The Uncharted Bubble Lounge of New York City
A new opener in the Big Apple is turning heads. The wine list gives a vast scope of original sparkling wines from six different countries. Our man on the East Coast investigates
Review by Kyle Ridington
Despite a mouse fart of a snippet in The Gothamist, very few people were aware of the new subterranean sparkling wine lounge that would open its doors to the public on Monday, October 5th, 2015. Owner, Ravi DeRossi isn’t a stranger to the business and has a proven track record with the successes of Death + Co, Proletariat, Mother of Pearl and Bergen Hill. Mr. DeRossi placed Tanner Walle at the helm as Wine Director, previously of Terroir Wine Bar. Tanner brings a wealth of knowledge with a snappy, constant evolving 45 label list that tips the scale on the sparkling wine section.
Nine out of ten times one would walk by this unassuming, underground lounge located in Greenwich Village just outside of New York University that was once occupied by a Spanish restaurant. It falls right off the three block strip of Macdougal Street populated with vapid college bars, one dollar slices of pizza after midnight joints, comedy clubs, jazz bars and freshman running to class. But once located, one will have to walk down the dusty stairs passed a window that briefly showcases the candlelit interior before stopping at a small red door. Recently, a crafty sign has been posted on the entrance – I assume but to give reassurance to the patrons that went through a scavenger hunt to find it.
The red door opens to a room the size of an East Village studio. The low red ceilings must be no more than seven and a half feet high. Three-fourths of the room is lined by a marble countertop accompanied by modern era red bar chairs that look like they were stolen from the set of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The patterned black and white floor may become trippy after downing a few glasses of Champagne. The walls are columned with wine storage shelves and lined with Champagne riddling racks that display all the best sparkling bottles that have been opened in the pursuit of pleasure. Then the Victorian red tufted couch, the center piece of Riddling Widow’s aesthetic, nestles behind the marble coffee table adjacent to the service area. The room is darkly lit with candles, which gives somewhat of a fancy, prohibition club allure all in the name slinging Champagne, not drams of whisky.
The wine list gives a vast scope of original sparkling wines from six different countries and 11 different regions ranging at all price points. Entry-level bottle pricing beings at $44 with Macari Vineyards, Horses, North Fork, New York to a luxury offering of Henri Giraud, Fût de Chêne, Grand Cru, Champagne, France topping off at $392. There are 26 wines offered by the glass allowing guests the opportunity to explore different regions while not having to commit to a single bottle. The wine list offers a pint-size snack menu with items such as toasted pepitas, warm veggie chips, popcorn with volcanic salt and a selection of cheeses.
The staff is comprised of two members, as mentioned Tanner Walle, Wine Director and his sommelier Greg Bell. Each night one of these two men will be present to graciously serve one’s sparkling wine habits. The service is casual and laid back with the finer details being met. Earlier in the evening Riddling Widow is occupied by an after work crowd looking to appreciate a glass of Champagne and conversation in seclusion. Hours after the place hits its stride and tends to lose the two & three shirt button with restaurant industry folk leaking in to burn off some steam. When this happens it turns into a marathon that reaches far past their normal hours of operation. The anticipation of seeing what bottle of sparkling wine is ordered next or how many pairs of legs flash by the window descending to the lounge or what music track Tanner may queue up, all adds to the allure.
Riddling Widow isn’t keen on a massive social media campaign, nor its involvement in current sommelier happenings in the city. It seems more content by building upon a positive word of mouth, offering unique sparkling wines with genuine service and valuing repeat guests. It is not unforeseeable that one may find themselves leaving a Riddling Widow impromptu dance party at three a.m. with intentions of having had one glass hours earlier. There is no bouncer at the door checking I.D.s or monitoring the capacity levels. Places like these can often be proscribed due to lack of rules or not abiding by strict neighborhood policies but sometimes one needs to go underground to get a breath of fresh air.