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Vintry is not for the boisterous crowd that downs beers in some of Stone Street’s other food and drink emporia. It’s for the cognoscenti who savor a great glass of wine, a single malt whiskey or a handcrafted cocktail knowledgably paired with some of the best food on the street.
When Vintry opened in December 2009, many of its finest wines came from famed restaurateur Harry Poulakakos’ private cellars and they are still the core of Vintry’s Reserve collection of 500 bottles. The oldest vintage is a 1945 Château Haut-Brion, first growth, from the Graves region of Bordeaux. It sells for $9,975 a bottle. The least expensive wines in the Reserve collection are $165 a bottle.
Poulakakos, now 73, has retired leaving his Lower Manhattan restaurant empire in the hands of his son, Peter, but the impresario who helped develop historic but decrepit Stone Street into a renowned gastronomic destination still visits his son’s restaurants to greet friends and patrons. “Harry’s life has been, and always will be, his family’s restaurants downtown,” said a colleague. “Although he no longer has a business interest in them, his personal connection remains.”
Peter Poulakakos and his partner in Vintry, Ivan Mitankin, buy the restaurant’s wine and whiskey. The regular wine menu offers 85 wines by the glass and more than 225 kinds of whiskey. Wines can be purchased in a two-ounce tasting size, a five-ounce glass or by the bottle. Prices start at $4 for a taste, $9 for a glass, and $45 for a bottle. The whiskies are available in one- and two-ounce sizes starting at $6.
“We decided to specialize in those two libations, which are very similar in style,” said Mitankin. “Both are barrel aged and the terroir, or the location, makes a big difference in the final product.”
“It’s artisanal production,” said Peter Poulakakos. “It’s a business that people tend to take very seriously and put a lot of tender care into what they do.”
Poulakakos was raised drinking wine by his wine-loving parents. “I was probably three years old when I had my first glass of wine,” he said. “I’ve been drinking wine all my life. I’m 35 now. I have a decent amount of experience in this product.”
He and Mitankin divide the wine-buying responsibilities. Mitankin buys most of the whiskey. “We specialize in single malt Scotch but we have Japanese whiskies, American, Canadian, French,” he said. “Our oldest whisky is from 1951 and it’s an Irish whiskey called Knappoggue Castle. It’s the oldest Irish whiskey in the world, 80 proof.”
A one-ounce glass costs $125. Two ounces cost $250 — not something to be guzzled.
Around eight months ago, Vintry started selling barrel-aged cocktails. “The cocktails are aged for two months in new, American oak barrels,” Mitankin explained. “The aging process really gives a depth and complexity to the cocktail. They are unique and special. No one else in the Financial District does this.”
Though some people come to Vintry primarily to drink, others come for the food and for the food and drink pairings. Executive chef Joseph Mallol has devised a varied and tasty menu of tapas-style dishes to complement Vintry’s wines and whiskies. Remarkably, the gourmet food, handsomely plated, emerges from a minuscule kitchen next to the bar.
According to Mallol, shrimp and chorizo skewers with garlic aioli have been the most popular items on the menu “since day one.” The slightly sweet shrimp and salty sausage stand up well to a robust bourbon. Mallol recommends a tender duck confit with braised lentils and a red wine sauce as an accompaniment to a whiskey sour, made according to Harry Poulakakos’ recipe with rye whiskey, fresh lemon juice, cane syrup and raw egg whites. A glass of one of Peter Poulakakos’ favorite wines, Bourgogne Passetougrain, Confuron-Cotetidot, 2008, enhances a delectable plate of toasted brioche rounds topped with foie gras, hazelnuts, apricot jam and brandied cherries.
Vintry, which is at 57 Stone St., serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, and is open daily. Lunch and brunch are great values. The prix fixe lunch, served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, includes a choice of soup or salad, an entrée and dessert for $19.95. Large plates at brunch cost $12 to $16 and include a cocktail, normally priced at $8.
During the week, Vintry opens at 11:30 a.m. It closes at 2 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, it is open until 4 a.m. and on Sundays, until 1 a.m. Weekend brunch is served from noon to 4 p.m. If there’s room, reservations are accepted, but that’s not always possible in such a small space. To reserve, call (212) 480-9800.