Sun-Thu, 9am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 9am-midnight
N, R at Prince St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
Canal St. to Bleecker St., Chrystie St. to W. Broadway
For Byron Bates, there are few things in life worse than a bad glass of wine. Not bad subjectively, bad objectively: too warm, improperly stored, and completely unsuited to whatever food it's meant to accompany. As wine director of Café Select, Bates pledges to save his clientele (and his wines) from that fate, and has engineered what might be New York's first Alpine wine list, to complement chef Jo Herde's modern Swiss menu. By Alpine, by the way, Bates doesn’t mean exclusively Swiss: "The rule of thumb," he says, "is you have to at least be able to see the Alps from the vineyard. You might need a telescope.” That translates into a refreshingly offbeat cellar that's 20 percent Swiss and 90 percent biodynamic or organically produced, with selections from Austria, Germany, France's Savoie and Rhône, and Italy's Alto Adige, Valle d'Aosta, and Piemonte. The house wine is Côtes du Rhône in a box, and goes for $9 a glass, $12 a carafe. Bates describes his personal favorite, a Luc Massy Dezaley Chemin de Fer Chasselas, as "mineral, bright, and fresh"—the sort of quaff that won't overpower Herde's sweet and savory pies, wurst salad with hard-boiled egg, and beef bouillon with strips of crêpe. And what about customers who insist on something a bit more familiar? "When someone says, 'I want Pinot Grigio,' they don't even want Pinot Grigio," says Bates. "They’re sending you a message about what they want." His job, as he sees it, is to elicit our unspoken oenophilic desires—and to keep the cellar temperature at a cool 58 degrees.