Tue Jul 22 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Consider Paul Grieco the Billy Graham of wine. The restaurateur (he also owns Hearth and Insieme) is a charismatic oeno-evangelist, preaching the powers of terroir. "One thing we demand of our grapes is that they express clearly and profoundly a sense of place," writes Grieco, who goes by "Chairman Paul" on his hypnotic, tricked-out website (wineisterroir.com). It's this manifesto that drives his tiny wine haunt, a sparse, cramped room featuring a communal table and a slender bar. Though Terroir's rustic decor feels pass (wide windows, an open kitchen and bare lightbulbs complete the familiar downtown package), it transcends its by-the-numbers trappings with a boundary-smashing collection of wine and top-notch grub. The vino list—encased in binders wildly decorated with hipster paraphernalia including Hello Kitty stickers and graffiti-like scribbles—takes its accessible cues from other wine shrines, like 'inoteca and Solex. You'll find lessons on grape-growing regions interspersed among its pages, essential reading material for the young, eager crowd. Grieco's team of disciples—a.k.a. Terroir's superknowledgable waitstaff—helped us navigate the 36 by-the-glass options, steering us toward gems such as the summery Hattenheimer Schtzenhaus Hans Lang riesling ($17.75) and the robust Le Bouchet cabernet franc ($12.50). Terroir lacks a full liquor license, but a compelling lineup of wine and beer cocktails is a creative workaround. Some options succeed, like the frothy, nutmeg-flecked Abby Flip ($13), made with Ommegang Abbey Ale, coriander syrup, pomegranate molasses and egg, while others flounder—the Gang of Four ($11) is a too-tart mix of sherry, lime juice and ginger beer. Small plates from partner Marco Canora and chef de cuisine Dana Gerson are restaurant caliber. Yes, there's de rigueur cheese and charcuterie (including hand-sliced serrano ham), but far tastier are fried snacks like crunchy, sage-wrapped lamb sausages ($7) and beet-risotto balls with a creamy Gorgonzola core ($7). Stellar sips and a menu to match: Hallelujah!