At wine spots such as Appellation Wines in Chelsea and Pasanella & Son at the former South Street Seaport, it's easier to find an obscure wine from Slovenia than one from the mega-million case producer Yellow Tail. But while this new generation of quirky, high-concept shops has moved into the city's hipper neighborhoods, the Upper West Side has largely been stuck with fusty wine shops that, with few exceptions, favor conventional labels rather than seek out winedom's cutting edge. Next month, however, Upper West Siders will get Pour, a tiny but sure-to-be-chic wine boutique under construction at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 75th Street. It is owned by H. Tres Meyer and Christine Beattie, locals who are marketing types in their day jobs. Pour's beverage director, Jerri Banks, was once a beverage manager at Cellar in the Sky. She also created a lively, offbeat wine list at Fressen, a meatpacking district hotspot that has since closed. At Pour, wine bottles will be affixed with a color-coded label to match them with the right dishes. After you've picked up wine, stop next door at Crumbs for the city's best cupcakes. Just don't ask Ms. Banks to match a wine to them — it's got to be milk. (Pour, 321 Amsterdam Ave. at 75th Street, 212-501-POUR, pourwines.com.)
SWING TIME It was something I heard, rather than the falling temperature, that kicked me into seasonal big red wine mode this fall. That sound was the brittle crackle of dry leaves skittering across the driveway of my late parents' house in Rhode Island. It was my signal: White, rosé, and light red wines of gentler days, be gone. Autumn reds, welcome to the table. Like bears emerging from hibernation, some of those burly reds will shamble up from their basement lair after months of warm-weather dormancy. Others are newcomers, like the six wines recommended below. They are ready to drink, diverse in price, and currently available in New York wine shops.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($7.99) French "cabs" often don't do well when tasted alongside brighter, fruitier, New World versions. But when I recently opened four modestly priced examples from South Africa, Australia, Argentina, and underdog France, this Baron Philippe was the runaway favorite to accompany a roast chicken. Though vinified in Bordeaux, the wine is sourced from Rothschild's vineyards in Limoux, several hours to the east. Due to unhelpful and reactionary French labeling regulations, this wine could not have been called cabernet sauvignon if it came from Bordeaux. It would have to be named instead for its place of origin rather than its grape. But the regulations do allow a lowly "Vin de Pays," or country wine, to be varietally labeled. This cabernet sauvignon is a mere "Vin de Pays d'Oc." No matter. What's in the bottle is a suave wine with a curranty aroma, smooth if not plush texture, and an intriguing fresh-tobacco note to its plummy taste. It's a ringer for basic Bordeaux at a better price.
Ravenswood "Dickerson" Zinfandel 2004 ($29.95) Thirty years ago, a young immunologist and wine dabbler named Joel Peterson released 327 cases of his first Sonoma Zinfandel. His science career long ago fell by the wayside, but Mr. Peterson continues to produce a range of reference-standard Zinfandels. While his basic "Vinters Blend" at under $10 is good value, the Vineyard Designate series is a steep step up in quality as well as price. Grown on Zinfandel Lane under the shadow of the Maycamas Mountains in Napa Valley, the Dickerson zin blasts out of the bottle with chocolate, berry, mint, and eucalyptus flavors. But Mr. Peterson's practiced hand keeps it all in equilibrium.
Trapiche Broquel Malbec, Mendoza, 2004 ($14.95) A second-stringer in every other country where it's grown, malbec is the star player in Argentina's vast vineyards. Not a wine of mystery or great complexity, Broquel, like all the best Mendoza malbecs, comes on strong with broad, firm, plummy flavors. Its fine-grained tannins caress rather than bite the gums, yet this wine has the power and persistence to stand up to cold weather dishes.
The Goatfather 2005 ($14.95) First came Goats Do Roam, then Goat Rotie, and even Bored Doe — playful names that did not amuse the French. The latest from Charles Back, who makes these wines in South Africa, is this big red introduced just in time for winter imbibing."Don Goatti," according to the back label, keeps this wine's final blend a "family secret," but it's a gang of grapes that includes shiraz, primativo, barbera, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Like all the "Goat" wines, this one is an energetic spice stomp, including even a touch of cinnamon. Look elsewhere for subtlety.
Chateau Lassègue 2003, St. Emilion ($45) Unlike most Bordeaux appellations, St. Emilion produces wines whose taste resists copying elsewhere in the wine world. Merlot and cabernet franc, the principal local grapes, turn into sedate yet full wines like Chateau Lessègue. The once-sleepy property has been invigorated by new owners that include Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke of Kendall-Jackson fame. Unlike simpler wines, this one gets more interesting as the meal progresses, and that's what you're paying for.
Canua, Sforzato di Valtellina, Conti Sertoli Salis ($51) Think back to the ripest, most perfect cherry you've ever tasted, and you'll find its essence again at the core of this unusual wine from the northernmost of Italian wine zones. Like the earthier Barolo, Canua is made from nebbiolo grapes. Instead of being fermented straight from the vineyard, however, the grapes are air-dried on wood racks for most of the winter. As water evaporates out of the grapes, their sweet, potent essence remains and is finally transmitted to the wine. Like the better known Amarone della Valpolicella, made in similar fashion, Sforzato di Valtellina is a heady wine, but has a beguiling charm all its own.