June - About a Natural Wine Bar in Brooklyn

The natural wine scene has been booming for years in Paris, interest in New York is just starting to gain momentum and establishments focused on unadulterated, low-touch wines have begun popping up. A recent addition, June, opened in January of 2015 in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. It is co-owned by two familiar faces from the Brooklyn food scene - Tom Kearny (who was a chef at high-end Manhattan restaurants, at Sweetwater in Williamsburg, and also owns the Farm on Adderley) and Henry Rich (a partner in Rucola in Boreum Hill and Fitzcarraldo in Bushwick). Nick Gorevic, who also works for Jenny & Francois (an importer of natural wines), is the wine consultant. Nick Tilly, the General Manager, spoke with me about the wine bar. He previously worked in restaurant jobs and has been at June since it’s opening.

The cozy bar, always romantically lit, is decorated with a definitive nod to 1920s Paris and has a welcoming atmosphere. As you enter the space there are tables in the front, behind that booths to the left, and a long marble-topped bar on the right. The space is accented with antique mirrors, dark wood and exposed light bulbs. The tranquil backyard space, decorated with abundant green plants, a charming painted fence and light bulbs strung overhead, offers seasonal seating in both the yard and on an elevated patio. June has been a much-welcomed addition to the area (I live close by) and fits in perfectly with the local appreciation for all things artisanal, natural, and unassumingly chic. 

The owners saw a need in marketplace for a wine bar seriously focused on natural producers that was also a fun place where they would want to hang out with their friends. June focuses on smaller vineyards that are often family-run. This dovetails perfectly with the pro-local ethos in the area. All wines on the menu are produced using natural methods – they have nothing added or removed, there is no chaptalization, no filtration, no fining, and little to no added sulfur added. Most bottles featured are from 2010 vintages or later since natural wine is best drunk young, while still alive and fresh. Many natural wines won’t stay fresh for more than a few hours once opened – they oxidize quickly and change in color and flavor. This impacts which wines are sold by the glass. The most volatile wines are reserved for the bottle list.

Gorevic was instrumental in setting up the wine program and has been the primary way, in conjunction with distributors, that June has access to small purveyors who are not always interested or able to market their products broadly. Gorevic and the distributors had existing relationships and access; this allows them to bring in quality, hard-to-find wines that are typically produced in smaller volumes. Since Gorevic is also a distributor he is on top of industry trends, knows what is on the cutting edge, and works with management to keep the list well-rounded, consistent and provocative. New wines are added to the list based his or the distributors’ suggestion. Additionally, the staff tracks the trends and requests that come from customers during service. This internal research is also used in the selection process and allows June to fine-tune expert recommendations and respond to consumer demand. 

June’s menu currently features 16 wines by the glass or quartino, 142 wines by the bottle, 12 apéritifs, 20 digestifs, 6 cocktails, 9 beers (most in half or full-sized pours), and daily specials. Refreshingly, they offer 10 orange wines (2 sparkling), 14 rosés (4 sparkling), a sparkling red (Lambrusco), and 23 sparkling options overall. The wine menu is broken down by type (White, Orange, Rosé, Sparkling and Red) and then by geographic region. Old World wines clearly dominate the list – France being most prevalent – with a fair number of New World offerings, predominantly from California. Options are limited to regions that have embraced the natural wine movement – notably, the closest wine region in Long Island is absent as are Washington and Oregon, Greece, Austria, Portugal, much of Eastern Europe, and New Zealand. June is constantly working with distributors to fill in the geographic holes and expand the diversity of the menu – they don’t aim to be so France-focused but this speaks to who dominates the natural wine scene presently. They offers 4-ounce pours which allow them to generally keep prices between $8-$10 per glass. They feel this invites patrons to enjoy various wines during the course of a visit. While the focus is clearly on wine, the beers and cocktails featured also tend towards local, seasonal and natural ingredients, with the mixed drinks often featuring wine as an ingredient. 

June is located on the picturesque and pedestrian-friendly Court Street which boasts some the city’s best artisanal dining and retail establishments with an emphatically Brooklyn edge. They host periodic special events where a producer pours all their wines by the glass for the night. Astutely, these are typically held on a slower night of the week and attract a big industry crowd. The events are also open to public allowing June to offer regulars a chance to taste things that are not typically on the menu. Overall, they aim to set themselves apart through a high-level of service from knowledgeable, unpretentious staff that earnestly enjoy engaging with the customer. 

The constantly changing food menu, concise in comparison to the wine, focuses on smaller plates featuring local, seasonal produce. In recent months June has also added some heartier portioned dishes. The smaller portions work well for lighter eating and are perfect to share amongst a few people. The food options are carefully curated to compliment the natural-focus of the beverage program. June’s goal is to have a casual dining experience in the gray area between a restaurant and bar so that the wine can be the main focus. The staff is adept at helping people to pair dishes and wine as part of their education includes understanding how the wines go with the dishes.

The unique and focused attention on natural wines that June offers through a carefully researched and curated wine menu sets them apart from most wine bars. Within this rare focus they offer a diverse selection of wines poured by approachable, informed servers. Coupled with their well-executed small plates, the beverage program is a success, making June the perfect spot for a leisurely glass of wine any night of the week. 

June | 231 Court Street | Brooklyn, NY 11201
http://www.junebk.com/ | 917.909.0434 | hello@junebk.com
Hours of Operation | Sun-Thu: 5:30pm-12am | Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-1am

Written for my Beverages class in the Food Studies Master's Program at NYU Steinhart in October 2015. The original assignment has been edited and revised for this purpose. Image above is from the June website.