It’s no secret that D.C. residents know how to kick back. The city loves happy hour, brunch and everything in between. And while cocktails and craft beer are two of the biggest drink trends of the moment, wine is something that’s always in style. Wine doesn’t have to be new or expensive or weird to be enjoyable. It’s the go-to option that goes with just about every food or occasion.
Whether you’re a wine bar pro on the hunt for a new favorite spot or a newcomer to the scene, D.C. has you covered. There are plenty of old-hat wine bars, such as Cork in Logan Circle, Proof in Penn Quarter and Vinoteca on U Street.
In addition to the long list of mainstays, the city welcomed a pair of notable new French-inspired options in 2016. They are worth checking out as a respite to the D.C. heat and definitely cheaper than taking a Summer vacation to Paris.
It’s worth remembering too that for all its heritage, French wine can be somewhat of a forgotten gem of the wine world. It’s way more than Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Bourdeaux, and likely to surprise.
One of the city’s newest destinations is La Jambe (1550 7th St NW), located in the heart of Shaw. The intimate and energetic space opened in late June and feels right out of Paris, and the menu only reinforces that feeling. The French wines start at around $30 a bottle and $10 for a glass and go up from there. The staff is knowledgeable and eager to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation or two when looking over the list.
La Jambe isn’t the place to come for a large meal. Instead, it’s ideal for grazing on a curated selection of European meats and cheeses. The “plateaux” come in three sizes (the middle size is good for a couple), and you can pick meat, cheese or mixed.
Unlike most bars, La Jambe doesn’t allow build-your-own platters. The pre-determined choices are designed to complement each other and avoid any human “error” of choice. Even if you think you know better than the people behind the operation, you probably don’t. Just trust the process, as they say. You can also choose from a few sandwiches (with fantastic baguette from a bakery in Bethesda), bar snacks and coffee.
Over in Georgetown is the Bar à Vin (1039 31st St NW), the sister bar to Chez Billy Sud – which itself is the sister bistro of Chez Billy in Petworth. It’s also a small and cozy space, with about 50 seats and a menu of excellent French wines.
Glasses here can be expensive (think $10 and up for the most part) but they intended to savored (not gulped down) and are not just overpriced basics. Customers can also expect rotating selections of flights to encourage tasting and education about particular wine regions and styles. Chez Billy Sud’s chef oversees the concise munchable menu of cured meats smoked duck and boar sausage along with European cheese.
Now go forth and pop a few corks and take it easy with a fancy glass of wine. You may just find your new go-to bottle.