Three new wine bars bring vino back down to earth

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Wine may be a sometimes daunting beverage, but three brand new Brooklyn wine bars are here to get even the most intimidated novice over their fears.

Meet The Castello Plan in Ditmas Park, The Bodega in Bushwick and La Casita, a wine bar-yarn shop in Cobble Hill. These three newbies join favorites like Park Slope’s Brookvin as vanguards of a new brand of wine bars that break down the haughtiness of wine and make it as accessible as a $3 Bud.

“Wines have a real snobbery. We wanted to start getting out of the wine-speak, which turns people off, and show people that wine can be really exciting,” said Ben Warren, co-owner of The Bodega. Warren focuses on wines that are organic, holistic and sometimes a little out there, like his 2008 La Mothe ($9), a funky, apple-y wine that he describes “as the craziest white wine I’ve ever had.”

There may be crazy wines, but you’ll find no lifted pinkies here. Warren, an amateur wine enthusiast turned pro, doles out generous tastings from behind the bar himself, encouraging folks to try before they buy. He’s been known to go on and on about the unique qualities of each particular bar, justifying it simply, “Wine can be just as nerdy as beer.”

At the Castello Plan, too, owner Benjamin Heemskerk instructs his staff to have customers sample two, three, even four wines until they find the one they like.

“Everyone’s taste is different,” said Heemskerk. “We have stuff on the menu that I don’t even like, even though I know it’s ‘good’ wine. There’s nothing more intimidating than promising to pay for $35 for a bottle wine and then finding out you hate it. That’s why I want people to taste.”

La Casita has none of the usual wine bar fixtures. Walk into the homey, slightly cluttered storefront and find customers lounging comfortably, knitting away. The walls are stacked with bright yarns and owners Jennifer Lopez and Amanda Greenhagen dart between sales, advising knitters and dishing out vino and empanadas in a tiny bar tucked in the back.

“We wanted to be accessible, to have something for everyone. We want people to be able to work on a project, have a glass of wine, relax,” said Greenhagen. The shop even stocks a wine made by a customer in South Africa, the 2004 Lievland Wine Estate Field Blend – the priciest offering at $9.

La Casita and The Bodega in particular focus primarily on wines from the Spanish-speaking world – particularly because it allows them feature more affordable offerings. At each, every glass is under $10, with many offerings in the $7 range. While that’s not exactly dirt cheap, by focusing all their effort on more inexpensive offerings, each has managed to craft a wine list with a lot more bang for buck.

The Castello Plan is a bit more upscale – with glasses ranging from $7 to $14, bottles well into the hundreds and beautifully curated cheese boards that would make any cheese lover’s heart skip a beat. All the same, Heemskerk takes extra care in selecting his $7 offerings, ensuring they rival every other wine on the list.

Cheers to that.

The Bodega Wine Bar (24 St. Nicholas Ave. at Troutman Street in Bushwick. No phone yet); The Castello Plan [1213 Cortelyou Rd. at Argyle Road in Ditmas Park, (718) 856-8888]; La Casita Yarn Shop Café [253 Smith St. between Douglass and Degraw Streets in Carroll Gardens, (718) 963-0369].

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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