Monday, February 25, 2008

Wine bars, wine shops and “wine-centric” restaurants have emerged as one of the latest trends in D.C. hospitality over the past few years, and the fad doesn’t seem to be fading, with some of the area’s newest stores and restaurants paying homage to the fermented grape.

One of the latest shops mixes wine with coffee. Fortunately, not in the same glass.

Grape + Bean opened in Old Town Alexandria earlier this month. The independent shop sells nearly 150 wines from small vineyards around the world.

The coffee is a fair-trade brew roasted by Counter Culture Coffee in North Carolina. It’s ground and brewed to order. To accompany the drinks, the shop also sells cheeses, chocolates and homemade bread.

“Many people who enjoy coffee also enjoy wine and visa versa,” said co-owner Sheera Rosenfeld, who calls the drinks “the liquids of life.”

Ms. Rosenfeld said wine shops and restaurants help create a sense of community.

“There’s an intimacy to [wine shops],” she said. “There’s a resurgence of feelings of neighborhood and community.”

One of the first wine bars in the recent spurt of openings was Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar, which set up shop in Capitol Hill in mid-2005. It serves more than 40 wines by the glass.

It was opened by Eli Hengst and Jared Rager, who reopened Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar in Georgetown in 2002 with one of the first tap-like wine dispensers in the city, Mr. Hengst said.

They plan to open a third wine-focused restaurant, Redwood, in Bethesda this spring, Mr. Hengst said.

One of the most popular wine establishments has been Proof, which opened in the Penn Quarter two years later. Mark Kuller opened the “wine-centric” restaurant with a strong focus on both wine and cuisine.

Mr. Kuller attributes the increase in wine bars and restaurants to wine interest from young people as well as women.

“It’s not just for your parents anymore. It’s something 20-somethings and 30-somethings are looking for,” he said. “I think it’s also being driven in large part by women. … And if women come, men will follow.”

Mr. Kuller said he was surprised that wine shops and restaurants hadn’t established themselves in the Washington area sooner.

“There are a lot of wine freaks in this area,” he said. “The fact that there hasn’t been … a number of wine bars in this area has been an enigma.”

Among other recent openings:

• Cork Restaurant and Wine Bar opened last month on 14th Street Northwest in Logan Circle. It stocks 35 wines by the glass and 130 bottles from small wineries around the world. It provides descriptions of what you’re drinking and also serves appetizers.

• Domasoteca brought more than 350 different types of specialty wines to Northern Virginia last month when it opened on the ground floor of the Hotel Palomar Arlington. The shop specializes in Italian and local Virginia wines, as well as organic beverages and artisan cheeses, breads and Italian antipasti.

• Sova also sells a combination of coffee, tea and wines. The espresso and wine lounge opened in November and is part of the resurgence of H Street Northeast.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washington or 202/636-4836.

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