Sometime in the early to mid-1990s, a new kind of hot spot exploded on the social scene — the wine bar. Opening mostly in metropolitan areas — although bistros and cafés with a focus on wines had been popular in Europe for years — these wine bars were hip and sexy, the ambience was sophisticated, with an eclectic mix of music pulsing inside stylishly designed interiors. And most of all, they showcased a variety of domestic and international wines.
Wine bars went beyond offering the usual carafe of white wine or glass of Merlot, mind you. Upscale and fashionable, wine bars introduced customers to the pleasurable complexities of the world of wine.
Currently, there are an estimated 150 wine bars in Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs, according to NewYorkWineBar Guide.com. This past spring, Nectar opened in Harlem and joined that listing. Three years after opening Harlem Vintage wine shop, Jai Jai Ramsey Greenfield and business partner Eric Woods decided to broaden their love for wine and created a slick, contemporary place to do so. With its minimalist, Green-inspired design, Nectar offers more than 35 wines, most by the glass, several are available as a 2 oz. taste and by the bottle. (They also serve beer and sake.) Many of the wines might end up as new entries in your wine journal.
Manager and wine buyer Beth Baye says that her personal approach is towards old-world wines and the classic regions in France, Italy and Spain. “And our approach, here, is to have wines from all over; to keep an open mind to other regions; and to feature wines that are well made and unexpected in terms of where they come from,” says Baye. “For example, the Chardonnay we serve is from South Africa, not California.”
Baye says the wine list will change on an on-going basis to introduce new wines and to give folks a sense of what wines are favored during a particular season. The Casteller Cava from Spain is a crisp and refreshing sparkling wine with the taste of pears. In keeping with introducing new wines, the Montescondo Rosso, for example, is a red Italian blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo. The wine has a luscious taste of chocolate and cherries, with a long finish. Nectar also serves an assortment of old world and new world cheeses such as Marcel Petite Comté and Bailey Hazen Blue along with a selection of charcuterie to complement your wine-drinking experience.
Before venturing into the worlds of Cabernets and Nebbiolos and familiarizing herself with wine argot, Greenfield worked on Wall Street in equity sales for seven years at Morgan Stanley. Baye started out as a paralegal. Both women say their interest in wine was heightened while working in the corporate arena. Greenfield took courses at the Wine Institute and Baye worked for Best Cellars, an innovative wine store in Manhattan.
“I’ve always appreciated wine,” says Greenfield. “But it was having the ability to entertain clients at great restaurants around the city that sparked my interest and desire to learn more about wine.”
Her interest soon turned into a rewarding business. “Our aim with Nectar is to create a place where people can come in, relax, learn about wine and enjoy a glass or two with friends without having to always go downtown,” Greenfield adds. “We wanted people to be able to do all that right here, close to home.”