driven by our curiosity and the curiosity of our customers. This winemaker is in the town of Sitia on the island of Crete. The grape here is called Liatiko, and the winemaker Yiannis Economou studied oenolgy in Alba and worked for both Scavino and Ceretto, and also trained at Chateau Margaux. This wine tastes authentically made; the sense of wine as craft is ever-present. With the amount of bottle age on this wine (a Barolo from 1999 would generally cost $200-plus), and the thrill I get seeing people's reaction to this wine when they first encounter it, this is a great value. $120

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