Good Champagne in Manhattan
I would like to buy a few bottles for a special present.
Recommendations for what to purchase (no more than 75 to 100 dollars a bottle) ?
I work in Times Square area and live in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I can go anywhere between those two places to purchase.
The couple I am buying for are not champagne experts.
I agree with ChowDiva that Astor Place is a great place to look, as well as Wall Street Wine Exchange (I bought a couple of very nice bottles there a while ago). Another great place is Chambers Street Wines. You could also order from Zachy's online. Or, when you decide what you want, you can do a search on winesearcher.com or winezap.com and see what comes up, since price variations can be significant.
I also agree that Krug is indisputably the, uhm, Rolls-Royce of champagnes. You can't go wrong with that - but it costs a fortune.
What I really disagree with is that Veuve-Clicquot is the best bang for your buck. Aside from my personal opinion, I have found their NV Brut to be universally despised by my serious wine-friends, including wine-directors and sommeliers at 2-3 star restaurants in NYC (NOT "La Grande Dame" BTW, which I've never had but they all praise - but that is also prohibitvely expensive).
Instead of buying from the major houses, your dollar and your freinds' Champagne culture will go much further by seeking out smaller grower-producers who produce a fraction of the cases of the big boys and can't / don't pass on huge advertising / pr costs onto you.
Also, what kind of champagne do you / they want? I prefer Blanc de blancs = 100% chardonnay, to the more common chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier blend. Others prefer Blanc de noirs = 100% pinot noir.
Also do you want vintage or non-vintage (NV). Some champagnes / vintages age well, others are better off being blended with other vintages (this is the most common route - also to maintain a consistent house style).
For vintage, the generally accepted wisdom (including the ever-present Robert Parker) is that 1990, 1996, and to a slightly lesser extent 1995 are all excellent, with 1990 being deemed truly spectacular (sort of like 2000 Bordeaux). That is not to say that other vintages are not excellent, just that those years gave a better across the board yield of fantastic bottles. Personally I like vintage champagne. It tends to have a slightly madeiraized, burnt biscuit quality that I enjoy. Interestingly, it's not necessarily more expensive than the NV.
It's all a matter of taste really, but going with the smaller grower-producer houses you are getting a tightly quality controlled boutique product, from the grape all the way through to bottling (big houses producing huge numbers generally buy their grapes in bulk rather than tend their own vineyards).
So my suggestion is to go to Astor Wines, where the sales people know their stuff, and ask for the sales person who is really into Champagne (everyone tends to specialize and fall in love with a few regions, so it's better to talk to a passionate Champagne nut than say, the knowledgeable Burgundy nut). Explain what you need and a price-range, as in the post above, and let them guide you. My instinct would be to put together a mixed half-case (6 bottles) of different varietal blends with a couple of vintage bottles, all from small producers, and throw in a bottle of Krug with the savings from not buying all Veuve etc. That way they will have a really original and panoramic view of what Champagne has to offer, and develop their own tastes.
FYI, a few of my favorite producers: Pierre Peters, Ayala, Egly-Ouriet, Drappier, Henriot.
Also, currently on the Astor web site there is a feature in the left column that deals with this very issue.
Brigita, if you're looking for recommendations on what kinds of champagne to buy, please start a new thread on the Wine board, as that discussion is off topic for this board. We try to keep this board focused specifically on local chow, and we're glad to see that other hounds are keeping things on topic by recommending local places where you can buy great champagne.
I disagree that Veuve is the best for your buck -- you're better off buying a champagne from a producer who grows his or her own grapes than a huge luxury conglomerate like Veuve. You'll get a tastier AND cheaper wine that way.
Chambers St Wines has a really great selection of these kinds of champagnes.
Closer to home, Smith & Vine (Smith/Degraw) carries the lovely Egly-Ouriet NV for only $55.
Wall Street Wine Exchange & Astor Wine & Spirits have large selections and the staff at Astor is knowledgeable and very helpful. There's also a fairly cheap wine & spirits store located on B'way around Astor Place. I'm not sure of the exact name.
In Bklyn I like the Greene Grape (Fort Green and downtown Manhattan) and Red, White & Bubbly (Park Slope). Scotto's wine on Court Street in Carroll Gardens has an ok selection, but if you know what type of champagne that you'd like to purchase, they will order it for you and sometimes give you a 10% discount.
In terms of what to purchase, I am a frequent drinker of Veuve Cliquot. Around $40-$45 a bottle, it's the best for your buck. The Grande Dame is even better. If you really want to impress, Krug is really the best champagne, superior to Dom or Cristal. The most inexpensive bottle goes for about $100-$120. Duval-Leroy and L. Aubry also produce lovely champagne. Are you looking only for champagne from the Champagne region or are you open to sparkling wines as well? This opens up an entirely different world, but one that may be worth exploring if you plan to purchase multiple bottles. I've been recently into quality artisanal, dry Labruscos which are light sparkling red wines that are great in warm weather . Domaine Chandon, a California winery, produces some great sparkling wines as well.