Had the opportunity recently to check out a couple of new New York wine bars, Accademia di Vino and Casellula. Accademia qualifies as one of those places I'd like to have enjoyed more than I did, given that ‘Cesca chef Kevin Garcia is behind the food, and it sports a hefty, 500-bottle, all-Italian wine list. But, the night I was there at least, they'd run out of both my first choices (white and red) off the somewhat less impressive by-the-glass list, and the charcuterie sampler, while pleasant enough, was pretty skimpy for the price ($14 for three types, all served in very modest amounts). Hm. I'd be inclined to give the place a second chance, except that I'd rather just hedge my bets and go to Casellula.
Casellula, which opened a month or two ago, is the brainchild of Brian Keyser, formerly head cheese-guru (fromager to the Francophiles out there) at The Modern, along with co-proprietor Joe Farrell and chef Jenise Addison. The focus in this tiny but somehow spacious-feeling room on 52nd at 9th is cheese. And wine. And that's a fine focus for a wine bar, I'd say. The wine list leans towards esoterica-I had a surprisingly polished, robust Hugarian red, the Vylyan Mini-Evolution, which blends Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zweigelt, Kekoporto, and Cabernet Franc to nice effect. (It also gives one the chance to ingest some Kekoporto, something that few of us get to do on a regular basis.) The cheeses were equally intriguing and perfectly ripe. If I'd had my brain with me, I would've written down the three I had, but apparently I was waylaid by brain-thieves on my way over or something. In any case, the cheese menu changes regularly. And what do you need my recollections for, anyway? The best thing to do is simply head there soon and order, as I did, with reckless cheese-frenzied abandon.