T Suggests: A New Beauty Counter in Los Angeles, Eccentric Chairs and More

T Suggests: A New Beauty Counter in Los Angeles, Eccentric Chairs and More

It was one night around two years ago when Dennis “DJ” McNany — who formerly ran the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wine institution Uva — went down to the neighborhood restaurant Marlow & Sons, where he saw its owner, his friend Andrew Tarlow, and the two decided they should open their own wine shop together. They had known each other since the mid-aughts, sharing both a social circle that revolved around Marlow and many wine-world connections: At the time, the two men (with their respective jobs) were among the only buyers in Brooklyn of the kind of biodynamic, organic, natural wine that has since changed contemporary drinking patterns and palates in nearly every city around the world — and which now fills the shelves of Stranger Wines, their Havemeyer Street storefront that opens this week. Here, inside a 1,000-square-foot space that was, in fact, previously a wine shop (they even kept the same shelves, lightening up the room by adding several Noguchi lanterns and buckets of white paint), McNany and Tarlow are selling bottles from people “who actually grow the grapes and farm the fruit,” says Tarlow, whose restaurant portfolio (Diner, Roman’s, Achilles Heel) has long heralded a similarly intimate, person-to-person ethos. “I would say 99.9 percent of all the bottlings here are done by people who tend to their own land.”

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Of course, so-called natural wine can be found all over these days, but the Stranger difference lies in, perhaps, trying to eliminate a bit of the pretense inherent to the industry by focusing on education: The back of the shop is dedicated to a bar of sorts and a massive wooden table, at which the owners hope customers will participate in ad hoc tastings as winemakers swing through town. “As much as you think you know, everybody’s just learning,” McNany says. “That’s the main thing I want to highlight: It’s not snobbery. It’s a living thing, and everybody’s trying to figure it out.” The store’s knowledgeable staff is largely composed of writers, artists, performers and musicians (like McNany himself), and so one goal is that this becomes a kind of community creative hub; to that end, there is bread from Tarlow’s She Wolf Bakery for sale, and McNany has brought hundreds of vinyl records from his collection — another thing to study — for employees to play as locals shop (prices range between $12 to $100). Next up is a radio station, ideally, and definitely more wine: They’re currently trying to track down rare bottles from the producer Grape Republic in Yamagata, Japan, and are soon launching their first proprietary cuvee — a natural red blend — made in collaboration with Absentee Winery in Point Reyes, Calif. The bottle, like the neon sign outside the shop, is emblazoned with the word Stranger: “It’s inspired by trying to find a word in the English language that signifies something new everyday, something always changing, being humbled in what you know,” McNany says, before Tarlow adds his own interpretation: “Let’s get strange.” 132 Havemeyer Street Brooklyn, N.Y., strangerwinesnyc.com — KURT SOLLER

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