Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CLO Wine Bar, NYC

In the Time Warner center, between Per Se and Masa, a simple white table stands, surrounded by a chic enclosure of Enomatic wine dispensers. The tabletop is alive with an interactive projected display that allows you to browse a hundred or so wine-by-the-glass selections, including region/appellation info and tasting notes. After choosing a selection, you take your glass to the appropriate Enomatic station, insert the tab card provided by a friendly server, and voilĂ ! You are the proud new owner of exactly 4 ounces of slightly frothing, tasty beverage. There is also a small menu of cheeses, charcuterie, and other drinks.

At first Clo felt like some sort of bizzare wine-themed space ship out of a Douglas Adams book ("Share and enjoy!"), but the server and sommelier-on-hand were approachable, helpful, and friendly. The slightly clumsy interface had one unexpected consequence: complete strangers talked with each other about the tricky interface, and ultimately about wine.

There are few people more irrepressible than a wine lover who suddenly finds himself in the company of others sharing his strange obsession, and I quickly found myself deep in conversation with a chef from Napa, a group of tourists from Belgium, and a visual designer from NYC proper who graduated from my high school back in California. Such is the magic of Clo.

My one complaint is that they have discontinued the 2 oz taste program. I was looking forward to sampling several wines, but since they recently limited the serving size to 4 oz (customers complained 2oz looked skimpy in the glass), I contented myself with a fascinating, evolving '04 Rayas Pignan. The somm said that once Clo gets more traction, and a base of regular customers, they will try to add the tasting program in again.

Price: Like most wine bars this depends on the wine. Clo covers a broad spectrum, from several sub-$10 wines to a $100+ Leoville Las Cases (yes, $100 for 4 oz). Prices per glass were around 25% of retail price, far less than the industry standard. The food prices emphasized quality over quantity - small plates of cheeses and charcuterie in the $6-20 range.

2 comments:

Wine Tasting Guy said...

Hey Rajiv- Nice post!

I have heard all kinds of things about CLO. Mostly good. But I wonder, about the necessity to go get your own wine and the whole communal table thing. Are these pros or cons? I suppose beauty is in the eyes (mind) of the beholder.

BTW - they have a decent Israeli Merlot at CLO. I hope they will add more wines from this emerging world class wine region.

Good luck with the blog!

Rajiv said...

Hi WTG,

Thanks for reading!

CLO is such a small space, that it would be almost inconvenient to have someone serve you wine. I faced some indecision at first (so many choices!) but when I finally decided, it took about 20 seconds to walk to the appropriate enomatic, insert the card, get the wine, and return to my seat. It's not a huge-comfy-chair-get-comfortable-and-have-people-bring-you-stuff place, but rather a elbows-on-the-table-lean-and-talk-and-walk-around place, sort of like a party at a friend's house. I think it's definitely a plus.