Exploring The Wine Bars of Washington DC

“More CO2 could lead to smaller grapes. Save the wineries. Why not take the metro?”

When I arrived in Washington DC, this was the first ad that I saw. In some ways, it felt like a good sign. Marketing agencies do their research, and this one had concluded that the local population could be highly motivated by wine. That being the case, I was in for a four-day long vinous treat, right?

Right.

As Fiona Barbour of Flight Wine bar told me: “The wine scene in DC has exploded. It’s exciting.”

Judging by the quality of the wine bars – and the length of their wine lists – it certainly seemed that way. Here are Five Wine Bars in Washington DC to try if you’re in the area.


Flight Wine Bar

“Two Austrians and a German walk into a bar…”

That’s not the beginning of an awkward political joke, it’s the name of a tasting flight of three wines.

Flight Wine Bar, as the name suggests, specializes in (creatively named) tasting flights. In this instance, it was a delicious German Riesling alongside an Austrian Gruner Veltliner and a Zweigelt – a fun way to explore different styles and the by-the-glass list. But don’t forget to browse through the well-priced bottle list while you’re there for classic and unusual styles from around the wine world.

Flight Wine Bar | 5 Best Wine Bars in Washington DC | Winetraveler.com
Image of Flight Wine Bar courtesy Scott Suchman.

All this can be enjoyed beneath its impressive floor-to-ceiling wine bar and under the direction of its friendly, knowledgeable staff. There’s plenty of personality – and the food is good too.


Barcelona Wine Bar

Everyone wants to go to Barcelona, according to the very full bar and restaurant on a Wednesday. There’s plenty of seating inside and out on its heated patio. It’s just enormously popular.

And understandably so. The food at Barcelona Wine Bar (mostly tapas) is delicious, the wine list (mostly Spanish) is excellent and the staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

“The fun starts when someone asks for the house red”, says Bartender Cameron Cummings, “I tell them we have 22 – what do they normally like to drink?”

For the uninitiated, this guidance will be needed. This list isn’t full of well-knowns like Cabernet and Merlot; it’s full of exciting varietals from across Spain and the Spanish-speaking world. All are available in half glasses, which provides a good opportunity to taste a diverse range of wines.

Winetraveler Tips: Don’t miss the dessert wine list (Sherry, Port, sweet Uruguayan Tannat… what?) And if you’re in town on a Monday, nearly the entire wine list is offered half off. Best to book ahead.


Maxwell Park

I know it’s unimaginative to say this, but it’s accurate: Maxwell Park is so cool.

It’s not just the fire pits outside, or that the bar is a chalk board, or that the check arrives inside a Ghostbusters novel. More importantly, it’s the wine.

There are around 50 interesting wines available by the glass, split across two lists. One is the “core list;” the other is the themed list, which changes monthly.

When I visited in late October, it was Pinot Noir month. November’s theme is “Pumping up iron… wine”. (It features wine from soils with high amounts of iron.) Alongside 28 wines ranging from a sparkling Mt. Etna to a 1986 Madeira, the list features a topless body builder gazing lustfully at a glass of red on the beach.

The bottle list is the sort that wine geeks want to sit and read like a book. Fifteen bottles of orange wine rub shoulders with several classified Growths of Bordeaux (or is it the other way around?) In other words: Great wine, no trends, no dogma. That’s how I like to drink.


ENO

At laid-back ENO in Georgetown, you can drink wine from the tap under a giant wine-barrel chandelier. (Yes, that’s a thing.) It serves flights in stemless glasses on small wooden boards, and there are plenty of wines to choose from by the glass.

If you’re in need of a bite to eat, pair them with local cheeses and meats from Virginia.


Cork Wine Bar & Market

Cork Wine Bar + Market is another DC wine spot offering an enormous amount of choice. Upstairs, you can choose from around 50 wines by the glass, including several flights in its wine bar and dining area.

The market area downstairs offers a slimmed down choice (arguably a relief after so many wine decisions in this city) in a more informal setting. If needed, you can also pick up a bottle to take home from the retail section. The rose selection in particular, is well stocked from top producers from around the world and in large bottle formats.


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Sarah Phillips
WSET Diploma Wine Educator at Florida Wine Academy
Sarah Phillips is a Miami-based marketer and wine educator. After spending nearly five years working in the London wine trade, she relocated to Miami in January 2019. Sarah has her WSET Diploma (Level 4 Certified) and teaches classes with a focus on the wines of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy at the Florida Wine Academy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Phillips is a Miami-based marketer and wine educator. After spending nearly five years working in the London wine trade, she relocated to Miami in January 2019. Sarah has her WSET Diploma (Level 4 Certified) and teaches classes with a focus on the wines of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy at the Florida Wine Academy.

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