City Winery: Music, Wine, and Pregnant Wives

City Winery

Wine and music lovers cannot claim to be such until they’ve experienced a concert at City Winery. The space, down on the corner of Varick and Van Dam, with its endless oak, is a charming wine hall–like a beer hall, but more elegant and with wine. Servers walk the tables offering tastings, sophisticated chatter fills the room, the menu is dedicated to the grape, including a few pours from City Winery’s cellar (which is on display downstairs), and live music takes over the night.


My wife, an oenophile and newly expecting mother, who had just discovered she was pregnant a few days before our visit to the City Winery, experienced her first great struggle when we were confronted by the menu. Think Eve and the apple story. Marissa read the menu, imagining how she would order if she hadn’t been carrying our progeny.


“First I’d go cab, then malbec, then chianti…” It was like watching Monica from the sitcom Friends teach Chandler how to navigate a woman’s erogenous regions, when she had mapped each part of a woman’s body with a number. “1, 2, 3 … 4-7, 5-7, 6-7, 7, 7, 7… 7! 7! 7!”


“Watching all of these people enjoy their wine is making me sick,” Marissa declared, the way inhaling second-hand smoke might nauseate a former smoker.


I enjoyed City Winery’s malbec. “That’s nice,” I said, forgetting my wife’s situation.


“What?” she asked after I had declared my satisfaction for this forbidden drink.


The lights dimmed.


“The dimming of the lights,” I said. “The dimming of the lights are nice.”


“Let me smell it.”


I let her smell the malbec.


Music at City Winery


Then the show began. The large dining area shrunk down to an intimate space. Unlike the smaller venues in Manhattan, where concert-goers stand at the stage and have their plastic beer cups knocked from their hand by over-eager fans, City Winery felt like an MTV Unplugged show. You could enjoy the performance from your seat, albeit with the comforts of fine food and wine.


Performers, at least the three that I saw at City Winery, took to the stage without their bands. Just a man and his guitar (or piano). The scene transformed musicians into raconteurs. (A brilliant young musician named Charlie Mars had the crowd laughing with deadpan quips–“This song is called Pacific Ocean because I wrote it while I was by the Pacific Ocean”–and tales about how his “minor hit” inspired by banana Popsicles, blue underwear, and Pink Floyd caused his young nephew to recite lines about getting high to his fellow toddlers in a sandbox.) It was a stage for experimentation. (Mason Jennings, one of my favorite singers and songwriters of these times, fiddled with a ukulele that he had purchased earlier that day.) And it was a room where the crowd became part of the show. (The multi-talented Martin Sexton, who scatted, beatboxed, and vocally produced the sounds of a jazz band, made set two “an all request set” that transformed into a sing-along.)


City Winery was the perfect place for this wine and music fan. Even his pregnant wife got over that small obstacle once the show had started.


You can visit their website for upcoming events.



Posted on by Noah Lederman in New York, Or Bust

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