Nick Baitzel, the general manager and sommelier Nick Baitzel, of Jet Wine Bar has enough to think about at a time such as this. His South Street vino salon has led the way through the twin natural wine and canned wine revolutions since its inception, has long strived to keep wine, and the drinking of wine, as sophisticated and cosmopolitan as ever, while pushing the everyday aspects of the grape, as one would enjoy craft beer – in a town renowned for craft beer. And, he has made Jet Wine Bar tops when it comes to simply chilling out and tippling.
All that, at present, with the threat of coronavirus, internationally, and the shut-down of all sit-in bars and restaurants beyond takeout. He certainly has stuff on his mind.
Baitzel has happily added to his list of tasks at Jet Wine Bar, however, by offering free virtual wine consultations for anything you might be cooking at home or ordering in for take-out meals. Baitzel knows the very best wine to pair with your food, and you can ask him by phone (215-735-1116), through jetwinebar.com, or courtesy Jet Wine Bar’s instagram.
Jet Wine Bar also offers a diverse list of wines ranging from $15-$50 for pre-order and pick-up from noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
We spoke before a weekend’s worth of drinking and social distancing.
A.D. Amorosi: I’ve written about Jet several times in the past, but, I don’t know this: Before COVID 19, were you and Jet offering anything educational when it came to knowing the ins and outs of wine?
Nick Baitzel: Jet has always had educational opportunities available to our guests. We offer interactive wine tastings for private groups for use in our wine lounge led by myself. We also have ticketed tastings available to the public at least 2 or 3 times a month. Some tastings are regionally specific, with food and wine pairings from a specific area (for instance in April we had an Adriatic Voyage planned). Some tastings are done by our owner, Jill Weber, who has a background in archaeology. Her tastings are more focused on fun topics and she brings in a lot of history to these events.
A.D. Amorosi: The last time I was at Jet, I had a nice natural courtesy a recommendation, a Zensa Brut Chardonnay NV. How is the natural wine program going at Jet, and has the trend toward “naturals” increased or flattened? And what do you like among the naturals in stock at Jet?
Nick Baitzel: Jet has always had a large presence of natural and organic wines. We don’t have exclusively natural wines, because we do not want to handcuff ourselves that way, as there are still some exemplary conventional wines made around the world. Natural has definitely been a trend that continues to grow in popularity. With an increased awareness these days on eating green, and organically, people tend to want their wine to follow suit. Among our natural wines currently, I am a big fan of Pet Nat Rosé, Konpira Maru “Mount Midoriyama” Australia; Grenache Blanc, Bosman Family Vineyards, South Africa; Cinsault Blend, Clos de Fous, Chile.
A.D. Amorosi: Talking about flattening – the curve, this time – tell me about coming up with a free virtual consultation program.
Nick Baitzel: We pride ourselves on being a neighborhood bar, and during this time we wanted to find a way we could help out our neighbors and friends. The best way I can help people with my skills is to find you the best possible bottle of wine. Whether it matches your tastes, what you’re having for dinner, or just what mood you happen to be in, I can find that perfect wine for you.
A.D. Amorosi: How valuable a service do you believe you and JTB are serving – especially with state stores closed?
Nick Baitzel: With state stores closed, people still need to find a way to get wine. The fact that we are considered an “essential business” I think says it all. We all need something to get us through difficult times, and I am a big proponent of “wine makes everything better”. To be able to stay open to get wine to our neighbors and friends is a huge positive in my mind.
A.D. Amorosi: OK, so let’s play a game – we’re grilling up two MS3 Wagyu rib eyes with honey glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts – what would you recommend from your list?
Nick Baitzel: Normally people would default to California Cabernet with steak (especially fatty steaks like ribeye). But at Jet, we pride ourselves on wine from around the world. I would recommend either of the following: Cabernet Franc, Aranjuez, Tarija Bolivia or Grignolino, Cascina Iuli, Piedmont Italy.
A.D. Amorosi: I’m ordering Indian food from Tiffin, maybe a vegetable korma. What do you like for that and why?
Nick Baitzel: With spicy Indian foods you want to balance out the spice with something that has a bit of sweetness. When drinking a slightly sweeter wine, the spice from the dish is a tad less spicy and the wine will taste less sweet, leaving a well-balanced food and wine pairing. On our list I would suggest Ca’ Furlan Sparkling Rosé, Italy.
A.D. Amorosi: I love the sweet with the spicy. How about the lamb barbacoa and consommé from South Philadelphia Barbacoa – in the Italian Market. What do you like for that?
Nick Baitzel: This is one of my favorite places to eat in the city by far. With these flavors, the gaminess of the meat and the delicate spices, I would recommend our Cinsault blend from Chile that I mentioned earlier when discussing natural wines. This red blend is smoky, meaty, and spicy. That ould be perfect with barbacoa.
A.D. Amorosi: I happen to love lightly sea salted almonds and cashews as a snack with some fruit – what’s your suggestion for picking?
Nick Baitzel; When snacking on something salty, I want a wine that is refreshing and not too acidic. I would suggest either a Muller Thurgau, Kellerei Terlan, Italy or Pinot Grigio, Canaletto, Italy. For those red or sweet wine drinkers, Port also works really well with salted nuts.
A.D. Amorosi: I know you’re a fan of canned wines because JWB carries them. What’s to know and love about them?
Nick Baitzel: Canned wines are all about convenience. Luckily we are at a point with technology where wineries are able to can their products without losing the essence of what makes the wine great. So if you can get a great wine in a portable container such as a can, it’s a win-win.
A.D. Amorosi: How long can Jet – any of the independent Philly restaurants and bars – hang on, in your humble opinion? And how are you doing so far with this level of takeout?
Nick Baitzel: This is a tough question. It is going to be a case by case basis. I know a lot of Philly restaurants, especially the BYOBs, operate month to month, sometimes week to week. So, sadly, many of these places may never recover. But for those who are lucky enough to have some money to tide ourselves over, or can apply for government grants and loans, we will continue to fight on. Philly has always been a fighting, underdog city, and I am confident the restaurant community will come out of this stronger for it. On a personal level, Jet Wine Bar is able to survive by selling wine to go. We are open from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday selling bottles, cans, sangria, and beer. Unfortunately, since all state-run liquor stores and distribution centers are closed, we are moving through inventory quickly and unable to restock at the moment. But as long as we are able to continue operating, we will be here for the community.