You don't need the knowledge of a sommelier to enjoy a fine glass of wine, and in New Jersey, you don’t even need to go to a vineyard or upscale restaurant to try different varieties, as there are numerous wine bars throughout the state offering hundreds of selections.
For those looking to add a little elegance to their meetings or events, a wine bar is the perfect venue. Here are six spots pouring terrific wine in inviting spaces.
The fine wine collection at Crystal Springs Wine Cellar in Hamburg is one of the largest in the U.S. with approximately 75,000 bottles— featuring many rare labels from around the world. “The Wine Cellar is iconic and can’t be compared,” says sommelier Susanne Lerescu. “Even guests who are not into wines will sense that we have something unique and special.” Robby Younes, wine director, notes there are two rooms for private events: The Bordeaux for up to 26 guests and the Grand Cru for up to 10 guests. “Both rooms in the cellar have a lavish and authentic look, which is unusual for business meetings,” he says. “Also, a tour of the Wine Cellar is included as part of any private event that’s held here.” For business clients, special team-building events are offered in the Cellar as well. For example, an organization recently asked the wine team for direction on how to order wine when out to dinner with clients.
When Mompou Tapas Wine Bar & Lounge opened its doors in 2005, it became Newark’s largest BTG (by the glass) restaurant, offering a great selection of pours. Over the last 10 years, the establishment has become a favorite for corporations in the area to hold meetings. “We offer a private, outdoor brick-walled garden patio, and a SoHo-like dining room for events, both seating as many as 100,” says Steven Yglesias, Mompou’s owner. “There’s also a hidden wine cellar lounge, which can accommodate 35 guests in a private wine cellar environment with a full bar top, old stone walls and exposed beams.” The food includes a great selection of tapas with a twist, including innovative vegetarian dishes. As for the wine, Yglesias likes to change it up weekly. “We usually have seven reds and seven whites available each night BTG, with an emphasis on Iberian wines,” he says. “Even if you don’t like wine, there’s so much for people to enjoy here.”
Another wine bar pairing vino with tapas successfully is Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Clifton, which specializes in small plates with a modern twist to Italian classics and fine wines from around the world. Designed with inspiration from New York City train stations of the 1920s, its aesthetic includes an open-air design, white subway tiles, marble high tops in its bar area and exposed fixtures. They offer a variety of different settings and menus for private events with four distinct rooms: a private dining room (surrounded by beautiful, distressed wood, rustic metal tones and wired glass bins) that seats up to 35; a front dining room that seats up to 50; a main dining room that sits up to 80; and a marble bar that can accommodate 45, where guests can watch the restaurant’s mixologists create distinctive cocktails while chefs create salumi and formaggi platters. “We offer an extensive list of over 150 world class wines available by the bottle with more than 50 wines by the glass,” says Brian McAllister, general manager. “The Spuntino team works closely with guests to select the dining and tapas package that works best for their group, from the creation of menus to the parings of the wines or other beverages. It’s perfect for guests looking for something out of the ordinary.”
Led by wine director Joel David Liscio, Bin 14 is the only wine bar in Hoboken, and its wine menu changes with each season, and sometimes even from week to week. “Smaller meetings and events are held on our back patio space, which holds 20 seated and 30 standing,” Liscio says. “Chef Anthony Pino’s menu has something for every appetite and has earned raves from the press and the guests alike. He celebrates classic Italian flavors while blending modern American approaches.” Prices for patio space start at $1,400 for two hours, and private wine tastings are available for guests after meetings. The restaurant, which can also be used for private functions, features a contemporary blend of upscale Italian tapas (small plates) in an industrial chic space with exposed brick walls, tin molded ceilings and a marble-topped bar.
With a wine list that features over 160 labels, Annata Wine Bar in Hammonton allows both novices and aficionados to enjoy wines from the world’s greatest wine regions. The staff will work with guests on catering ideas and the executive chef will tailor a custom menu for any meeting or function. The restaurant offers a party room in the back, which can hold up to 80 people and can accommodate everything from a town meeting to a wedding. Guests can also set up their own projector in a relaxing atmosphere and enjoy some great wine while holding a meeting. The restaurant also offers off-site catering.
Tom Brucato, co-owner of The Wine Loft in Long Branch, says its restaurant offers 60 different wines by the glass, including many from different parts of the world that you don’t often see at bars. “When we first opened eight years ago, we built a 1,000-square-foot loft that overlooks the entire bar that’s perfect for a meeting or private event, as it holds 50-60 comfortably,” he says. “We do a lot of meetings during the week and parties on weekends, and we provide a true VIP experience.”