Splashy Entrance: First Look at City Winery

The first musical acts to perform at Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf's new venue have been announced. And so has the wine list.

By John Capone
|  Thursday, Nov 20, 2008  |  Updated 10:31 AM EDT
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Splashy Entrance: First Look at City Winery

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The first grapes have already been crushed at City Winery, and the first notes will be played in January.

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The idea, hatched somewhere in the recesses of Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf's mind after he made his own barrel of wine, seems simple enough: Create a space at the vortex where wine and music meet. There's more overlap than you might think. Dorf hopes his new venue-slash-winery (yes, they make their own) in Tribeca, City Winery, sits squarely in that space.

The concept merges a fully operational winery with an intimate (with cabaret seating and space for about 150) music venue. The first slate of acts to cross the stage go on sale today here; the space opens to the public in January.

Joan Osborne will inaugurate the venue with a New Year's Eve performance. Steve Earl and Alison Moorer (younger sister of Shelby Lynn) will play the first in the venue's Pairings series, which takes place each Thursday and couples two musicians. Other pairings include Suzanne Vega with Lenny Kaye, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing with Tony Scherr Trio, Jill Sobule with Julia Sweeney, Joey and John of Calexico with Keren Ann, and Rachael Yamagata with Jesse Malin. Rufus Wainwright is scheduled to appear, and Philip Glass will also be performing in early 2009, likely in a program with some pun on his last name.

Shows prices will start at $20 (for barstool seating) and go up to about $200 depending on the act, but only those who buy $50 memberships can purchase tickets. The other pairing series, taking place every Wednesday, will feature luminaries from the wine world hosting tastings and dinners.

The nascent trend of urban wineries just arrived in New York, with a facility also in the works in Red Hook. City Winery just had it's first crush — house wine will be available next year — and it hews closely to the model established by San Fransisco's Crushpad. Most of the wine (made from grapes brought in from upstate New York, California and Oregon) will be sold privately through a system of barrel ownership where people can buy their own barrel (starting at $5,000 plus the cost of supplies) or shares in a barrel (starting at $1,500). A barrel will net you about 22 cases which the winery will bottle for you, and a share about 3 and a half cases. There are laws in this city, so you can't just start making wine and selling in the front of the house. Most of the wine served to concert-goers and diners will come from the 500-strong wine list. It might seem a bit silly to have a winery with no vineyard, but the barrels and vats create an ambiance and an escape, and the barrel ownership program is meant as a way to learn about wine. There's a full kitchen on the premises, which will churn out small plates such as grilled octopus, but food pairings will be recommended by a sommelier (no "waiters" at all) after the wine is ordered.

The tables and chairs sat in boxes until last night, said Dorf. Most of the dust has cleared, the plastic has been torn off the chairs and those tables are arrayed in a way that you can imagine wine being poured at them and a band playing to the crowd, though workmen can still be heard banging away downstairs.

The space (which had previously housed the printing operation of the newspaper El Diario) has been kept somewhat raw and industrial, with exposed girders, brick setting off lots of blond wood and framed walls stocked with wine bottles. Besides the long wine list (which also features 50 wines by the glass) there will be a full bar. There will also be a Murray's Cheese Shop cheese bar complete with suggested wine pairings. And every Sunday is Klezmer Brunch, with bagels and that crazy gypsy music the kids like so much. It's the sort of idea you could only come up with after perhaps imbibing a bit too much wine.

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