New York Cityhas a multitude of wine stores and when I visit the city, I try to stop at several of my favorites as well as check out at least one new to me. On a recent journey, I was interested in checking out Ambassador Wine & Spirits because I had heard they had an excellent selection of Japanese sake. I didn’t have much time, but was able to squeeze in a short visit while I was in the city. It would have been preferred if I had more time, but it was sufficient to gain a basic sense of the store, as well as to see the wide variety of sake, shochu, wines and spirits they stock. Very impressive.
Ambassador has two floors and most of their thousands of wines are shelved by geographic region. Though you will find plenty of familiar wines on their shelves, even a quick perusal will lead to the discovery of many different and more unique wines as well. Wine lovers will have lots of fun scanning the shelves, uncovering all of the hidden gems.
The downstairs area is a bit fancier and you’ll find a room devoted to French Burgundy as well as an area devoted to Champagnes, from the major Houses to Grower Champagnes. Another room contains Sherry and Port, including older vintages back to the 1950s. Their Sherry selection is one of the best I have seen in a wine store, including some aged Sherries.
On the first floor, there is a long set of shelves with Shochu (also known as Soju), a distilled Asian liquor, maybe the largest selection I have seen anywhere. It is an interesting drink, which can be produced from many different ingredients, from sweet potatoes to milk, from rice to buckwheat. In theBoston area, it is difficult to find shochu and even those stores that do carry it, only have 2-3 bottles.
In a special temperature controlled room, you will find their ample Sake selection. That is unusual as I have never seen another wine store that stocks all of their sake in such a cool room, which helps keep the product fresher. That care is indicative of a wine store that has a true passion for Sake. I would estimate they stock about 100 Sakes, a wide range of brands, types and bottles sizes, from 300ml to 1.8 liters. No matter what you seek, Junmai to Honjozo, Sparkling Sake to Nigori, you are likely to find it here. To help educate consumers and lower the intimidation factor, a good share of the Sakes have informational shelf talkers.
They also have a large selection of 1.8 liter bottles, party-size bottles, and difficult to find in most wine/Sake stores. One of the most interesting bottles I saw was the Okunomatsu Junmai Daiginjo Formula Nippon Sparkling Sake ($160), probably the most expensive sparkling sake I have ever seen. It was originally designed for Formula Nippon race drivers to spray at the finish line instead of typical Champagne. If you love Sake, then you should make a stop here the next time you travel to New York City.
This is an independent wine shop that is worthy of your patronage. The staff were generally very helpful to me, and I think they would be very helpful to all of these customers. On my next trip to NYC, I will make sure to take more time to explore this store.