Oh, What a Tangled Vine

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by linnea covington

walking into a wine bar can often feel a little daunting. you see a full list bursting with promise, but only a few names ring a bell. to the uneducated wine drinker, names like "rueda" and "refosco" remain mysterious grapes and blends we often skip in favor of better-known bottles, like pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. but at the two-month-old tangled vine, your glass of wine comes with not only the good feeling that most of the bottles are graced with organic or sustainable tipples, but with a healthy dose of education about what you are drinking.

the wine list alone is organized in an unusual way, from the lightest of the brews to the richest. but even with the comical and well-informed descriptions under each offering, the staff is more than happy to pair wine with food, or just to offer a glass you will love. i was lucky enough to spend a recent evening with tangled vine's wine director, evan spingarn, as he taught me what went with which dish, and how different wines could really bring out the flavor of the food. with more than 160 types of mainly

we started with the restaurant's signature plate, the fideos negros. created by chef david seigal, of mercat and jean georges, this rich, squid-ink-blackened pile of small, thin noodles with braised cuttlefish and a potent garlic aioli was first paired with a light and bubbly cava brut natura ($10). manager and wine expert victoria levin also brought over two reds, a sturdy dolcetto di dogliani ($12) and a glass of the fruitier ros di rol ($15). all three wines had different results for each of us. i preferred the basic, clean-cut dolcetto di doglaiani, which allowed the garlic and lush flavor of the squid ink to take charge of my palate. one of my dining companions liked the cava, which helped calm the richness of the dish with its bubbles. our other diner went for the ros di rol, which was the most complex, as the juiciness tangoed with the savory part of the meal in a bold combo.

while we nibbled on crostini topped with perfectly smoky charred eggplant and red pepper with a light saba sauce ($6), the waiters bounced around the tables. they didn't hesitate to answer guests' questions about what might go well with the spring vegetable risotto ($16) or the mushroom fricassee ($16). levin herself busied about the mainly female-packed restaurant, helping customers understand what certain wines were like and how to pair them.

once we finished another round of crostini-this time a spicy and succulent sobresada and quail egg ($7) version-we opted for a round of sautéed pea shoots ($9) and pork montaditos ($10). the former, despite being heavy with butter, tasted fresh and was well balanced with a tossing of sweet raisins and salty pine nuts. normally a big fan of pig, i found the pork belly sliders too rich for my blood. maybe if the slathering of garlic dijonaise had been toned down, the meat in this dish would have shined through instead of getting buried in sauce. the organic veal meatballs ($14) were another story. made with a great combo of light ricotta mixed with tender ground veal and bathed in a fresh tomato sauce, these treats harmonized perfectly with the glass of refosco ($10).

three hours later, i was so full and brimming with wine lore that the thought of dessert melted away. though next time, i look forward to trying the saffron panna cotta ($6) or ricotta cheesecake ($7). if they are anything like the rest of the food we had, i know they will taste divine.

tangled vine also offers an extensive cheese and charcuterie list ($17 to $29) and homemade, paprika-sprinkled potato chips, which i recommend munching on with a glass of apple crisp gruner veltliner ($8) as you peruse the menu.

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