Venturing into a smart boutique wine shop can be intimidating. It can also be a great deal of fun, as I learned at Greenpoint’s Dandelion Wine, where owner Lily Peachin and her staff are passionate, but not pretentious. Their extensive selection is neatly organized on plain wooden shelves, and arranged amid the appropriately “vintage” décor. The bottles, with old-fashioned string tags around their necks, are as pleasing to browse as books, and like books, each bottle has a story to tell (ask about the Sinister Hand!). Reading their poetic, handwritten descriptions and trying to choose just one bottle, is thirsty-making work, as is trying to decide between “Long and Lush” or “Big Purple Spicy.”
A self-proclaimed farmer’s daughter, Peachin has an unsurprising preference for “honest” wine, a quality not limited to a particular grape or region, but true of any wine that “fulfills its natural destiny,” by exhibiting the characteristics native to its grape and environment. Anything that manipulates the development of the wine—such as adding sugar or oak chips, two common practices in many “new world” regions—is considered dishonest. Dandelion Wine has a distinct proclivity for “old world” wine.
Peachin also promotes seasonal wines, and for the spring she has three words— “Rosé, rosé, rosé!” Another fine vernal choice is a vino verde from Portugal, a drinkable white with a slight sparkle that sells for under $10 a bottle. And by summer, Peachin expects to offer even more “economy-sized” options. “A plethora of boxes! Everything from Malbec to Côtes du Rhône to California.”
While a price point never trumps taste, “Wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be complex and interesting,” Peachin insists. In fact, their best-seller is a $9 bottle called Porca Douros, which has been a neighborhood favorite since day one. And the vast majority of their bottles are under $20, with many under $15.
Peachin makes it easy by pointing out that aspiring wine connoisseurs need only two things: an open mind, and an open bottle. Make that several bottles. The point is to experience the diversity of wine, and this means experimenting and asking questions. Daunted? Don’t be. This is a wine shop where you may hear someone liken a wine to “a summer day, with a breeze on my balls.” Where the French are called “badass winemakers.” Just think of them as your oenologist next door.
But the ultimate deal is whatever’s being served on Friday from 6-9 pm. Dandy’s weekly (and very popular) tastings, include not only three different wines, but a spread of scratch bread and cheeses, and usually a winemaker or representative on hand to answer questions. The offerings vary widely. The theme may be a region, a season, or even a holiday. Says Peachin, “We are always getting new things in. New York is really ideally situated—we can import from California, Europe, from everywhere. It’s easy to find stuff to pour.”
I’ll drink to that.
dandelionwinenyc.com” target=”_blank”>Dandelion Wine
153 Franklin Street
open 7 days / free deliver