If you were to try to name the region of the United States that leads the country in per capita wine consumption, you may be apt to guess California or New York. But thanks in part to factors like a strong international demographic, an abundance of special events, and culinary-minded residents with a thirst for wine knowledge and a disposable income to satisfy it, it’s actually Washington, DC that toasts the most. We checked in with four sip-worthy settings in the Nation’s Capitol and beyond the Beltway.
This Penn Quarter “wine-centric” restaurant and bar boasts over 1,200 bottles as well as 40 wines by the glass. The focus of the wine lists is deep, with a concentration in first-growth Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and California cults, alongside sommelier picks like Grüner Veltliner and Washington Syrah, all of which seamlessly pair with Chef Haidar Karoum’s creative modern cuisine. A rotating selection of sparkling wines ranging from Zweigelt rosé to Dom Perignon swing by on a rolling Champagne trolley manned by Wine Director Sebastian Zutant, an undeniably festive and indulgent way to start an evening. Zutant takes an eclectic, fresh approach to the grape, and aims “to make the big names accessible, and break down the myth of the untouchable.” 202.737.7663.
Husband and wife duo Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross wanted to open a venue in their Logan Circle neighborhood “where the food and wine are both good and the process of pairing is not too complicated.” The result is a relaxed spot where guests can sample 50 wines by the glass and over 250 bottles, mainly Old World options from lesser known wineries with smaller productions, often from family run operations who farm organically or biodynamically. Four monthly flights spotlight sips like Spanish whites or Aglianico, and small plates including duck confit and braised pork cheek accompany selections. Nearby, newly opened Cork Market offers tastings and classes along with cheese, charcuterie and freshly prepared dishes to go. 202.265.CORK.
Cleveland Park neighborhood residents flock to warm, welcoming Bardeo, adjacent to sister restaurant Ardeo, which features over 130 bottles, 24 wines by the glass, and seven wine flights on a list that leans heavy on off-the-beaten path varietals and budget friendly options. “We believe that wine should be a drink for everyone,” explains Sommelier Timothy Galvin. “We go to great lengths to provide wines at all price points and to present them in an approachable and user friendly way.” Many of the small plates are light and fresh, so while servers don’t follow hard and fast rules for pairing (“The best pairing is the wine you want to drink with the food you want to eat,” says Galvin,) staff often recommends lighter wines like red Burgundies and Spanish Verdejo to sip alongside dishes like Arborio Crusted Oysters or Sweet Rock Shrimp Risotto. 202.244.6550.
Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro
Showing that those in the ‘burbs also deserve a great glass of vino, Vinifera’s goal is simple, according to General Manager/Sommelier Jason Meringolo. “We offer new and exciting wines to our guests at prices they can afford.” Twenty-six glasses and 285 bottles are joined by five themed flights like “California Dreaming” and “Big Reds,” but guests are strongly encouraged to create their own perfect partners. A monthly dinner series called “Vinifera’s World Tour” features cuisine, wine and entertainment from specific regions of the world, and regular winemaker dinners get guests up close and personal with the winemaker or vineyard manager responsible for what’s in their glass. 703.234.3550.