One often finds exciting deals in unexpected places. That having been said, I did not expect to find many interesting wine values to drink while checking out restaurants and wine bars in Washington, DC. The city is what we in the business refer to as a conservative market. While a a handful of restaurants do a great job providing guests with dynamic, carefully chosen, fairly priced wine lists, the vast majority of them concern themselves chiefly with issues of profitability and their perceived notion of what people want to drink. In other words, California chard, cab and pinot noir, as well as some better known imported entities. If you find yourself in a city such as DC and dig deeper, do some research, or as happened to me simply have a little luck and a keen eye, you may just come across a real gem, as I did while strolling down 14th st on the way to meet a friend at the Black Cat. Glancing in the window of a cozy looking wine bar, I noticed that they were featuring Do Ferreiro albariño by the glass. Could be worth further investigation the following night, I thought, as I passed by.
Fortunately, my plans the following evening included dinner at Dukem and garage/psychedelic records nearby at the Velvet Lounge (great bar to check out if you're in DC, by the way), so I'd be in the neighborhood. Cork is, if last Wednesday night was any indication, an incredibly popular restaurant and wine bar. Take a look at the list and it's easy to see why.
My girlfriend and I drank two bottles of champagne; usually I'd hesitate to order even one bottle since, more than any other section on a wine list, the Champagne selections are typically large brands at overly inflated prices. Here, however, there was a treasure trove of grower champagnes at prices that were marked up just a touch above retail, as opposed to 150%. R. Dumont et Fils Solera Reserve Brut was creamy and broad, while still showing good minerality, brightness and acidity. Interesting texture and a lot of length. José Michel et Fils Brut Reserve was an amazing bottle of Champagne (no surprise, as Michel is widely considered to be one of the best producers of Champagne based on pinot meunier grapes), a steal at $58.
Good wine lists have a variety of carefully chosen selections at a broad range of prices. Great wine lists have those qualities as well as at least a handful of selections that are real deals and compel wine enthusiasts to spend money and hang out for a while. I went into Cork expecting to have a few glasses, perhaps share a bottle and head out; instead my girlfriend and I bought two bottles and stayed a while. Cork has a great wine list.
Cork Wine Bar
1720 14th St (btw R and S St)
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 5:00 p.m.-Midnight
Thursday-Saturday: 5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.