Drew Nieporent owns lauded New York restaurants Montrachet, Tribeca Grill, and Nobu. He is also joint-owner of Rubicon in San Francisco with Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, and Larry Stone. So, when the acclaimed restauranteur opened Crush Wine and Spirits in March 2005, foodies took note.
Crush's emphasis on small-production wines and its outreach to wine novices typify the evangelism of such shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 'Education and culture' dot managing partner Robert Schagrin's explanation of the shop's mission, while 'lifestyle' may allude to its pricey merchandise. Perhaps because Internet and phone traffic is heavy in this shop situated near Dior, Prada, and Chanel, the selling floor seems quiet.
Two design features are striking- the Wall and the Cube. The former is a 22m serpentine backlit metal rack cantilevering 3500 horizontal bottles, flowing from front to back. The latter, a large square temperature-controlled glass and metal walk-in vault, secures blue chip auction-level wines in standard and large formats, such as 1990 Dom Perignon Oenotheque ($249.99) and 1995 Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($349.99). Crush's unconventional priorities are evident from the wall's front-to-back, section-by-section heirarchy: from Riesling through the classic whites to Albariño then Rosé, and Pinot Noir via Italy and Germany to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Manhattan accounts for 65% of all Crush's sales. Business is lively: proof evident in piled-up bags and boxes awaiting delivery. The clientele includes Lenny Kravitz, George Clooney, and Robert Plant. The cheapest of its wines is Portugal's Arco Nova Vinhu Verde at $6.99; the costliest, a $14,000 Methusaleh of 1998 Jean-Louis Chave Cuvée Cathelin Ermitage from the Rhône.
Schagrin woos corporate and private clients from a tasting room-cum-bar whose entry resembles a giant barrel. High-backed chairs facing baronial and illuminated wall cabinets highlighting crystalware give this quasi-boardroom a tabernacle feel. It's also hired for tastings, classes, and wine-and-food matchings.
Free tastings are popular, showcasing interesting, quality wines like Domaine du Grand Cros Jules Chardonnay 2005 Vin de Pays des Maures ($14.99) and the 2001 Castell Roig Ull de Llebre-Merlot from Penedès ($15.99).
Informative e-mail newsletters offer tempting discounts such as Saarbuger Rausch Trockenbeerenauslese from Zilliken for $330 (375mL bottles).
With fewer than a dozen wines from Washington and Alsace, just five each from Greece and South Africa, and, astonishingly, only two from New York, more depth and imagination is needed. But Crush is still young and feeling its way.