Best wine bars in Washington, DC
In a city with more than 160 embassies and consulates, this is where to sip your way around the world. This 14th Street outlier hands each guest a book with hundreds of options and pairing suggestions. There are 25 sparkling wines by the glass alone, from Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany and, mais oui, France. You’ll find dozens of small plates as well as charcuterie and cheese selections designed to embolden top notes. Popular dishes include avocado toast drizzled with pistachio oil, grilled lamb belly and goat cheesecake. Edison bulbs cast a honey glow over what’s often considered date night central. Like a bottle so much you wish you could take a case home? No sweat. Hit up Cork Market and Tasting Room (1805 14th Street NW) down the street.
Adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown is a humble two-story brownstone that specializes in the food pyramid of our dreams: wine, charcuterie, cheese and chocolate. Start by choosing a wine flight or inviting the master sommelier to pick three of the 50 by-the-glass selections. Tip: Start early. ENO serves wines on tap for $5 between 5 and 7pm, Sunday through Thursday. Pair your poison with equally excellent flights of cheese or chocolate. Still hungry? Try the lemon deviled eggs, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches or meats cured in the hood by Stachowski’s butchers. The $28 ENO “experience” (three cheeses, three meats, a glass of wine and a handmade truffle) is a monument to treat yo’self enthusiasts.
Gen and Conan O’Sullivan, the owners of DC’s first on-site creamery, are just as serious about their wine. While they don’t produce vino (yet), they take great pains to select ones that complement their creations. The Capitol Hill bar serves almost 30 wines by the glass, and flights paired with cheeses are a house specialty. Bubble heads need to try the “Flight of Fancy,” a taste of each of the four sparkling wines. Happy hour runs 4 to 7pm daily and features generous pours of red, white, rose and sparkling wines. Order a side of poutine with house-made curds or a make-your-own grilled cheese while you’re at it.
This Cleveland Park mainstay has a 24-seat bar, which serves 140 varieties from around the globe (28 of them available by the half or full glass). Nibble on savory snacks like crispy chickpeas or commit to heartier pasta options, such as the short rib ravioli stew. The sleeper hit is the weekly “Sunday Supper,” which includes three wine-paired courses for $40/person. The private dining room is rehearsal dinner-ready.
Trip to contemporary Spain by way of a Logan Circle wormhole. The décor mixes traditional tiles, wrought iron and whimsical notes. An Iberian-focused wine list contains cavas, juicy riojas, wines from the Canary Islands and Mallorca and pricy Bordeaux-style blends from Priorat. The bar also takes pride in wine-based cocktails like Tecolate (tequila, cava, rosemary and grapefruit), Calimocho (red wine and cola) and slurpee-like “slushitos.” Build a base of pintxos (skewered morsels) and open-faced montaditos. Pair desserts like warm chocolate hazelnut cake with sweet port and Madeira.
Run by husband-and-wife team Derrick Brown and Chantel Tsing, Mockingbird Hill is dedicated to the fortified wines of Jerez (aka sherry). There are 54 varieties on offer as well as a few rums and scotches aged in sherry barrels. The dry spirit is made for snacks: olives, Virginia peanuts, strips of American hams cured in the Spanish tradition, as well as the legendary jamón ibérico de bellota. Sherry virgins should attend the weekly tasting class on Tuesdays from 5 to 6pm. Old hats should try at least one of the four sherry-based cocktails. (Insider tip: Mockingbird also serves some of the best—and strongest—coffee in the city.)
There are 40 wines by the glass and at least 1,000 bottles at Proof, the chic wine bar and power dining spot kitty-corner from the Verizon Center and the National Portrait Gallery in the Penn Quarter. The wine list is a prestigious assembly of bottles priced in the hundreds, several in the thousands. The eclectic American menu is a nod to the nation’s melting pot: pate with cherries, pho-inspired beef terrine, duck cassoulet and crispy cauliflower with tahini-lemon sauce. In other words, an ideal spread for a world capital. It’s an international crowd-pleaser at lunch, too, with a wagyu steak and cheese sandwich and lamb burger with chickpea fries.
This award-winning gastropub has a friendly, folksy attitude—it’s named for a Grateful Dead jam, after all—but it’s serious about its New American menu and wine program. The bar offers all wines by the glass with some unusual pours like “orange” wine from Fruili, a region in northwest Italy. Entrees like roast duck with cherries and heritage pork with wine-stewed figs are an oenophile’s dream. Early birds and late-night snackers win at the grilled cheese bar.
The owners of this U Street wine bar have looked to the old country for their inspiration. There’s a cozy dining room as well as a backyard plaza with a covered bar and two bocce courts. Sample some of the 50 wines by glass or bottle and divvy up small plates among friends. Brunch is a mimosa bonanza: unlimited pours for $15, ideally paired with a duck confit Benedict.
Unapologetically French, this second-story bar atop the 20-year-old bistro has wines by the bottle that run from $29 to $1,600. The menu is the epitome of grand cuisine (country pate, rich cassoulet, salmon in a potato crust, grilled lamb with goat cheese flan), but the atmosphere is relaxed. There’s a cork floor (of course), a floral mural and bright silk pillows. The long back table in the semi-private room is made for birthday celebrations. The wine bar hosts jazz bands on Monday and Wednesday nights, when a three-course prix fixe comes with a glass of champagne ($50).
Nightlife impresarios Eric and Ian Hilton operate a soul food joint, a spirited pub, two French cafes and a taco bar, so it stands to reason their empire would include a moody wine bar, too. Dimly lit with candles, this spot exudes late-night atmosphere. Dickson offers a daily happy hour (5–7pm) during which two reds and two whites are $5 a glass. Organic wines are served by the glass and paired with small plates that lean to the East. If the banh mi is available, order it and savor every porky morsel.
The knowledgeable staff at this irresistibly handsome amber-colored bar in Chinatown pours 70 wines, almost half by the glass. Flight serves familiar grapes, many from lesser-known locations; ask the server to surprise you with vino from the Balkans, Hungary and Lebanon. As sweet as this wee spot is during the week, it shines after 10pm on Saturday nights, when any glass from an open bottle is $7. Flight employs the Coravin system, so bartenders can extract wines without removing the cork and aerating the wine. It’s a superb reason to sample pricier wines without having to buy the whole bottle. And true to its name, flights are a house specialty: three for $18. That and a plate of the duck sliders make everyone feel like a baller. Being a block away from the Verizon Center doesn’t hurt either.
Think of it as the Embassy of California. This 10-year-old bar on Capitol Hill spreads sunshine through its wines, emphasis on fresh produce and welcoming fireplace. It’s a lively place, as popular for work receptions as it is for happy hour, and despite its primo location two blocks from the Capitol, still a good value. There are at least 20 bottles under $50 on the long list. The menu comprises charcuterie, cheese, crispy pizza, roasted meat and fish, and a damn good burger. Let the cab flow.